Mr. Speaker, my friend from Timmins—James Bay sits on other committees, as many of my colleague do, watching how legislation comes about and whether we can enact changes to it or not.
He is right about farmers' privilege. As I said at the beginning of my speech, there is a difference in language and tone and in how we believe that farmers have a right to save seed versus their belief it is a privilege.
When we raise that with members on the government side, they say that it is the same. Our view is that it is not the same, that there is a significant difference between a privilege and a right. That became abundantly clear when we were going through the legislation. We can see the powers that the minister takes into his own hands when deciding a farmers' privilege on a case-by-case basis. The minister can eliminate some of the privilege of an individual farmer or a group of a farmers. He can say to them that they cannot have that privilege of saving that anymore, because he has decided against it.
It is arbitrary in my view. In our view, that was never the intention of the legislation. At least in civil court, and other areas, and even in the Criminal Code, when taking away someone's right of freedom and sending them to jail, there is due process. This does not give due process. It simply says “By fiat, I am the minister and I am eliminating this particular privilege.”
Even more draconian, the other side of it is that the seed company can now come to the minister on a case-by-case basis and say “Do not register that one. I do not want it registered.” Registration means that when they move on to something else, that may still be out in the marketplace for farmers to have. If all the seed companies make valid arguments and decide against this on a case-by-case basis, it eliminates farmers' ability to have a competitive marketplace,
If the decision is to not register, we will be in a lot of trouble. What will happen is that they will now own all of it. It will not be open, because the registration will be held by the company itself rather than being registered through CFIA. That will be extremely problematic.
I will guarantee that just as sun rises tomorrow morning, they will ask, on a case-by-case basis, to keep that private and not to register certain varieties of seeds as we move forward.