Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Windsor West.
The Canadian Wheat Board was created in the spirit of solidarity and to protect its members. It has existed for over 70 years and still has the unwavering support of its member farmers.
In a referendum conducted by the board, a majority of the 40,000 farmers who participated voted to maintain the single desk system, which has an effective monopoly on sales and prevents competition among farmers. In other words, the board unites western Canadian farmers, while the government's bill will only destroy these connections and divide the prairie farming community. This is just one more clear example of the regressive attitude that taints all of the policies put forward by this government.
The united front created by the board, which operates without public funding, gives prairie farmers peace of mind and financial stability that would be impossible without this institution.
Our farmers, who work tirelessly to provide Canadians with high-quality products, should not have to experience the additional financial stress that the Conservative government wants to impose on them. The Wheat Board protects farmers from the vagaries of the market, ensures that all of them receive a fair and equitable income regardless of their production volume, and prevents money from ending up in the pockets of the middlemen who seek to profit from our farmers' hard work. Chances are slim that the price of wheat will drop on the international market. However, if the Wheat Board is dismantled, farmers' income will certainly be significantly lower.
In economic circumstances such as those we are experiencing today, we cannot afford to weaken our economy's small financial stakeholders. In Manitoba alone, over 3,000 jobs are at risk. The province will be deprived of over $140 million in revenue. Is this a good strategy for boosting our economy or is it a way to line the pockets of large American corporations that are just waiting for the green light from their Conservative friends to invade the Canadian grain market?
The motion of the member for Churchill—the motion currently before the House—would ensure that farmers are able to exercise their democratic right to express their views on the future of their institutions. Democracy is a right that all countries have a responsibility to protect. Why is the Conservative government trying to threaten the democratic rights of our farmers? Do the Conservatives feel threatened by such a democratic process?
A number of studies have shown that a single desk model, like the Wheat Board, makes it possible to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars more per year than on the open market. Why then does the Conservative government want to deprive Canadian families of this income? Why do the Conservatives want to deprive farmers and their families of revenue that allows them to actively participate in the economy and be involved in their communities?
The Canadian Wheat Board is the largest and most successful grain marketing organization in the world. Why does the Conservative government want to dismantle this jewel of the Canadian farming community, which allows Canada to shine at the world level? This tactic is clearly part of the Conservative government's strategy to strip Canada of all its international credibility.
Not only do farmers rely on the board to ensure fair access for all, but they do not all have a local market to provide them access to the 70 countries worldwide that are buying our wheat. The board is also synonymous with quality for these 70 purchasing countries because our institution sets quality standards and speaks out against the unlimited use of GMOs. Clearly, our farmers are proud of the high-quality products they provide to consumers, and with a system like the Wheat Board, they benefit fully. They reap their grain and the rewards from their hard work.
All Canadians across the country should feel threatened by the government's bill. Some 80% of the wheat sold in Canada comes from this single desk, or the Prairies in Canada's west. The quality of the products on our shelves is being threatened. If the government goes ahead with its plans and ignores the voice of the majority, then pride in our products and the quality of those products will suffer.
Farming is the foundation of Canadian society, our larder, as they like to say. Canada needs a healthy farming industry in order for all of Canadian society to prosper. Contrary to what the Conservatives are saying, this issue affects more than the Prairies. Ending the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly and dismantling the board jeopardizes the entire Canadian farming industry and threatens the survival of family farms, which are so dear to communities such as Kamloops, British Columbia, Stanstead in my riding, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, New Brunswick; it is an insult to one of the founding professions of our society, our great country of Canada.
I did not think I needed to remind the Conservatives that democracy is also a founding principle of our society. The motion moved by the hon. member for Churchill seeks to preserve the democratic rights of farmers to allow them to decide for themselves on the future of the board that they have been running and financing themselves for decades. The Conservatives would do well to vote in favour of farmers and democracy by supporting a motion that stands up for our agricultural workers.
Since the Conservatives champion non-interference in the free market and refuse to intervene in the actual creation of stable jobs, how does they justify their interference where it was not asked for and where it is not warranted? The Canadian Wheat Board is managed and funded by farmers. The government and taxpayers do not fund the activities of this institution. With this bill, the Conservatives are not defending the interests of our farmers in any way. Once again, the Conservatives are completely out of touch with the reality of Canadians and are taking action that is contrary to the will and values of the Canadian public.
The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food invokes marketing freedom to justify his bill. The Canadian wheat market is currently not controlled by the big American corporations, which are close to the Conservatives. Currently, farmers are free of the financial stress that would be created by dismantling the Wheat Board. The Prairie grain market is free of the Conservatives' regressive attitude. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food should allow farmers to express their opinions freely and should set aside this bill.
The Conservatives keep repeating that they were given the mandate to dismantle the Wheat Board in the last election. However, they refuse to prove this support by holding a plebiscite of the farmers who are members of the Wheat Board in order to allow them to have their say and give the government a clear and precise mandate. If the Conservatives are so convinced of the farmers' support for their bill, they will not hesitate to support the motion of the member for Churchill, who merely wishes to ensure that our farmers have the democratic right to have a say in the future of their management tools.
Along with my colleague from the riding of Churchill, I firmly believe that the government must organize a proper free vote for all current members of the Canadian Wheat Board, so they may again express their will to the government, with the hope that this time the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food will listen to what farmers want to tell them.