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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was farmers.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Vegreville—Wainwright (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 80% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is a little embarrassing to get up after what the previous member was saying. It certainly is beneath me to get involved in that argument, so I will not. I will let him answer to his constituents and to the media and others who might be interested about that kind of behaviour in the House.

I am proud to stand here today in support of Bill C-18, the proposed agricultural growth act. Bill C-18 is about growth. It is about growth of plants and growth of an industry. Canada's farmers certainly know all about the benefits of growth. The double entendre was intended. They recognize that entrepreneurs who successfully harness innovation add value to the economy, create jobs, and stimulate growth right across the country.

We need to keep up the momentum. We need to look toward the future. The agricultural growth act proposes to modernize some of the legislation that governs the industry in our country and to encourage innovation. That is exactly what it does.

The agricultural growth act aims to support the long-term success of Canadian farmers and producers. The current law tends to discourage development, so this change clearly is needed. Farmers know that, and farm groups who represent farmers right across the country know that, and they have given us this message loud and clear.

The amendments proposed to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act would support growth by encouraging investment in plant breeding in Canada and giving farmers greater access to foreign seed varieties. Plant breeders' rights are a form of intellectual property and like any intellectual property, without adequate legal protection, plant breeders' rights have virtually no value. Adequate legal protection enables rights holders to obtain value for their intellectual property. For plant breeders, this means they have control over the sale of the reproductive material, like seeds, cuttings, and other items like that from the new plant varieties they develop.

Plant breeding is an intensive process that requires significant time and investment. It often takes 10 to 12 years for plant breeders to develop a new variety. That is a huge investment in time and money. As it stands today, Canadian law protects plant breeders' rights for 18 years. The agricultural growth act proposes to extend protection to 25 years for trees, vines and any other specified categories and to 20 years for all other crops, unless the breeder chooses to give their rights up earlier. In some cases, that happens. For most cereal crops and field crops, that would be a two-year extension to the current protection.

The agricultural growth act would also allow plant breeders to sell a variety in Canada for up to one year before applying for breeders' rights protection. This would give them time to test the market, to advertise, or even increase the amount of stock they have on hand before filing for legal protection. I have heard from some people in the industry that this is important. At the same time, the agricultural growth act would provide plant breeders with automatic provisional protection for a new plant variety from the date of filing, which would allow them to exercise their rights while applications are pending.

In other words, the bill would give these agriculture innovators the tools they need to protect their investment and would support continued innovation in Canadian agriculture.

The importance of innovation in Canadian agriculture was the focus of an exhaustive report published earlier this year by the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. The committee heard from some 170 witnesses over a period of 14 months. In its report, the committee took a bird's eye view of Canada's agriculture and agrifood industry. The report identifies challenges and obstacles and makes no fewer than 19 recommendations, many of them relating to innovation, and that is no accident.

For instance, recommendation number 7 directly calls for improvements in patent protection. That is what this act does. However, I will come back to the committee report in a moment. First, I want to explain another form of intellectual property protection, plant breeders' rights, which is a specific type of legal protection for new plant varieties.

Trade depends upon trust. We know that. Buyers and sellers will do business only when they can trust the quality and the value of the goods and services to be traded. To build trust and foster trade, countries have long negotiated conventions and free trade agreements. Legal protection for intellectual property rights is often a feature of these conventions. The idea is relatively simple. The parties agree to establish a minimum level of legal protection for property rights. They agree to enforce their own laws on rights protection and to recognize equivalent laws in the countries they want to trade with.

The international convention on plant breeders' rights is known as UPOV, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. Over 70 countries, including Canada, are members of UPOV. Membership in UPOV allows a country to fulfill its obligations for protecting plant varieties under the World Trade Organization.

Over the years, there have been several updates to the UPOV requirements for plant breeders' rights protection. The current standard is known as UPOV '91. It is important to note, however, that Canada's current legislation does not meet this standard. By that I mean the legislation that is in place right now, because the legislation we are talking about here today has not been passed yet. It meets requirements of the previous version, UPOV 1978. It needs to be updated.

When the standing committee of that other place conducted its study of agriculture, it heard from many witnesses who called on Canada upon to update its legislation so that it would meet the current UPOV '91 standards.

One such witness was Ms. Patty Townsend, chief executive officer of the Canadian Seed Trade Association. She had this to say about this country's failure to meet current UPOV standards:

The consequence [of the non-ratification of UPOV Convention 1991] is twofold. Canadian plant breeders do not have adequate tools to protect their own intellectual property, their own inventions, and they cannot regenerate the funds that are required for reinvestment, but just as important and sometimes even more important is that we cannot attract international genetics or new varieties internationally because companies will not bring their varieties to Canada because we cannot protect them in the same way they are protected in other countries.

That is a quote from Patty Townsend, who has been an effective voice for agriculture on the Hill for a long time.

If we consult the standing committee's report, we will see that recommendation number 8 calls upon Canada to comply with UPOV '91.

The issue of UPOV was also a major focus of the House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food during its review of Bill C-18. The committee heard from many witnesses critical of Canada's tardiness in ratifying the latest UPOV convention.

One of these witnesses was Chris Andrews, who spoke on behalf of the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance. Here is some of what he had to say on the topic: may remember when plant breeders' rights were first introduced to Canada in 1991 under the UPOV 78 convention. Unfortunately, after 65 years of efforts, it came too late for the extraordinary Explorer roses, which were developed over the years by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and were lost to a world that loved them, as we had no protection in those days.

He went on to say:

We had to buy our own plants back. My suggestion is, let’s not let that happen again to our new and innovative Canadian-bred varieties.

As Mr. Andrews points out, Canada already knows what can happen when plant breeders' rights are not adequately protected. Explorer Roses are, indeed, a made-in-Canada success story, much like canola, which has really revolutionized and saved field crop farming in western Canada. There is no doubt about that. I know that. It saved my family's family farm. It certainly helped me with my family farm, and it is what is keeping farming farms going today. Canola is a Canadian success story.

However, the lack of legal protection meant that other countries could simply produce and sell them royalty-free. Mr. Andrews was talking about the Explorer roses.

It would have been great for the Agriculture Canada breeding program had these changes been in place back then, because farmers would have felt the benefit of having that protection and would have received revenue, which would have allowed them to continue to produce new and important varieties.

Canada's failure to meet the new UPOV standard affects more than the individual research teams and companies trying to develop the new varieties of plants. It also has a negative impact on Canada's innovation capacity and our economy.

Another stakeholder expressed this idea succinctly during her appearance before the House committee. Deborah Hart of the Potato Growers of Alberta had this to say:

...If UPOV 91 is ratified, it will allow our industry to compete with other international potato producing areas. It will encourage international breeders to introduce new varieties to Canada and allow our Canadian breeders, both public and private, the opportunity to use new genetic properties in their own breeding programs.

I have page after page of good quotes from people in the industry who have worked on this issue for a great deal of time. The final quote helps to further illustrate the benefits of meeting our UPOV standard. Here is another excerpt from the testimony of Chris Andrews of the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance:

...This sort of stuff also creates more investment by our growers and our breeders, which in turn creates more innovative plant material and helps us do research that will breed out disease in certain plants. I think that's very important because of all the openness with respect to trade around the world: we're a global economy now. There are more diseases, pests, and insects as well that come into the country, which we have to fight with respect to our new varieties.

Maybe this is why members of the New Democratic Party do not support this legislation. This legislation would truly allow trade to work more effectively and, as we all know, they simply do not support trade.

We listened to all of these witnesses at committee and after much productive discussion with other parties brought forward a further amendment regarding plant breeders' rights, making this legislation clearly and strongly confirm in explicit language that a farmer can store seed for planting in future years on his or her own farm. I hope members of the New Democratic Party heard that. It clearly states that; this legislation guarantees it. The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of meeting the new UPOV standard, and the proposed legislation now before us would take the necessary steps to meet this goal while at the same time protecting a farmer's right to grow and keep his own seed if he or she wants.

The agricultural growth act proposes to bring protection of plant breeders' rights in Canada in line with those of our international partners and competitors. As a result, Canada's plant breeding industry would benefit from a more stable and modern intellectual property network.

These proposed changes would encourage increased investment in plant breeding in Canada. They would also encourage foreign breeders to protect and sell their varieties here.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the country's largest farm organization, has said:

...Canadian farmers will benefit greatly from increased innovation and an increase in new crop varieties as a result of these changes.

As well, a group of leading Canadian farm and agriculture organizations joined forces to support Bill C-18. By the way, any of us who deal with farmers quite a bit know that one thing that is very difficult to do is to get farm groups to work together to move something along, and yet that is what they have done with this. They see the importance to our industries of what is in this legislation.

Partners in Innovation includes the Canadian Horticultural Council, Grain Growers of Canada, and a number of commodity groups, including for potatoes, barley, and pulses. This group says that strengthening plant breeders' rights in Canada “ critical for the future of our farmers and our agricultural industry’s ability to compete in the global market.”

At the same time, we will continue to consult with the industry before any changes are implemented, including regulatory changes. Our government continues to be committed to consultation to determine the best way to move forward.

I think that is important, and, quite frankly, it is one of the many things the two opposition parties have been calling for. It is reasonable and certainly something our government will continue to do. That said, I trust I can count on both sides of the House to move this necessary legislation forward.

The agricultural growth act proposes to modernize Canadian regulations on a foundation of science and technology, innovation, and international standards. I encourage my hon. colleagues opposite to join me in supporting Bill C-18.

As a farmer, for a number of years I have been following changes that I was hoping would happen a long time back. We all know that no matter what industry we are in—whether it is agriculture, any sector of our manufacturing industries, oil and gas production, mining, or whatever it is—what is going to allow Canada to remain competitive or become competitive is innovation. It is the new ideas spawned by Canadian industries that will keep us ahead of the pack. Quite frankly, in a lot of areas, Canadian industry is simply not competitive right now. We need exactly what this act would do for agriculture to help keep our industry competitive and ahead of the pack.

Farmers are doing their part. We all know the changes they have made so quickly. I would argue that farmers have become some of the most sophisticated managers in this country. The way they manage their businesses is remarkable. They way they adapt innovation is remarkable. The innovation they spawn in terms of new equipment and that kind of thing, often just in a shop somewhere on a farm in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, or elsewhere, is amazing. Farmers are doing their part.

Farmers have increased production on their farms remarkably. It was probably only 20 years ago that an average yield of canola was 25 or 26 bushels to the acre. Now, very commonly, canola yields are 40, 50, 60, or even 70 bushels to the acre. Certainly innovation and new varieties being developed in Canada in the case of canola have made a huge difference in this country for farmers. I know that I have seen the benefits of these developments, but there is much more to be done. The act before us would allow those developments to continue, and in commodities other than canola as well.

This act would truly help farmers keep ahead of the curve. It would help farmers with the innovation it would spawn to truly remain world leaders and continue the growth in production and marketing.

Canadian farmers have demonstrated clearly that they can compete with anybody in the world. In fact, in many cases even individual farmers and in other cases groups of farmers are trading with countries around the world. Our commodities are sought after because, quite frankly, they are better than most others in the world.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the presentation by the member opposite. Obviously, he is passionate about the issue of agriculture and plant genetics.

One of the things the member expressed concern about in response to a question by another member, which does not seem to be accurate, was that it was very important to him and farmers that they can grow and trade their own seed. That in fact is allowed, unless one signs a contract disallowing that with the company providing the seed. However, that is clearly in the bill now. I do not understand exactly what his concern was.

I would like to follow-up on the question by the Liberal member who asked if the member could list one or two things in the act that the member would like to see removed. I would add to that question and ask if he could list one or two things in this legislation that he would in fact support.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this is important agricultural legislation. I want to make a general comment and look forward to his response to it.

Most of the rural areas and most of the farming areas in our country are represented by Conservative members of Parliament. There are, on the other side, though, a few members who certainly represent farmers and who have an interest in the issue.

I want to make that comment and ask for the member's thoughts on the assurance farmers can take, knowing that they are represented by Conservative MPs who have had a careful look at this legislation and have determined it to be something they are willing to operate under.

Many of us are involved in farming operations and still depend on rules that would allow us to continue to farm, particularly after we get out of politics. We want rules that will work. Would the member respond to that?

Petitions November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present a petition on behalf of constituents.

The petitioners note that 92% of Canadians believe sex selective pregnancy termination should be illegal. They call on the House of Commons to condemn discrimination against unborn girls occurring through sex selective pregnancy termination.

Petitions November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise on behalf of constituents to present a petition on gender selection pregnancy termination. These constituents note that 92% of Canadians believe that sex selective pregnancy termination should be illegal. They call upon Parliament to condemn the practice of gender selection abortion, which is clear discrimination against females because it is females who are aborted in that fashion.

Committees of the House November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am a little confused by what the member just said. The member said that once there is a universal child care program for all ,parents things would be better. What she is forgetting is that it is in place right now.

There is a cheque that goes to parents with children under school age, which will be increased in the future. The member knows that. Does she want to get rid of that? I simply do not believe that is the way to go.

I think the member should acknowledge that a big bureaucratic daycare program like her party is proposing has been a disaster in Quebec for many families. Only a small percentage of the families can in fact access the program. The money goes to the bureaucrats, the people running the program, instead of actually providing the service to a wide range of parents.

I would like the member to acknowledge that the government has in place the best kind of child care program that goes to all parents for children. It actually allows parents to make the decision on what kind of child care they want to provide for their children.

Sex Selection November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in light of the 85th anniversary of the Persons Case, I acknowledge the many Canadians who are working to ensure that all human beings are recognized in law.

Canada truly is among the world's elite when it comes to valuing and protecting human rights, except that we are one of only three countries in the world with no legal protection for children before birth. Sadly, this includes unborn babies who are eliminated and have their precious lives ended just because they are girls.

Britain knows it is wrong. Its Parliament declared sex-selection abortions illegal by a 181-to-1 vote.

Canada can fix this too. Let us start by having this Parliament condemn gender-selection abortion. What better day to recognize this than on Persons Day?

As Dr. Seuss once said, “A person's a person. No matter how small.”

Privilege November 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we have heard the member talk at length about the importance of applying the law of the land to the people of this place, and I agree with him on that.

I want to ask the member if he believes in consistency in applying the law of the land to members of all political parties. His party had several members who got together and illegally spent over $1 million to fund illegal satellite offices. They are only protected by the Board of Internal Economy, which meets secretly and requires all parties to agree before anything can be done.

If the member believes in consistency, he should agree to change that decision and have his party support the other parties and the Board of Internal Economy to discipline and punish those who spent over $1 million illegally on illegal satellite offices.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have that question, because the answer is relatively simple.

The information that the member is quoting has come from a few individuals, and quite frankly there are a lot of families in this country that are having a difficult time making ends meet, in particular when they are trying to put kids through college and have all those commitments. Even when kids become more active in sports, it is expensive.

However, overall, the middle class has benefited from what our government has done over the past few years. An average-income family of four benefits by $3,400. That is how much better off they are than they were when that party was in government. That is an awful lot of difference. That helps to deal with their concerns to a great extent.

Furthermore, the article went on to say that in fact these concerns expressed by these people, while they are real for them, do not reflect what is happening with the middle class generally. The middle class in this country is doing better than before, and better than in most countries on the face of the earth.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2 October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we probably will not see a lot in the budget about that issue because, quite frankly, it does not involve a lot of government spending. It involves commitment and it involves improvements, and money spent by the railways themselves will provide that.

What need is there for it to be a budget item? The railways, because of their monopoly positions, have a responsibility to move the commodity. Earlier we put in place measures that set requirements for the amount of grain that railways had to move. For the most part, they met those requirements. In fact, I think they have moved a record amount of grain over the past year in spite of the terrible months they experienced a little earlier.

Why is there a need for that to be a budget item? It is an important issue, and we are going to have to continue to watch it. Members can be assured that we will, because Conservatives represent most of the farming areas in this country.