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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was grain.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Cypress Hills—Grasslands (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 69% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 3rd, 2002

Madam Speaker, I come from Saskatchewan and proud to be from there.

Over the last 10 years we have tried to get funding out of the federal government to pave the Trans-Canada Highway in Saskatchewan. We received absolutely no help. The government now apparently is beginning to put funding into highways in other areas. I would like the member to comment on the lack of vision he has seen from the government in terms of highway funding and on the inability of the government to treat Canadians equitably.

He mentioned the former finance minister who is the person who denied us access to highway funding. I would like the member's comments on that as well.

Agriculture October 3rd, 2002

Mr. Speaker, six years ago a group of Canadians made a bid for freedom. They were treated as hardened criminals. They were arrested, charged and jailed, handcuffed and shackled. They were strip searched and humiliated. Their families have been harassed and intimidated, and their property confiscated.

For six years they have been dragged through the legal system in an attempt to break them financially and to make an example of them. Four weeks from today this group will be jailed.

These people are regular folks: hard-working, law-abiding, salt of the earth, and good neighbours. The crime for which the government has persecuted them is taking a small amount of wheat across the United States border. The manager of this campaign of intimidation and fear sits in the House, the Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board.

Will he finally listen, do the right thing and give these farmers the same opportunity that the rest of Canada has: the right to sell their own wheat? Or is he actually prepared to jail Canadian farmers for marketing their own wheat? The countdown begins. He has four weeks.

Committees of the House June 14th, 2002

Madam Speaker, that was an interesting, anti-democratic, incredible rant. The member's name is on the report, by the way, but he says that the 32 recommendations are good because he agrees with them. He says the committee did a good job on 32 recommendations but that the one he personally disagrees with is terrible. I wonder if anyone in the House or out in TV land can see that there is quite an inconsistency there.

He is anti-democratic in a number of ways. He is mad at us for listening to the farmers. We went to western Canada and heard from the farmers. He is mad at his colleagues because they listened to farmers. It was not the Canadian Alliance that pushed through this report. We agreed with what we heard from the farmers. This recommendation happens to be consistent with our policy, but to be fair to the members on his own side, they were willing to listen to the farmers and put in the recommendations that farmers asked for.

I thought it was interesting when he said that they even had to compromise when he was on the committee. He called it a compromise. They had to compromise in order to put in even a partially elected board. I would not call that a compromise unless someone did not want to do that in the first place and I do not think he should be talking to us about democracy.

I brought up the point about the Ontario wheat board. As a matter of interest, because the Canadian Wheat Board news release said that Ontario farmers get a lot less money than western Canadian farmers, I went to the wheat board website to check the PROIs, their predicted returns on investment. I checked them against the cash prices that the Ontario board was getting and there was no difference in those prices. For some of them Ontario's are higher and for others western Canada's are a little higher, but there is no benefit that we can see from the great Canadian Wheat Board in terms of returns to farmers.

That brings me to the benchmark study. The member talks about it as though it is gospel, the scripture for western Canada. In reality that study is very suspect in a number of areas. The criteria that the gentleman used, and which I suspect the wheat board suggested he use, puts the wheat board in a positive light in virtually every one of them while it puts the Americans in a negative light. The benchmark study is set up and they are going to try to use it in years from now as what they will call their benchmark, but the thing was not done fairly or at least evenly anyways.

I am also surprised that at the beginning he talked about how people should be arrested. Of course we do not have problems with people being held accountable for the law, but a number of gentlemen took a load of wheat across the border and some of them spent up to seven months in jail being strip-searched in prison cells. A number of others have been harassed. There was a trial the other day, which the member for Crowfoot mentioned. Years later these people are still being harassed by the Canadian Wheat Board, the justice system and others. I do not think that is a fair response to someone taking a load of grain across the border.

I would like to ask the member a question about pasta production. I am a producer in western Canada and have been for a long time. One of the reasons we need choice is that when I grow a crop such as grain and I want to do something with it, I have absolutely no choice but to sell it to the Canadian Wheat Board. I turn over the grain to the wheat board and it sells it back to me at a higher price. It never leaves my bin. It stays in the bin, but I am obligated to go to the wheat board. I am obligated to sell that grain at a higher price and then buy it back at what is commonly called the buyback price.

That buyback price has consistently taken the profits out of western Canadian farmers being able to process their grain. There were a number of major projects that would have gone ahead in western Canada if they could have even had the buyback removed on their own grain in their own projects, but that was not allowed. We consistently hear from small millers and people who are trying to start processing that the biggest impediment to business development in rural Saskatchewan in terms of wheat processing is the Canadian Wheat Board and its buyback process. I suggested during my speech that an easy way to give people a free market trial is to give them no cost buyback licences, which are given out to Ontario and Quebec farmers all the time. All we need is to have western Canadian people treated the same as people outside the designated area.

My question for the member is, why can western Canadian farmers not be allowed to process their own grain in their own communities?

Committees of the House June 14th, 2002

Madam Speaker, there were a couple of issues contained in my colleague's question.

I mentioned earlier that I was skeptical about this whole process at the beginning because I have seen committees go across the country. One went out last summer to western Canada and no one heard about it. It claimed to have some authority with the Prime Minister. That committee came out with such vague recommendations that there is really nothing we can do with them other then get a good fuzzy feeling about them.

Our committee listened to people. In a two day stretch in western Canada we heard from over 100 witnesses. We heard witnesses from one end of the country to the other. The committee has done an honest job in putting forward its recommendations and suggestions from farmers. If members of the government and those with other political philosophies want to prevent the implementation of these recommendations, then I guess they will go ahead and do that.

This is part of an ongoing attitude that we saw when a number of government departments, national revenue, justice, the wheat board and the RCMP got together and began raiding western Canadian farms. One gentleman was locked up for seven months and strip searched in jail seven times because he tried to get his wheat across the border. That is unacceptable.

Western Canadian farmers are mature enough to market their own grain, to process their own grain and to receive some of the benefits that Ontario and Quebec producers enjoy. Ontario producers told us they were excited about the new processing opportunities they have had since direct marketing became one of the options available to producers in eastern Canada.

Last year Canada imported $150 million worth of pasta. Whose durum is that pasta made from? That of western Canadian farmers. The durum is shipped out, it is processed, the pasta is shipped back in and we pay top dollar for it. We need to do that here.

Committees of the House June 14th, 2002

Madam Speaker, that is an example of the dictatorial attitude that we find so often.

We went out to western Canada and we talked to farmers. In fact 60% to 80% of the farmers do support change. The wheat board did its own survey which it would not release when it found out that over 60% of the farmers wanted some change. That was leaked.

The member can go to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business surveys if he likes, where it was found that 80% of the farmers wanted some choice in marketing their grain.

It is interesting. I am not sure why 20% to 30% of the farmers should hold the other 70% captive. That is the situation right now in western Canada.

The member mentioned the board. It is true that there is a board to which some are elected and some are appointed. We have a great concern when just a couple of weeks ago up to 10 employees and directors of the board were spending money to go to a government fundraiser. They paid $400 a plate to go to a fundraiser. They said it was to meet with some Liberal members. It is interesting that none of those members are on the agriculture committee. They have not been on the agriculture committee since I have been here. The wheat board has had very good access to the agriculture committee. In fact it was just here to see us in the last couple of weeks. That just does not hold.

We cannot have western Canadian farmers being held captive by a politically active board. When members of the board were here the last time we were told that they would be moving more and more into political activity. They feel that lobbying and moving into those areas is important for the Canadian Wheat Board.

We are saying that the Canadian Wheat Board is supposed to be marketing grain. It is moving into a ton of other areas. It does not have the authority to do that. The board does not have the mandate to do that. It is supposed to be marketing grain.

As the share of grain that it markets has continued to drop, it has moved into a number of other areas but the costs of running it has not gone down. The farmers are getting a consistently poorer deal. There is less grain being sold. We are not getting a premium for it. The cost of running that board continues to rise.

In spite of the fact that the member opposite may like the Canadian Wheat Board, that is irrelevant because Canadian farmers are telling us that they want some choice. The vast majority of western Canadian farmers are saying that.

Committees of the House June 14th, 2002

Madam Speaker, as we know the member has taken a position over the years. It has been interesting. He lives in eastern Canada. He was the head of one of the left wing farm groups a number of years ago. He was only too happy to try to keep western Canadians under the thumb of the Canadian Wheat Board--

Committees of the House June 14th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I move that the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food presented on Tuesday, June 11, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to talk about the report which has been submitted by the agricultural committee. We did a lot of work on this. It was tabled on June 11. First, I would like to thank the staff members who travelled with us and who spent so much time working with us, particularly our researchers J.D. and Suzanne for their work on this report and with our committee.

Last fall we talked in committee about travelling across Canada to hear what Canadian producers had to say about agriculture. We decided that we would hear from as many people as we possibly could. There was some pressure on us to hear only farm organizations but some of us insisted, and the committee agreed, that we hear from as many producers as possible so we could get as wide a spectrum of information on what was going on in the agricultural part of Canada.

I thank the chairman for supporting that suggestion. We heard a lot of witnesses. In western Canada we heard over 100 witnesses in a two day span and what we heard was very interesting. We travelled across the country from Springside to Kamloops, from Brandon to Grand Bend, from Miramichi to Vulcan, Alberta. Presentations were made on virtually every agricultural issue. We heard from people involved in 4-H. We also heard from fruit growers, organic farmers, cattlemen, processors and young people who were trying to get into farming.

When we decided to put this project together and pursue it, I questioned whether we would listen to what people had to say. I have been very skeptical over the years of a lot of the work that has been done in government. A lot of the committees have travelled around and supposedly conferred and consulted with people but then it seems like nothing gets done, or worse, the committee has not listened to the people.

I was happy that early on committee members decided that they would report what they heard from the farmers and producers across Canada. We decided that we would make an effort to keep this report from becoming biased so it would have no relevance to agricultural producers. Overall I think the report has very good balance to it. I guess none of us agree totally with all the recommendations of the report but there are some very good ones. Because there were no minority reports submitted, I would suggest that we have a good report here and one which the government should look at seriously and implement as much as possible. It is important that we express the interests of farmers whether we agree with them or not.

I have laid out some excellent recommendations. As I have said, we did not agree with all of them but farmers made it very clear to us that there were a number of things they wanted. I will spend a few minutes talking about those. First, I want to take a few minutes to talk about the recommendation we think is the most important and which would have the biggest and most positive impact in western Canada, the area from where I come.

Recommendation 14 of the report reads:

Whereas additional on-farm activities and local value-added processing are an excellent way to give farmers more influence in pricing, the Committee recommends that the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board authorize, on a trial basis, a free market for the sale of wheat and barley, and that it report to this Committee on the subject.

The majority of farmers in western Canada have wanted this for a long time. From our perspective and from the perspective of others, including the Canadian Wheat Board, none of the other recommendations are as far reaching in consequences as is recommendation 14, and that is absolutely true, because it has the potential to do a lot of positive things for western Canada, things that have not happened for decades.

Recommendation 14 is a tremendous breakthrough in a number of ways. The Alliance has had the position for years that we need a voluntary market to give our farmers some extra opportunities. I was excited to see that the members from the other party, with the exception of one member to be fair, were on side as well. Everyone agreed with this and we think the recommendation is a good one.

We support this recommendation because so many producers have asked us for the opportunity to market their own grains in western Canada. They told us that there were a couple of reasons why they wanted to do this. One was they wanted to be treated equally across Canada. I will talk a little later about some of the differences between Ontario, Quebec and western Canada. However we clearly heard in western Canada and in Ontario that producers wanted to be treated fairly and that they were not afraid of what would happen if they were treated fairly.

A second opportunity that the implementation of recommendation 14 would bring is that it would give people the opportunity to sell into niche markets. A number of farmers have been in contact with me. I have lived beside them and talked to them. They really want to pursue some identity preserve sales.

They would like to make contracts with companies and even other countries where they would grow small lots of grains and then sell container loads or a few carloads. A group of farmers could perhaps go together and make the deal to sell these identity preserves, these special grains, and receive an advantage from the market by doing that.

Right now the entire system prevents that from happening or discourages it from happening. Farmers are becoming impatient with that because they want to do that. They have already developed a lot of the contacts but are not allowed to carry through with the process.

People would like a fair and uninterrupted opportunity to begin to process their own products. We still grow more wheat on the prairies even though the percentage of it is going down because of our marketing system. We grow more wheat than any other product. Farmers have constantly told us that they would like an opportunity to value add to that and to do something with that.

I found it interesting when we met with a Chinese agriculture delegation about a month ago. The head of the delegation was the chair of the agriculture committee from China. One of the things he indicated was that they were going to take their land out of low value production and put it into crops that they can begin to value add to. He suggested that they were going to buy cheap raw bulk product from somewhere else. They were willing to do that.

It was fascinating to me that the Chinese have now moved ahead of western Canadians in terms of what they are going to do with their land. They insist that they value add to it. I am told that in 1995, for example, the Chinese had absolutely no processing capabilities for soybeans in their country. By last year they processed 14 million tonnes of soybeans in China. They have made an extensive commitment to benefit their economy by doing that.

In western Canada there has often been an illusion that China would be a threat to us if we were able to market our own grain. One of the highlights for me on this whole trip was being able to talk to the Ontario wheat board directors about how they have set up the operation in Ontario. They are excited about it. They have six marketing choices within that board.

One of them is direct marketing where they are allowed to sell a certain percentage of the total production of wheat into the market. It is 20% of the total production in Ontario. The farmers themselves voted to raise that to 30% and they told me they expect it will be 100% within the next few years. The 20% is on a first-come, first-served basis. They can book a certain number of tonnes if they want and then sell it into the market. Farmers are required to use up the exemption they have. If they do not, they have to return it to the board.

They seem to be happy with that. They are excited about the opportunities and also excited about the processing opportunities that are developing in their areas and rural constituencies. The producers themselves in Ontario have voted, and are actually allowed to vote, to move toward more freedom in their marketing. That is something that has prevented the western Canadian producers so far.

It was also interesting to hear Quebec producers talk about their opportunity to sell and export their wheat without interference. The wheat board tells us there is a requirement for Quebec farmers to get licences from the wheat board. In talking to people there is no evidence that is taking place or being enforced.

The questions that farmers are asking are: Do we want our communities to grow? Do we want to have a chance to succeed? Many people tell me they are tired of the agriculture community continually going back to the government asking for funding again and again. We must be able to give farmers an opportunity to move away from having to do that.

I was looking in one of the local newspapers which had a special article called “Forty years ago”. There was a picture of an MP who was going to Ottawa to ask for money for agriculture funding. This has gone on long enough. There is another way. We do not have to keep going down the road we have been on for so long.

There are a number of other exemptions that are given out. The wheat board gives exemptions for things like kamut for some of the organic products. There are exemptions in the Creston area of B.C. There are exemptions from the wheat board's application in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec.

To the credit of government members they listened and saw this was an important opportunity for western Canada. They were probably under a lot of pressure because the minister responsible for the wheat board seems to be absolutely uninterested in changing. He is not willing to change the wheat board. That is the position he has taken.

Members of the committee heard farmers consistently say they wanted some choice and they saw this as an important opportunity. I must thank the members of the committee for having the courage to talk to producers of all stripes and then support this recommendation. Others in the government have not been this visionary or willing to accept the word of the people when they have heard them say that.

There is an easy way to implement recommendation 14. The Canadian Wheat Board gives no cost buy backs regularly. It gives them to Ontario and Quebec farmers. It can do it with a stroke of a pen. It would be simple for them to give Western Canadian farmers no cost buy back licences that other producers in the country receive. We could set that up and have the trial basis that is called for in the recommendation.

Farmers must have some options and more opportunities. The government's farm program will not be a solution. We hear different sets of numbers being used but it becomes evident that the additional money will not be enough to make a major difference in western Canada. It is starting to look like this new APF is more of a public relations program than it is an agriculture policy.

There is a lot of PR involved. The consultation process was highly advertised but was a total disaster. The government talked about consulting with people but it has not chosen to do that. The different parts of the agriculture plan seem to be bringing in a lot more bureaucracy, regulation and cost to farmers rather than helping them out.

There were other good recommendations in the report as well. I would like to speak to some of them. One called for all programs to be available to all farmers. The committee had some discussion about that but we felt it was only fair.

Another recommendation suggested that there could be some improvements to the NISA program. We need to have some improvements there. It is seen by most witnesses as a good program and one that should be expanded. We called for stronger government involvement in it in terms of funding and more flexibility for farmers who want to be able to access the program.

I have always thought that the crop insurance program is one that we could make a cornerstone of our agricultural policy. The committee called upon it to be more flexible and effective with increased funding to give it more realistic coverage.

Recommendation number two called for the establishment of a new disaster fund that could grow, but would be capped at $1 billion. It would accommodate the natural disasters that we see coming up every so often, such as drought and flooding. Flooding in Manitoba occurs regularly and would be the type of emergency that would be applicable to this disaster fund.

The committee had a number of recommendations calling for tax incentives to help rural development through value added processing and tax incentives to aid biofuels and renewable fuels. Tax incentives were recommended for agri-tourism, which is a popular, growing industry that needs to be developed.

Tax incentives were recommended for inter-generational transfers. We heard a number of times how important it is that we set things up so that the next generation can move into farming and do it successfully. We heard about the need for some tax incentives for co-operatives, allowing them to capitalize more efficiently and also for co-operative and other corporate structures that farmers would use on their farms.

We called for adequate infrastructure spending, especially for roads. That is an issue in my home province. A number of people in my area have said that if the government would just give them the road structure they need they could develop the economy. They could be successful if they had the infrastructure the government could provide.

The committee called for a number of areas for regulatory protection. These include protecting access to producer cars, which are important in western Canada. They include setting organic standards with industry. The government needs to set one standard for organic products. We need clearer transparency in our international trade agreements so that we can have a little more efficiency in them and the government can be more effective in dealing with these trade agreements and trade disputes.

There was a call, and we heard this regularly, that we need more control over the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It established a serious presence on the prairies setting up a number of science centres. We have biologists all over the place and they are taking their work too seriously in that they began to interfere with RMs. They have been extending their influence to even things like irrigation ditches. There needs to be some more regulatory control over the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

We called for regulations to deal with the ongoing concerns regarding the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, things like the appointment of an ombudsman, a performance audit, funding for a research and analysis program similar to the United States to approve minor use products and to co-ordinate our activities with the United States.

There was a call for compensation for farmers. We had a lot of debate the other day over Bill C-5 about the compensation in the species at risk bill. The Alliance has taken a strong position that the call for compensation needed to be directly in the legislation. The government chose to say that it would give us the regulations that at some point may give us compensation of some sort. That is not good enough.

The agriculture committee called for compensation to farmers for any kind of environmental measures that are affecting agriculture. The Alliance continues to take the position that the compensation needs to be at fair market value. That is only fair to the people who are being affected by these measures.

We called for some funding to agriculture education and training, particularly to universities, veterinary colleges and faculties of veterinary medicine. We heard that they have been underfunded and are having trouble keeping their accreditation so that they will be able to work with the United States, and work on a continental basis in terms of animal safety. That is important to them so we have called for an increase in funding to allow them to keep their accreditation.

We called for funding on public education on foods, farm safety programs and education for farmers about environmental farm programs which in parts of the country have now become a reality. In other parts of the country people want nothing to do with them. We called for compensation of fair and reasonable amounts. The Canadian Alliance would call that market value.

One of our recommendations called for funding for trade injury damage, for trade subsidization penalties. We would like $1.3 billion committed to that. That is a figure that the farm organizations have used fairly often. The unfortunate thing is that the government is messing this up. It has not consulted properly and does not seem to be getting much co-operation.

We have provincial governments that are furious at some of the agriculture organizations. The agriculture organizations perhaps have been making agreements or decisions apart from consulting some of the people with whom they should be working. It is another example of the federal government's policy regarding agriculture where it tries to divide and conquer, to split up the organizations and provinces so they are never on the same page and it allows the government to get out of fulfilling its responsibilities.

The government is now heading toward putting all of the farm programs into one package so the disaster relief, safety net programs and trade dispute money seems to be all going into one package. We suggested that is not appropriate because the U.S. farm bill has been passed and targets farmers specifically. There needs to be a trade injury package that deals with that situation. The government will not get away with throwing all that money into one package and then trying to pretend that it is new money.

The estimates for this year are actually $670 million less in safety net funding than was spent last year. The bureaucrats told us that it was because we spend some in estimates and some in supplementaries. The reality is that when the numbers are added the totals that are projected right now are $670 million less than the government spent last year on the safety net funding. We are pointing out to people that the first $700 million of new money that would be going into agriculture brings the funding up to last year's levels.

I am not so sure that the agriculture policy framework is not on its way to a wreck. I mentioned before that there will be a lot more regulations on farmers. There is more bureaucracy and the government is trying to get out of supporting farmers with that program.

I want to return to recommendation 14. I want to talk about some of the consequences of opening up the wheat board and the positive things that could happen.

My office over the last few months, and the young lady who is working for me as an intern for the summer, has done a lot of work in the last couple of months on this project. We went to Saskatchewan with a survey. We set three primary goals in our survey. The first was to provide a precise analysis of the value added crop processors in our part of the world. We interviewed a number of the specialty crop processors to find out what kind of economic benefits they bring to their communities.

We went through the current wheat board and flour milling capacity situation in western Canada. We tried to estimate how well the specialty crop producers were doing in Saskatchewan and extrapolated that to determine if we could do the same things with wheat, what the results would be in western Canada. We surveyed specialty crop processors and looked at the current processing and wheat milling that exists in western Canada. Then we tried to look at the potential, what could really happen in western Canada.

We found that we could have an impact of up to $1 billion in Saskatchewan if the wheat processing was opened up to allow local communities to do their work. If the same number of communities put up processing plants as there are now in specialty crops, the benefit to western Canada would be in the neighbourhood of $1 billion plus.

I was very disturbed at the wheat board's reaction in the press release it put out. It could have looked at this positively. Canadian farmers have told us consistently that 60% to 80% of western Canadian farmers want to open up the Canadian Wheat Board. They want to have some options.

Earlier on the wheat board was looking at this. It seems to have retrenched which is unfortunate.

I look forward to the government taking the initiative on this issue. It has been nine years now that it has shown no movement on it. I would love to see the government take the initiative on this recommendation, move forward, give western Canadian farmers the opportunity to do some niche market selling, to do some value added, and bring prosperity to our dying communities. It would give western Canadian farmers the same opportunity that eastern Canadian farmers have had. It would give them the same opportunity to have that type of success.

Agriculture June 14th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, Canadian farmers and western Canadians in particular are used to being flipped off by these Liberals. First, one of their prime ministers flipped western Canadians the bird, and now the Prime Minister wants to flip a coin to decide agricultural funding.

Grain producers are sick and tired of being treated with absolutely no respect by the government. They do not deserve to pay the price for a cabinet meltdown.

When will the government begin to deal seriously with its own agricultural and trade failures?

Agriculture June 14th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister for International Trade said:

We have been working with many countries around the world that precisely object to the U.S. farm bill...We will continue to work with our partners to see whether the farm bill in its present shape respects the WTO obligations.

The reality is that so far the government has accomplished nothing. There is no action plan. There is no analysis. There is no strategy. The government has known the details of the U.S. farm bill for months.

It has the slightest opening, as the parliamentary secretary just mentioned. How long will it take for the government to make up its mind on whether it is going to challenge the U.S. at the WTO and NAFTA?

Agriculture June 13th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, every trade issue that arises is a failure for this government. The government failed to confront the protectionist U.S. farm bill that deliberately targets Canadian producers. The expansion of U.S. subsidies into pulses is an example of that. Canadian grain and oilseed farmers are hardest hit and most affected by this government's international failures.

Will any new funding coming out of the agriculture minister's department be directly targeted to grain and oilseed producers for trade injury compensation?