Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on Bill C-51, amendments to the Canada Grain Act.
It is important at the beginning to put into perspective the role that the Canadian Grain Commission has played in terms of Canada being seen as the reliable supplier of high quality grains in the world.
The combination of the Canadian Wheat Board as the single desk selling agency for export wheat and barley and the quality control and inspection system and watchdog capacity of the Canadian Grain Commission has worked extremely well in Canada's interests and in the interests of Canada's primary grain producers.
The key selling point for grains out of Canada in the international marketplace has been certainly our quality control system. Millers around the world know that when they buy Canadian wheat they are going to get high quality grains that they can blend in with other countries' products and still have a reasonable quality of bread.
The Americans, on the other hand, the system that some of our colleagues in this House on the other side want to emulate, are looked upon by the world as a residual supplier of grain. They are used in terms of setting the price worldwide but they are a residual supplier, a supplier of last resort because they do not have the quality control system that we have in this country that is made possible because of some of the regulations of the Canadian Grain Commission that we have in this country.
This bill's objective is to maintain that support for quality grades and inspection. However, we have to be constantly aware
of the danger in terms of our legislative processes of knuckling under to those who believe that cost cutting should be all that matters.
The principal concern of the federal government on this issue of inspection and quality control are two elements key to the security of our export markets, quality and inspection.
When appearing before the agricultural committee, Dennis Wallace, executive director of the commission made the following comment: "We are looking at streamlining, weighing and inspection that will move at the pace the industry sets and our comfort that we can sustain the standard of quality in the process. In our view quality has not been affected by the steps we have taken to this point". That is an important point.
We must ensure on this side of the House and as the government that we maintain those standards that have been so true and beneficial to the Canadian grain industry.
I had hoped that I would have time to indicate to the House some of the dangers within the system because several of the groups that have come before the Standing Committee on Agriculture, the Public Service Alliance of Canada for one, outlined some of the problems that have happened at Thunder Bay. They provide a good example of the dangers that can happen to quality control in the grain system if we do not have a strong, dedicated agency like the Canadian Grain Commission with strong regulations behind it to protect the interests of producers and the interests of the grain industry.
I do not have time to quote that evidence but I would refer members of the House to the April 26, 1994 submission of the Public Service Alliance outlining some of the dangers of quality control.
We must ensure as a government that the security of a regulatory and inspection system is maintained, that the future of either downsizing or efforts to promote competitiveness do not result in a loss of our competitive position which is based upon production and exports of the highest quality standards of grain in the world.
There has been a lot of talk by members on both sides of this House on the questions regarding clause 14. Under clause 14 the Canadian Grain Commission will no longer be required to set maximum tariffs charged by grain elevators.
This is a point that, to be honest, is open to question for me. We will certainly have an interesting debate at the agricultural committee on this point. There are a number of questions that need to be raised.
I do not believe for a moment that we can depend on the co-operative movement or the pools to protect producers' interests. I have been involved in that industry out west for a number of years and the co-operative movement, the pools, when they are making decisions in the kind of international arena we now face have to weigh in their own minds whether they are making a decision in terms of their corporate business interests and the bottom line as a corporation or making a decision in their membership's interests as a co-operative. Therefore, I believe there need to be some government safeguards in terms of protecting primary producers' interests, and certainly we will debate that at committee level.
Other questions need to be raised. Some clarification is needed of the ombudsman like role the commission will perform. Under what circumstances will it be able to intervene, what powers will the commission have to act upon complaints, and under what authority? Under what circumstances will the commission be able to set maximum tariffs by regulation if needed?
An important point in the bill and one I strongly support is that if there is a danger there the Canadian Grain Commission can step in and impose maximum tariffs if the grain industries, the companies or the trade is abusing the system set in place.
I raise those points because I think this is the place, the House of Commons, in this arena and at the committee level, for good, strong, informed debate on the facts so that we can come up with better decisions in the end.
I recognize that my time is getting short. I have heard from members opposite talking about competition. We have to look at that infrastructure in western Canada where the Canadian Grain Commission operates and recognize that more and more in those small community towns with elevators that there is less and less competition between grain companies.
Grain companies are now consolidating their system. Because you are going to gain a lower tariff rate at one elevator does not necessarily mean that you are going to haul to that elevator because it may be 50 or 100 miles away and you would lose all you had saved or more by hauling that distance.
We have to be very careful in making these decisions to ensure the kind of international arena we are entering into, the kind of consolidation that is happening, especially in western Canada, and the impact that may have on primary producers if there is not a very strong Canadian Grain Commission in place to protect the interests of primary producers and the interests of the country in terms of the grains we sell.
Let me conclude by saying that the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Grain Commission have served this country well in the past. I believe they can in the future. I look forward to maintaining those kinds of standards and see that Canada remains the kind of reliable supplier of grains that we have been in the past.