Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this motion, so I can speak against the motion.
The words in the motion seem to be about standing up for the democratic rights of western wheat and barley farmers, but the absence of a single, but important, word reveals the real intent of the members of Parliament who support this motion. That word is “each”. The motion currently reads “...farmers have a democratic right to determine the future of their own supply management tools and marketing boards...”.
However to properly and fully reflect the actual inalienable rights of those concerned, it should say “...each farmer has the democratic right to determine the future of their own supply management tools and marketing boards”.
This change captures the essence of this debate and reveals the essence of the opposition's objection to the marketing freedom for grain farmers act. The official opposition party is a self-proclaimed socialist party, and as socialists, they will promote government-enforced collectivism. We Conservatives have no problem with co-operation or co-operative organizations. In fact, we know co-operation works. However, we also recognize that the participants of any co-operative effort must be voluntary participants. Otherwise it is not co-operation; it becomes coercion. We can talk all day long about democratic rights, but if we do not include individual rights we are not talking about the democratic rights I am fighting for.
Yesterday in the House, a Liberal member referred to the correct principle that when we deny the rights of one we threaten the rights of all. However, he went on to distort this principle to defend the government-enforced elimination of the rights of not just one but many prairie farmers.
The marketing freedom for grain farmers act does nothing to remove the rights of farmers who wish to continue to use the co-operative tools provided by the Canadian Wheat Board, but at the same time it restores the rights of those farmers who want to market their grain as they see fit. It restores the equality of all farmers across the country by giving western farmers the same freedom already enjoyed by eastern farmers and British Columbia farmers.
For the benefit of anyone who is not convinced that this motion is about the NDP belief that westerners are not fit to govern themselves, let me remind them of the incredible and outrageous assertion made by an NDP member who is a city slicker from Winnipeg, that members of Parliament who happen to be western grain farmers should preclude themselves from debate about the Wheat Board and preclude themselves from voting on the act. He claims they are in a conflict of interest because they believe western farmers will benefit by the act.
Give me a break. Every bill we pass in the House should be for the benefit of all Canadians.
Let me quote part of the prayer that is spoken by the Speaker at the beginning of Parliament every day. It says:
Grant us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to preserve the blessings of this country for the benefit of all....
The MPs who he says are in conflict of interest would only be in a conflict of interest if the bill were designed specifically to benefit them, or them and a small group, to the exclusion of others.
He says they cannot have things both ways, but if we are to apply his lack of logic to every situation, and if we believe in the principles cited in the parliamentary prayer, then all MPs should preclude themselves from all debate.
Our democracy is founded on the idea that we elect representatives from among us to represent us and our interests. We call this the House of Commons because it is supposed to be filled by the common man. The MPs who are western farmers were sent here by western farmers and they sent them largely because they are western farmers. They sent them knowing full well they were committed to freeing up the Wheat Board, because the majority of western farmers believe it should be free. Even those who want to use the Wheat Board believe it should be free.
Why would western farmers want other western farmers to represent them in the House of Commons? It is precisely because they would be motivated to pass laws that are good for western farmers and because they are far more likely to know what is good for western farmers than a city slicker from Winnipeg.
Furthermore it is a fallacy that this issue only impacts western farmers. Agriculture affects us all. In addition to providing our food, agriculture is the backbone of any economy. We can live without oil and we can even live without shelter, but we cannot live without food.
Just as important, as we were reminded by my Liberal friend yesterday, to limit the rights of one is to threaten the rights of us all. To continue to allow the government, through the Canadian Wheat Board, to limit the freedom of western farmers puts at risk all freedoms of all Canadians.
Perhaps the New Democrat from Winnipeg should insist that I preclude myself from this debate, even though I am not a farmer, because I believe that by defending the rights of each and every farmer, I am defending my own rights, the rights of my family and the rights of my country.
Be under no illusion that the member from Winnipeg is a radical fringe member. His colleagues loudly applaud every time he brings this stuff up. It is a fundamental doctrine of NDP ideology that big brother should be in charge, that the people as individuals are not fit to govern themselves.
By now most western Canadian farmers have finished harvesting what is reported to be a high-quality wheat and barley crop that will feed the world. They have managed that crop every step of the way. They have seeded it, sprayed it, fertilized it and harvested it, and we believe those farmers are capable of marketing those crops. They do not need anybody from downtown anywhere telling them what to do with their product.
I question not only the words of this motion but the intent of this motion. I do not believe it arises out of a belief that democracy cannot be had in the absence of plebiscites and referendums, for when the NDP members were asked why postal workers were not able to vote on the strike nor the labour negotiations in June, they selectively remembered the correct principle that our democracy allows for the selection of representatives to make decisions on our behalf.
As I mentioned yesterday, when the Liberal government passed legislation allowing same sex marriage without a referendum, it justified this by citing the correct principle that our western democracies are founded upon the principle that the majority cannot impose its views upon the minorities, that individuals have rights that no majority has the right to vote away.
Yet today both the Liberals and the NDP pretend that passing this legislation without a referendum is a travesty of democratic principles. Since they know this is not true, I cannot help but believe there is some other motive. The opposition parties accuse the Conservatives of being motivated by ideology. If they are talking about the ideology of freedom and equality, then I am guilty as charged.
Over the years, the Conservatives have made it very clear that we intend to give marketing choice to western grain farmers. It has been an election promise many times. It was an election promise during the 2011 campaign. While we received support across the country, and overwhelming support in the prairie provinces, especially in the rural ridings where the prairie grain farmers live, we were supported for many reasons, including our commitment to the economy, to a more just justice system and to scrapping the long gun registry.
Rural prairie voters understood full well that by voting Conservative, they were voting to promote a Conservative majority. They knew that a Conservative majority government would put an end to the monopoly held by the Canadian Wheat Board.
In the June 2011 Speech from the Throne, our government again committed to ensuring that western farmers would have the freedom to sell their wheat and barley on the open market.
That was a throne speech commitment. The marketing freedom for grain farmers act is the fulfillment of years of election promises, the fulfillment of the 2011 election promise, the fulfillment of our commitment in the Speech from the Throne.
We made a promise and we are committed to delivering on that promise. No reasonable person could honestly say that keeping a clear and definite election promise is undemocratic. In fact, every reasonable person knows that a government that is democratically elected, after making election promises, must keep those promises. To allow a small group to vote away the responsibility to keep those promises we made to all voters is to reject our democratic responsibility.
The Liberals and the NDP are willing to contradict the very principles they claim to champion in the hopes of getting the public to believe the opposite. How can parties that claim to be defenders of the little guy, the defenders of minority rights, think it is okay for farmers who want the Wheat Board to force their neighbours who do not want it? We deliver marketing choice to grain farmers, all western grain farmers, each western grain farmer.
The opposition distorts things further and thereby betrays the insincerity of its motives by telling people we are shutting down the Wheat Board. All this legislation does is make participation in the Wheat Board voluntary, thereby transforming it from a coercive organization into a co-operative organization. Farmers who want to use it can. Farmers who do not want to use it do not have to. Even if 99% of the farmers want to use it, they have no right to force the 1% who do not.
If the majority of the farmers really does want the Wheat Board, what need is there to make it a monopoly? It will thrive in the absence of the minority. We must not buy into the fear. We must embrace the future, where producers will be able to manage their business as never before, with transparency of prices and control over to whom they sell, where young farmers will finally have the tools they need to make their farming dreams a reality, where farming entrepreneurs can harness innovation and add value to their crops beyond the farm gate.
The future of our agriculture industry is bright. We want to provide new opportunities in the grain market. We want to extend to all western wheat and barley farmers the democratic property rights upon which our nation was built, the democratic property rights that farmers in eastern Canada have, the democratic property rights that farmers in British Columbia have. The marketing freedom for grain farmers act would give them the rights and opportunities they so richly deserve. It would protect their democratic freedoms.
Over the past five years our government has worked hard with farmers to help grow their businesses, drive Canada's economy and leverage our natural advantage of land and resources. We have consulted with farmers. We have consulted with all people who are interested, which goes beyond the farmers.
In conclusion, we hope the members in the House will show their support for western Canadian farmers, the same support that is afforded to all other farmers in Canada by supporting the marketing freedom for grain farmers act. My colleagues in the House can help western Canadian farmers capitalize on this new opportunity.