October 18, 2006
HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATE
Canadian Wheat Board
Committees of the House
Agriculture and Agri-Food
Speaker, the Wheat Board is a very critical element of life on the
Prairies and a very important element of how farmers have conducted
business for a number of years. The member touched on this in his
intervention, but I would like to him to expand on this.
of the things we have seen recently is a lack of democratic process.
Certainly, under the softwood agreement, we saw a refusal to allow the
committee to go out on the road and get input from people across the
country, from coast to coast to coast, who would be affected by the
softwood agreement. With the Wheat Board, we see a gag order, something
that will prevent a democratic process.
the member could expand on the trend that he is seeing with the
Conservative government, about shutting down a democratic process in
our country of getting input from people most affected?
Speaker, the question goes to the heart of the issue. We live, or we
believed we did up until now, in a democracy where members of
Parliament pass certain laws based on discussions with the community.
the case of the Canadian Wheat Board, in 1998, at the request of
farmers, the Canadian Wheat Board Act was changed so it no longer would
be a government agency of which the cabinet appointed the commissioners
for it. At that time, the Board was changed to be an elected board of
producers, elected in their Wheat Board districts, to represent the
farmers. That is true democracy.
are seeing a trend from the government, and not only on grain. This is
a bigger issue than a farm issue. This is about the
character; it is either his way or the highway. If a person does not
agree with the Prime Minister, or the Conservative government, or the
parliamentary secretary to the minister of agriculture, then do not try
and have a say in the issue. They are only meeting with one side of the
This is a very serious matter. It goes to
the heart of our democratic institutions in our country. It is the
, by his character and his ideology, that matters,
and this is undermining the essence of our democracy.
Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member opposite and to
his expressions with respect to voting on the Wheat Board issue.
important issue is, members who raise grain should have the ability to
express themselves. The member is saying that we are restricting that,
but we are not. We are simply saying that people who do not use the
Wheat Board and who do not have a permit book should not be permitted
I am sure
in the upcoming Liberal leadership vote, Liberals would like to have
only their own members voting. Therefore, it seems to me that the
principle of democracy is an important one.
I would like his response to this,
although I know already what he will say.
Speaker, the member opposite made the point and the point is that
producers should be given the right to decide the choice of the powers
in their marketing institution and whether or not they support or
opposite single desk selling.
is what we are asking the government to do. The government has denied
that right. It has denied the right of producers, by plebiscite on a
clear question, to vote on single desk selling.
than that, it is going out there to manipulate public opinion, holding
secret task forces, holding secret meetings by a stacked task force,
and putting a gag order on those who have the most information,
experience and knowledge relative to the operations of the Canadian
Wheat Board. That right has been denied by the Prime
. He made that clear today in the House.
Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise today to speak to this
critical issue facing the Canadian Wheat Board as we face monumental
opposition by the minority Conservative government to the single desk
marketing system for Canadian wheat farmers, a hugely successful single
desk marketing system I might add. We are seeing the dynamics which
point to leadership in this country seeking to undermine the populace
and seeking to undermine democracy.
blatant disregard of the voices of farmers and the gagging of the
Canadian Wheat Board by an order in council is absolutely shocking,
although it is a pattern that emerged early in the minority
government's term as we saw the government fold the Kelowna accord.
There too it completely disregarded the voices of aboriginal people in
Canada. It made a decision which could have only been done by an order
of the Prime
or by the Minister
to pull the $5 billion commitment. The Kelowna accord was not a
partisan effort and the Conservative government refused to uphold the
honour of the Crown.
same Conservative government has plans which it knows very well will
gut the Canadian Wheat Board by making membership voluntary and will
result in the destruction of the world's largest single seller of wheat
and barley. The government's task force does not include individuals
except those who support its mission. The Canadian Wheat Board Act
explicitly states that the member farmers have the right to a
plebiscite on any changes to the mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board.
Conservative government's tactics on this issue have shaken not only
me, but my entire riding. This is an issue of ethics. The principles of
transparency, respect and accountability are not found in the dynamics
at play which have a sole purpose, which of course is the one point on
which the Conservatives have been transparent, to eliminate a
world-renowned successful single desk marketing system.
implications of the dismantling of the single desk marketing system
will not only have a negative effect on farmers, but will have
far-reaching implications in the employment of hundreds of people at
the Canadian Wheat Board and in the private sector of Winnipeg,
Manitoba, and thus significantly impacting the entire province of
fact, the services related to the Canadian Wheat Board reach to the far
north and my riding, and the loss will be a crushing blow for the Port
of Churchill which sees approximately 80% of its annual shipments from
the Canadian Wheat Board. More directly, the sustainability of the port
is dependent on the Canadian Wheat Board.
northern towns of Churchill and Gillam, among others, along the
Hudson's Bay railroad line are dependent upon the movement of grain to
the Port of Churchill. The Mayor of Churchill, Mr. Mike Spence, says
that this is the most pressing issue that his community has had in many
years in terms of how it could be affected as a port community.
Churchill alone, and a community of 1,000 people, the loss will mean
the loss of 100 jobs. Communities along the rail line will be adversely
affected as they rely upon the local transportation economy. As
Manitoba's Minister of Culture, Heritage and Tourism, Eric Robinson,
said so succinctly in his communication to the minister:
| Most urgently, however, I'm
appealing to you not to let
your government's CWB policy become another nail in the coffin of
several northern communities. Many of these places could just as easily
prosper with minimal Federal support and common-sense policy
The Canadian Wheat
Board is all that stands between Canadian wheat growers and the giant
conglomerates in the global wheat market. An absence of the collective
strength of the Canadian Wheat Board in the international economy would
leave farmers to fend for themselves.
motion was passed by a majority of the members of the Standing
Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food which called upon the federal Minister
to commit to respecting the provisions of the Canadian Wheat Board Act
and called for a plebiscite of western Canadian grain farmers on the
future of the Canadian Wheat Board.
I urge the Minister
and all members of this House to look at the entire picture and at the
economic consequences that will for sure occur to farmers, workers, and
entire communities that are involved in this process.
The solution is clear. The decision on the
future of the Canadian Wheat Board should not be decided by the Minister
or the Conservative government but by the members of the Canadian Wheat
Board. The very least the government can do is empower farmers rather
than hinder their capacity to succeed.
Speaker, just to give us a gauge in this place of who we represent as
we speak on this issue, I wonder if the member could respond in terms
of how many permit book holders there are in her constituency in the
northern part of Manitoba. If that is a little difficult to respond to,
could she give us a ballpark figure of how many farmers there are in
her riding in Manitoba?
Speaker, I would like to reiterate that my riding is a northern riding.
In fact, the issue that is facing my riding has to do with the
transport of grain.
Port of Churchill, as I have mentioned, is a port that is dependent
upon Canadian Wheat Board shipments and about 400,000 tonnes of grain
move through the port. It has been a long established relationship that
is critical within Manitoba, the Canadian Wheat Board and the Port of
Churchill. There is a relationship in which the Canadian Wheat Board
represents 80% of the grain which moves through the Port of Churchill.
did not mention, as the member opposite seems to think I did, that
there are farms in my riding. However, the implication of the
dissolution of the Canadian Wheat Board has an impact which goes far
beyond just affecting farmers. That is the point that I thought I made
clear. The impact will have consequences not only on farmers but as we
have said, will assist the large global conglomerates to take over the
marketing. The Conservatives know very well that is going on.
Canadian Wheat Board represents the primary producers under an act of
Parliament. It says explicitly in the act that farmers would have a
plebiscite if the mandate of the agency were to change. That is the
second point is that the impact goes far beyond the farmers. In fact,
that is why I spoke today. It is because of the implications in terms
of transportation for the Port of Churchill where there are hundreds of
jobs that are dependent on the Canadian Wheat Board. There is a private
sector which does business with the Canadian Wheat Board. The
implications are not just in terms of farmers but have far-reaching
Speaker, dismantling the Wheat Board is just another example of the
government's assault on public institutions. It is an example of the
government's insidious advancements of private interests and a clear
abuse of power. A gag order is another example of that abuse. There is
just too much secrecy and not enough transparency or oversight.
was the past-president of the National Citizens Coalition and he spoke
against the use of gag laws and called them unconstitutional. I am
wondering why the Conservatives now condone this practice as an
acceptable means of promoting the government's hidden agenda.
are media reports recently pointing out that the Alberta Conservative
government spent a million of public taxpayers' dollars over the past
three years on a campaign to discredit the Wheat Board.
am wondering what the hon. member thinks of this gag order by the
government and the fact that it now has money to discredit the Wheat
Board. What does the member think of this kind of practice?
Speaker, indeed, I fully agree that the tactics that the government has
taken to undermine the Canadian Wheat Board go far beyond anything that
I could have imagined. As was mentioned earlier in the House today,
this is a democracy. This is Canada. For the government to involve
itself in underhanded tactics to dismantle a valuable Canadian
institution is absolutely shocking.
Mr. Speaker, we heard a bit of an attack
earlier on the character of the Prime
and I want to respond to that because I do not think the
member for Malpeque
should be talking to anybody about character.
will tell the House a bit about the circumstances of how we come to be
here today. He is one of the people in the opposition who insisted that
the agriculture committee have extra hearings and meetings. This
afternoon the agriculture committee had an extra hearing. All committee
members were there while he was here introducing his concurrence
motion. I would suggest that he does not have that much of an interest
in farmers. He is way more interested in playing with this issue
politically than he is in actually dealing with the issue honestly. I
know a number of people at the agriculture committee were very upset.
They expected that he would be treating it seriously, particularly
since he is the official opposition critic. However, he does not seem
to be treating his position seriously and I suspect he will not be
treating this issue seriously at all.
want to point out a few different things. We have heard a bit about the
hysteria and hyperbole that accompanies this issue. The NDP member just
spoke about the fact that she thought the Alberta Conservative
government should not have been spending money on promoting its side of
this issue and that the federal NDP government seems to be against it.
would like to ask her a question and perhaps I will get the opportunity
later. However, will the NDP speak out against the money that the
Saskatchewan and Manitoba NDP governments are spending on this issue?
The NDP government has clearly taken one side of this issue. It is
supporting and actually helping to establish organizations that will
then be speaking to this issue. I would be interested in hearing a
little later what she has to say about that issue.
is another thing that we need to deal with today. She mentioned that
there seems to be too much secrecy and not enough oversight. I am not
sure what she was talking about, but we can certainly say that about
the Canadian Wheat Board over the last few years. Western Canadian
producers have not had access to information about the Wheat Board. For
example, they can no longer find out through the Wheat Board's annual
reports how much money is being spent on communications, advertising
and those kinds of things.
a consequence of that and with the help of the NDP, we proposed an
amendment to the accountability act that would help people to access
that kind of information with regard to the Canadian Wheat Board. We
look forward to dealing with secrecy and providing a bit more oversight
into the organization in the future.
has been an issue over the last few days about the voters list. I need
to speak to that and address the issue. Yesterday, the leader of the
NDP rose and started to make wild accusations about the voters list for
the director elections this fall. He clearly did not understand what he
was talking about, which is unfortunate, but hopefully we can provide
him and the public a bit of information so they can more clearly
understand what is going on in terms of the director elections and the
voters list for those elections.
the past few years there have been director elections regularly. The
voters list has always been a huge concern because everyone who
indicates an interest in grain gets a permit book. There are many
permit books that are not even used. People do not deliver on them.
Someone may own a quarter of land who lives in the city and has nothing
to do with the operation of the farm but still has a permit book.
until now the ballots have been mailed out to everyone and have
actually gone to people who are deceased. There has been no way to know
whether people are farming or not farming, or if they have retired or
are living in another country. The minister decided to send ballots to
farmers who had actually delivered on permit books over the last two
years. In that way the government would know that these people had made
deliveries and were actively farming. Anyone else who has an interest
in grain has not been kept from voting. They simply need to make a
statutory declaration saying that they have an interest in the grain
and that they would like a ballot and a ballot will be sent out. We
definitely wanted to clear that up because there was misleading
information coming from particularly the NDP but the Liberals seemed to
be mouthing some of that as well.
I would also like to make a point for the
member for Churchill
who admitted that he was not familiar with agriculture. She said that
the Canadian Wheat Board stands between farmers and conglomerates. We
would suggest that the CWB is actually standing between farmers and
opportunity. We looked into this.
agriculture committee heard last week that the present grading system,
which is based on having to visually distinguish the kinds of grains,
costs farmers in the neighbourhood of $200 million per year. That
grading system is maintained primarily because of the Wheat Board. It
has made statements that it cannot possibly get rid of it for another
10 years. Everybody else in the world has a declaration system where
farmers can declare the kind of grain they have and then it is checked
to ensure it is accurate. That is costing about $200 million a year.
also know there are freight costs because rail cars are not being fully
tendered. George Morris Centre has done work that says that western
Canadians are missing between 8,000 and 15,000 jobs that would be
available if there were the value added opportunities that we could get
if we were able to market our own grain. Western Canadian farmers will
have a huge opportunity when we move ahead on this issue and when we
move to choice.
noticed that the member opposite did not really want to talk that much
about his concurrence motion and I would suspect the reason he does not
want to talk about it is that it is a mess. Tomorrow we will request
that people vote against it. We tried to explain to the agriculture
committee what the implications of it were. The opposition members were
not that interested in serving farmers. They are more interested in
their own political stunts so they went ahead and passed this.
I just want to point out some of the
consequences that would come out of passing the motion if the member
has his way. The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
| That the government prior to
any legislative or
regulatory action affecting the mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board as
it is currently constituted under the Canada Wheat Board Act, submit
through plebiscite to all those eligible to vote in Canadian Wheat
Board elections, a clear and direct question asking whether those
eligible to vote support or oppose the single desk selling provisions
of the Canadian Wheat Board.
That is a mouthful
which I am sure hardly anybody could understand. I think the reason the
member for Malpeque chose to word it that way was to try to confuse
people and to confuse the issue. He probably does not even know this
but the board itself does not have a legislative mandate. We can look
right through the act and it does not have a legislative mandate.
People have tried to take different sections of the board and say that
it does but the only possible place that one could actually imply that
there is a mandate for the board is in section five where it talks
about the object of the board. It says that the object is marketing in
an orderly manner in interprovincial and export trade grain grown in
Canada. It does not say anything about a single desk and there is no
mention of a mandate anywhere in the Canadian Wheat Board Act.
off the bat the member's motion does not make any sense, which may not
surprise some of us here. The consequence of this is that the
recommendation either applies to nothing in terms of the board or it
applies to everything. We assume that he does not want it to apply to
nothing so he is probably saying that it applies to all the activities
in which the board is involved.
me explain the consequences of that. This would mean the end of the
government or the board's freedom to do a number of things, such as
setting initial grain prices. Farmers would not be allowed to set
initial grain prices. They certainly would not be allowed to adjust
are sitting in a situation right now where grain prices are the highest
they have been in 10 years and our farmers are telling us that, more
than ever, they want the opportunity to market their own grain so that
they can take advantage of the market. The market is surging and they
have opportunities now that they have not had for a decade. What
happens? The Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc working with them are
preventing western Canadian farmers from having an opportunity to
access the market when it is at its peak.
usual, they are working against the interests of farmers. They want to
keep them poor. They want to keep them down on the farm and unable to
stand on their own two feet so they have to depend on them. My farmers
are telling me that they do not want that. They want opportunities.
They want to move ahead and they want to market their own grain.
motion would also stop us from making a final payment to farmers. I
guess everyone here understands that the board sets the initial payment
in agreement with the government and then, throughout the year,
hopefully, if the price goes up, adjustment payments are paid out and
at the end of the year the farmers get whatever extra money is in the
pool account. The member for Malpeque wants to shut that down. We do
not think that makes good sense at all.
thing the motion would do is affect the board's borrowing capabilities.
It would stop loan financing and the board's ability to guarantee
An hon. member: Cash advances.
Mr. David Anderson:
Absolutely, cash advances. The member is absolutely right. It would
stop the board's ability to offer or to administer cash advances. I do
not think the member for Malpeque probably understood that when he
wrote the motion but that certainly is the impact that it would have.
Actually, my colleague makes a very good point. One of the reasons he
probably does not understand the impact is because he does not live
anywhere near the region where the board applies.
Canadian farmers have told me time and again that they are capable of
making their own decisions. They do not need people coming from outside
and telling them what is good for them. The member for Malpeque
has been doing that to western Canadian farmers for many years and they
are getting mighty tired of it.
of the things that the motion would affect is the ability to administer
cash advances. If our farmers do not have that ability, they have
nothing. We just extended and improved the cash advance program. We are
working through the final regulations to give farmers the opportunity
to borrow up to $100,000 cash free and then they can turn around and
borrow up to $400,000 against their inventory. We do not want to
interfere with that and we are wondering why the member for Malpeque
motion would also interfere with the ability to manage the contingency
fund that is so important to the board's operations. It interferes with
its ability to establish and to manage any of the separate funds that
it sets up. I am sure that the board itself does not want restrictions
put on that. It restricts any opportunity to provide for enhanced
employee benefits. I do not think the member for Malpeque
understood that either when he brought this forward.
actually interferes as well with the ability to change the election
process and improve the election process even as the board requests.
The board actually agreed with us on the idea that these permit books
that were not active be removed from the active mailing list. The board
was with us on that in spite of what the NDP and the Liberals have
said. If they were to come to use with a suggested change for an
election process, this motion that the member for Malpeque
has brought forward would stop us from being able to do that.
also would stop the government from being able to appoint directors or
a president. I am sure the member did not mean to interfere in that way
either. It would interfere with the board's ability to invest in
outside projects and, of course, it is involved in a number of things
at universities, at research centres and there are partnerships around
the world. It would also interfere with the ability to do the board's
final audit for the year.
actually goes further than that. It would interfere with any ability to
change regulations that have anything to do with the board's
operations. That would render the board's operation impossible because
there have been 525 orders in council over the last 14 years and they
deal with most of the issues that I have just mentioned. Orders in
council concerning the board regularly go out. The member for Malpeque
apparently wants all of that stopped until we have a plebiscite.
do not think he understood what he was doing when he wrote this.
However, I am sure that will not change his mind in terms of insisting
that his party would support it. The motion would actually cripple the
board and bring total chaos. He has brought 100 unintended consequences
that he did not realize because of the poor wording of his motion.
Hopefully he will take a bit more time the next time and maybe talk to
some of us who understand the board and how it operates. A number of
people, including some of my colleagues, have spent many years dealing
with this issue. They certainly have the capability and the capacity to
direct the member for Malpeque
and to give him some clear understanding of what the board is all about.
want to take a minute to talk about one of the other options or
opportunities that we have offered western Canadian farmers. The member
said that he has been a farmer advocate for many years and that he
wrote a report last year that supposedly said that farmers needed more
access to opportunities and to capital, and that they needed more
ability and power in the marketplace.
My colleague, the member for
, brought forward Bill C-300
It is not a big bill but it is a good bill. It basically says that
under Bill C-300 prairie producers could market their own wheat and
barley directly to processing facilities owned by prairie producers. It
seems pretty straightforward does it not? Prairie producers can market
their own grain to a processing facility that is owned by their friends
we have a small thing here that would give farmers an opportunity. In
the past of course this has not been allowed. Swift Current is in the
centre of my riding where a few years ago people wanted to set up a
pasta plant. They had support from the area and they had a great
project going. It was going to be very successful and we thought we
could compete with anyone in the world. We decided that there was no
sense in sending our grain to another country so someone else could
make it into pasta and get the benefit from that. We decided we should
keep it at home and make pasta in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, and ship
it out to the world. Since we grow the best durum in the world we
wanted to see what we could do with pasta.
project never got off the ground. The main reason the project did not
get off the ground is that the Canadian Wheat Board said, “We are not
going to let producers deliver their own grain to this facility and
then process it. They have to go through the buy back”. They have to
take their grain which is in their bins and they have to sell it to the
board and then they have to buy it back at a higher price. Then they
can try to sell it to the pasta plant.
An hon. member: Plus freight and
Mr. David Anderson:
Plus freight and elevation, exactly. It just did not make sense. It did
not make it profitable. That project has sat for years waiting for an
opportunity. I talked to people at home and they still wish that they
had the opportunity to participate in that. Bill C-300
deals a little bit with that opportunity that we think we need to have
for western Canadian producers.
surprise to me was that members of the opposition decided that they
would oppose this. The opposition is led by an agriculture critic who
says that farmers need some strength in the marketplace, but when we
came forward with a bill that would actually give them some, that would
not have changed the marketing system, he opposed it. His colleagues
opposed it because they do not know any better and they get their
direction from him.
would think the NDP would be on side with a proposal such as this,
small community projects and people could get together and work with
their neighbours and set up a processing facility to process their own
grain. One would think the NDP would take that up in a minute, but the
NDP decided that ideology was more important than farmers. For some of
us this is not much of a surprise any more.
see it in the debate that is going on right now. We simply want to
offer western Canadian farmers the choice to do their own business. Let
me as a western Canadian producer when I get up in the morning decide
that I am going to sell some grain. I am going to take a look at what
the price of grain is. I am going to make what I think is good deal and
I am going to move my grain.
opposition members do not want that to happen. They want me to have to
go to the Canadian Wheat Board and I have to sell it to the Canadian
Wheat Board. I have to buy it back and then I have to try to find
someone to buy it from me.
called me last night and said that right now he has a barley sale,
organic barley into the United States. He made the sale. He went to the
board for the buy back and the board told him that he could have the
buy back if he wanted to pay $122 a tonne for a buy back, which is
unbelievable. That is almost $3 a bushel extra just to buy his own
grain back. His grain is sitting in the bin. He has made a sale into
the United States for his organic grain which the board does not
market. Then the board tells him, “You have to give us over $3 a bushel
just to get your own grain back”. That is a true story.
It is interesting that the member for Malpeque
will not believe me when I say that. He does not understand how the
system works. That is very unfortunate. He is the one on the other side
who is in charge of telling the opposition members what their
agriculture decisions and policies are. He does not understand what
farmers have to go through.
The member for Malpeque
wonders why people become angry. The reason is that he does not have a
clue what is going on in western Canada. He does not seem to care. He
has an ideological position that he thinks he is going to stay with no
matter what. Meanwhile our farmers are going broke.
Liberals have a history of doing this to our farmers. I do not think
they should stand up in the House and try to pretend that they are
protecting farmers on the Canadian Wheat Board issue. A few years ago
when we had grain farmers who wanted a choice, who wanted to do
something different with their wheat, what happened? Did the Liberals
offer to have a plebiscite? Absolutely not. The Liberals locked the
farmers in jail.
went to jail and people were being strip searched for weeks at a time.
That was as a consequence of that member, the member for Wascana
and the Liberal caucus at the time making a decision that that was the
way farmers in western Canada should be treated.
farmers are tired of it. They want the opportunities that farmers in
the rest of Canada have. They want an opportunity to get out there and
market their grain. Western farmers are not afraid of the opportunities
that face them.
I say that the George Morris Centre says that there are between 8,000
and 15,000 jobs that would be available in western Canada if we had
these value added opportunities, farmers say, “Let me at it. Let me
have the chance to do that kind of a thing”.
government will continue to move ahead. We want to bring choice to
western Canadian farmers, the same choices that farmers across this
country have. We want to give them the same opportunities that other
farmers have. The farmers are very supportive of what we are doing
here. It is unfortunate that some of the special interest groups funded
by NDP governments and by Liberal caucuses are standing in the way of
the opportunities for western Canadian farmers.
Speaker, we have seen quite a line from the parliamentary secretary,
that is for sure. We are seeing a new tactic. Just to make a point, we
are seeing the difference between the two parties, we really are. We
consult with farmers. We take their advice and then we try to represent
their interests in the House. The member opposite, the parliamentary
secretary, obviously just takes his direction from the Prime
based on ideology. We are seeing a new tactic.
was interesting listening to the parliamentary secretary as he spoke of
the motion the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food put
forward. We are seeing a new tactic now from the governing party. On
top of the gag orders and the propaganda campaign, we are seeing scare
motion is about one thing. There are three pillars to the Canadian
Wheat Board: single desk selling, price pooling and the government
guarantee. The motion and the report is about a clear and direct
question asking whether those eligible to vote support or oppose the
single desk selling provisions of the Canadian Wheat Board. Simply put,
that is what the motion is all about.
the parliamentary secretary willing, on behalf of his government, to
allow producers the choice whether or not they want single desk selling
to be maintained under the Canadian Wheat Board as that pillar which
gives it the ability to maximize returns to primary producers?
Mr. Speaker, it is also good to see the member
realize he has problems with the motion, so he will try to turn
attention away from it. The fact is that it is so poorly written it
would affect virtually every activity in which the Wheat Board is
involved. If we had a vote tomorrow, we would see the member voting for
it. Obviously, we have to be far more responsible than that. The member
is in opposition. He can resort to whatever hysteria and hyperbole he
wants, but as the party in power, we have to be responsible for the
decisions that we make. Our decision is that we think western Canadian
farmers need choice in marketing and we would like to bring that
forward to them.
I would like to make one other point,
which is that I am extremely proud to follow the man who is the Prime
of this country right now. Canadians have seen what a leader he is and
they are turning to him. They are very thrilled with the fact that we
are actually keeping our promises. Everywhere we go across this country
people are saying, “We cannot believe that you people kept your
promises after 13 years of what we had before”.
Speaker, I am going through some material here, comments over the last
few years made by the hon. parliamentary secretary. It seems to be a
trend, a vendetta against the Wheat Board, that it is corrupt, that its
directors are stealing money, that it has broken laws and refuses to
just wondering if the parliamentary secretary and his government is
representing the farmers. We are representing the farmers. We are
speaking for farmers. There are grassroots organizations and other
people speaking up and letters coming in.
do the Conservatives know that they represent the majority of the
farmers? I think they do not know because they are afraid to have a
Is the parliamentary secretary in
agreement with me?
Speaker, I am glad that question was asked, because I really wanted to
get into that and I actually forgot about it during my speech.
Wheat Board itself has done surveys. We would have to stretch it to say
that it was trying to find a real neutral position with the survey. The
last one actually showed 54% of producers in western Canada want choice
as their option. They want choice in marketing. That was the Wheat
Board's own survey. Sixty per cent of them in the Wheat Board survey
actually said that the Wheat Board would be far better off if it had
competition. It would make it a far more effective and efficient
marketing entity if it had some competition.
the member wonders if we represent farmers, we actually do because we
have the rural ridings in western Canada, so we are proud to say we
represent farmers. It is not just ourselves who are saying that there
needs to be choice. Farmers themselves are saying, even to the Wheat
Board when it asked in its surveys, that they want choice and they
would like to see the opportunities that come out of that, the same
opportunities that the rest of this country has.
Speaker, my colleague opposite speaks frequently of unknown,
undesirable and unintentional consequences. There are two areas that I
am particularly concerned about in terms of the unknown, undesirable
and unintended consequences.
first relates to the democratic processes, or the lack thereof, that we
are seeing as we move forward on this issue. My colleague here has
certainly enunciated them.
second is quite devastating. We hear frequently from members of the
press in our community that when questions are put to Conservative
members from Manitoba day after day after day after day, their calls
are not returned. Their calls are not returned because those members
know what the implications are for the city of Winnipeg.
the parliamentary secretary understand that this means the elimination
of 500 jobs in downtown Winnipeg? Does he understand that it means a
loss of an additional 1,800 jobs in the province of Manitoba? Does he
understand that it means a loss of $66 million in wages and salaries?
Does he understand what the impact is on governments in terms of lost
An hon. member: Don't believe Wayne.
Hon. Anita Neville: Trust
me, I would rather believe my colleague than members opposite who do
not speak out on behalf of their communities and the citizens of their
communities. Trust me.
Mr. Speaker, now you see what farmers are
supporting. They are the ones who have kept the Wheat Board over the
members opposite say the Wheat Board is going to completely fail. We do
not say that. We say we are going to offer it as an option. We think
that it has a lot of potential. It has a lot of advantages right now
over most of the other entities in the industry. If she is saying it is
going to completely disappear, I hope that the farmers are not
listening to her when she says that because they hope that the Wheat
Board can be one of those options. They know there are going to be jobs
still in Winnipeg, that there is going to be a payroll there.
of the jobs that are in Winnipeg are not volume dependent. If the board
is at all competent at being part of this marketing choice option,
those jobs are going to continue to exist. That money is going to
continue to come into Winnipeg and farmers will have the opportunity to
prosper as well.
Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member for Cypress
brought this up because we are talking about
character, the character of this government and the character of our Prime
people who actually follow through on what they say they are going to
do in a campaign. We said we were going to do one thing and we are
The member for Malpeque
talked about freedom of expression. What we are talking about is
freedom of choice. There are not many businesses in this country or in
the world that work like the Wheat Board system without that choice.
Many farmers have fought for that choice and we have listened. These
people are not masochists. My friend from Cypress
is not crazy. He thinks he can do it better. He wants that choice so he
can better himself. We will still have a strong, viable Wheat Board, as
the member said.
would like to ask my friend, the parliamentary secretary, why producers
in Ontario do not have to operate under a board monopoly system. If the
monopoly system is so great and that is where it is at, why is it only
producers like himself in western Canada who have to operate under that
system? Why is that not the case in provinces like Ontario?
Speaker, this actually ties into the last question with what I can only
call it scare tactics from the member from Winnipeg when she was giving
the information she had. I will put it that way.
fact is there are voluntary boards around the world. There is a
voluntary board in Ontario. There is one in Australia as well. In order
for the board to continue to exist, it does not need to be mandatory.
The Australian wheat board has almost an export monopoly on grains in
Australia. It functions well. People are free domestically to move
their grain. The Ontario Wheat Board has been a marketing board that
has had choice in Ontario here for several years. Those opportunities
exist and the options work for farmers.
resuming debate, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to
inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of
adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Cape
, Veterans Affairs.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in
this important debate this evening. The member for Malpeque
has done excellent work in committee presenting the ins and outs of
this issue. That is why we supported the second report of the Standing
Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food. I would like to read it to you.
It seems to me
that any talk of a referendum, of free choice, is a very important
democratic issue. It is important to allow western producers to make
that free choice, and the best way to do so is through a referendum.
That way, we will know exactly what they want with respect to the
future of the Canadian Wheat Board.
Here is the recommendation of the Standing
Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food:
| That the government prior to
any legislative or
regulatory action affecting the mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board as
it is currently constituted under the Canada Wheat Board Act, submit
through plebiscite to all those eligible to vote in Canadian Wheat
Board elections, a clear and direct question asking whether those
eligible to vote support or oppose the single desk selling provisions
of the Canadian Wheat Board.
That is the
subject of today's debate. I think it is very important for us to give
that choice to the producers who want it. As you know, the Canadian
Wheat Board is one of two very important collective marketing tools in
Canada, the other being supply management, which I could obviously
discuss in more detail.
we are under attack from WTO member states—especially the United States
and the European Union—because of the Canadian Wheat Board and supply
management. Now we are also under attack from our own government, the
Canadian government. It has been in constant attack mode since it made
its famous promise in the last election campaign and even before then,
in 2002, when the Prime Minister himself introduced a motion in this
House to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.
Conservatives' free market ideology is not news here. However, for some
time now, they have been implementing a process to undermine and even
destroy the Canadian Wheat Board.
I was saying, the attacks are not only coming from other countries, but
also from within our own country. If this tendency persists, we, in
Quebec, are very much afraid that, after the Canadian Wheat Board, the
next attack will be on our supply management system.
I know what I am talking about since I, along with the leader of the
Bloc Québécois and people from the Union des producteurs
Quebec, took part in a meeting, here in Ottawa, with ambassadors from
around the world. Representatives from the European Union were present
and, for them, it was clear that there was a serious problem at the WTO
with regard to marketing, and the culprits were the Canadian Wheat
Board and our supply management system.
targeted at these two marketing tools still exist and we want to
eliminate them. We have been doing a lot of explaining and have been
able to convince more and more countries, particularly African
countries, that were also present at that meeting, and some European
countries, that these are not subsidies to our farmers but tools that
allow them to get the best possible price at no cost to the government.
I am mostly talking about supply management because in the case of the
Canadian Wheat Board, there were irritants that were eliminated to
comply with other countries' requirements at the WTO.
election promise about free choice and a dual market was made by the
Conservatives. In my view, free choice means letting producers decide
for themselves what is good for them. That is the attitude one must
always have in politics. Forcing one's ideology or anything else on
others is not the way to go, but it is necessary to go out there to get
a better understanding of what people want and what they need. As
legislators, we will then be able to propose bills or amendments or
plans that will really meet their needs.
the past few hours we have seen another example of that on the part of
this government. The Bloc Québécois introduced a motion
adjustment program for older workers. It consisted of measures to help
older workers who have lost their jobs because of mass layoffs. The
response of the government was something of their own ideology,
something that, in their opinion, was the best solution, a kind of
program that pleases neither the workers nor the Government of Quebec
because it does not take account of the real needs and demands of those
proceeding in somewhat the same way in the case of the Canadian Wheat
Board. In the committee, I have even heard government members say
something along the lines of “We are not going to let the majority
decide for the minority”.
seems to me that in a real democracy it should be the exact opposite.
In fact that is the way we conduct our elections. When a majority wants
to retain an organization such as the Canadian Wheat Board, we should
make certain that it is not dismantled or knocked down.
the parliamentary secretary referred to a survey by the Canadian Wheat
Board. He provided some numbers that suited his argument. There are
other numbers. This is a quite recent survey from March and April 2006.
The figures in the survey are quite significant.
example, 90% of producers believe that any decision concerning the
future of the Canadian Wheat Board should be made by the producers
themselves. That is exactly what the member for Malpeque proposed
during the committee meetings we are discussing today as part of this
motion, to let the producers themselves decide the future of the
Canadian Wheat Board. Nothing could be more democratic than that. It is
the best way to find out exactly what the producers want.
66% of producers are against any weakening of the Canadian Wheat Board;
63% want the marketing of their produce to be under the exclusive
responsibility of the Canadian Wheat Board, and 75%—this is important
because this is what we are talking about today—75% want a referendum
or plebiscite on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. In my opinion,
those figures speak for themselves.
have other surveys, if that would please the Conservatives, who do not
seem to give much credibility to the surveys done by the Canadian Wheat
Board. There is the survey of the National Farmers Union, which says
that 76% of farm producers in the west, who are subject to the Canadian
Wheat Board, support that organization. We are looking here at rather
this begs the question: Who is calling for the dismantling of the
Canadian Wheat Board at all costs? In fact, some of our own producers
are calling for such a measure. I, myself, am a producer. I respect
their views but I am certain that other producers have other ideas.
Just look at the survey; it is not 100% everywhere.
have received hundreds and hundreds of letters at my office from wheat
and barley producers in western Canada, but mainly wheat producers,
despite the fact that I am a Bloc Québécois member of
Quebec. They are asking me to stand up for the Canadian Wheat Board. In
fact I am sure that all of my colleagues have received letters written
by those producers. These are not form letters, many of them are
written by hand, and I have read them all, regardless of where they
came from. None of those letters was written by someone from an
organization or a communications firm. They are genuine letters written
by producers to tell me that in their opinion, the Canadian Wheat Board
is very important and that it must not be dismantled.
unfortunate thing about what is happening now is that since this
election promise was made in the last campaign, every effort has been
made to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. Bill C-300
was introduced in this House. We in the Bloc Québécois
opposed it because, in our opinion, it was the beginning of the end.
got even worse for the Canadian Wheat Board with the gag order imposed
on it by the ministerial order made on October 5. If you will forgive
the expression, I swear that this knocked me on my backside. I did not
even think that a minister could make that kind of ministerial order, a
gag order that appalling, and imposing censure on the Canadian Wheat
Board. But I can read an excerpt from it:
|—directs the Canadian Wheat Board to conduct its
operations under that Act in the following manner:
| It shall not expend funds,
directly or indirectly, on
advocating the retention of its monopoly powers, including the
expenditure of funds for advertising, publishing or market research.
| It shall not provide funds to
any other person or entity
to enable them to advocate the retention of the monopoly powers of the
The Canadian Wheat
Board has quite simply been gagged, and this is a completely
undemocratic procedure. The board cannot even defend itself anymore,
while the government continues to attack it. In my view, this way of
doing things amounts to unfairness and inequality, and it is not even
subtle, because the intention is to prohibit it from speaking and
defending itself, to gag it. I have never seen anything like this. In
fact, we looked a little into what has gone on in the past. We wondered
whether ministers had ever done this. We had to go back to 1979 when
Russia invaded Afghanistan.
the time, all Canadian government organizations, including the Canadian
Wheat Board, had been ordered not to have any dealings with Russia
because of its cowardly attack on Afghanistan.
was a highly unusual if totally understandable reason, which required
that there not be any trade with a country that had just committed such
It was the
government’s decision, and that was to be expected. It simply forbade
them to have any dealings with this country for a certain amount of
time. Obviously, things have changed now. It was understandable at the
time that the government would take the action it did.
I would like a Conservative member, a
minister or the Prime
to tell me that there was a real emergency and it was essential to
prevent the Canadian Wheat Board from speaking, that it was necessary
to censure it, to gag it and tie its hands. I am not aware of any such
reason. There is no precedent proving that this was essential and that
this kind of ministerial order absolutely had to be instituted.
have been partisan appointments to the board of directors of the
Canadian Wheat Board. The steering panel was led by opponents of the
wheat board. I spoke earlier about the letters we have received from
received an e-mail from a communications firm. It was obviously not
intended for us. The firm was offering its services to the government
to send out chain letters directed against the Canadian Wheat Board. At
the same time, farmers were sending out letters in support of the wheat
board. This communications firm, on the other hand, said that it could
send a certain number of letters a week. Lovely form letters would have
been sent out saying that the Canadian Wheat Board was not effective
and was not any good. Fortunately, this was exposed and a stop was put
that I have not received a single letter goes to prove that there is no
real farmers’ revolt against the Canadian Wheat Board. I am sure that I
would have received a great many if this communications firm had
secretly been able to do what it wanted and if the government had gone
along. I have not received a single letter saying that the writer
agreed with Bill C-300
or agreed with what the Conservative government wanted to do with the
Canadian Wheat Board. When we found out what this communications firm
wanted to do, we hoped to hear the person responsible for this e-mail
in committee. We have not succeeded yet in getting this person to
appear, but I hope we will soon do so because we have some interesting
questions for him or her.
Conservatives’ determination has not let up and what comes next is
worrying, as I said in the introduction to my speech. I said that for
us in Quebec the other extremely important collective marketing tool in
Canada is supply management. That is not just me talking. I have met
with the main stakeholders, including the people from the UPA. We
talked about this with the president of the UPA. We talked to him about
the Canadian Wheat Board. They too are worried. This government has a
free-trade ideology and nothing will stop it.
For example, I could quote the discussions
that took place in parliamentary committee with the Minister
of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
the latest negotiations of the World Trade Organization in Geneva.
Whenever we asked him whether he planned to protect supply management,
he always said yes. We were very happy with this answer. However, we
found ourselves alone, against 148 in Geneva, during the negotiations
on supply management. The Minister did not feel very comfortable in
he represents a population. Some voted for him while others did not.
Regardless, once he is in government, he represents the entire
population. He should pull up his pants and defend a system as
effective as supply management, even if he is alone. There is nothing
to feel uncomfortable about here. What worried me more was the
minister’s speech. He said that if there was an agreement in the WTO,
Canada would not remain outside that agreement. Canada would not remain
alone in its corner and would sign the agreement. To my mind that meant
that, if there had been an agreement to begin removing areas of supply
management or dismantling it, Canada would have signed.
We have good reason to be concerned considering
the Conservative government's attitude.
give you an idea of how important supply management is in Quebec, I
remind members that it represents 40% of the Quebec farm economy. It is
the apple of our eye and we are going to defend it tooth and nail. That
is what we have been doing since we came to the House of Commons. That
is what I, personally, have been doing for over a year, since my leader
named me as agriculture critic for the Bloc.
latest WTO negotiations in Geneva did not produce an agreement. That is
almost fortunate. The Doha round was supposed to deal with developing
nations. However nothing is being done for them. We hope to succeed in
obtaining an agreement that will give those countries a greater access
to markets. That is what everyone wants. However, in the case of supply
management, every time negotiations reach an impasse we have to heave a
sigh of relief. The fact is that successive governments have always
said—in promises—that they support us and they are going to defend
supply management. When that support is rather lukewarm we have reason
to be concerned.
important thing for the Conservatives is to follow up on their
commitment to allow western producers a free choice concerning the
marketing of their grain in the export market. What we are seeing, in
fact, is the dismantling of single desk selling and, at the end of the
day, the extinction of the Canadian Wheat Board.
section 47(1) of the Canadian Wheat Board Act is clear. Any decision
seeking to change single desk selling must be made by the producers. I
do not understand why the government is opposed to the motion presented
by the member for Malpeque
since a very clear section of the Canadian Wheat Board Act provides for
consultation of farm producers. It is up to them to decide; it is not
up to the government.
mentioned the UPA, the Union des producteurs agricoles du
earlier. We met with them, with our leader, to discuss the Canadian
Wheat board, even though it does not apply to Quebec. Those people
explained to us very clearly that in Quebec there were quite a few
voluntary marketing agencies that failed not long after they were
created, whether they were set up to market grain, potatoes, apples or
greenhouse vegetables. All of those experiments, which date from the
1990s, could not be sustained. The marketing branch of the UPA did a
thorough study of this subject. They examined cases where these models
had failed, and what they found was that they lacked a critical mass of
the product to be marketed, and the corollary to that, participation by
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. André Bellavance:
I understand what goes on in Quebec is not of much interest to the
Conservative Party, but I think that it is very important to talk about
major factor in the failures was the negative reaction by competitors,
who used every possible means to bring those systems down. Based on
experience in Quebec, we have very good reason to assume that freedom
of choice when it comes to marketing grain in the Prairies will
eventually lead to the elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board and will
have negative consequences for producers, including lower prices.
information comes from the Union des producteurs agricoles. I did not
make it up. We did experiments and experienced failures ourselves in
the 1990s relating to the same thing as what the Conservative
government now wants to put in place for the Canadian Wheat Board. We
should look to the example of what happened in Quebec and not repeat
this kind of mistake. It is reasonable to experiment, but it is also
reasonable to learn from our mistakes.
in the UPA’s view, the Canadian Wheat Board provides producers with
market income that is higher and fairer. It guarantees stable and
predictable supply in the agri-food industry. The UPA is also of the
view that we cannot allow the Conservative government to destroy such
an influential institution, one that creates 14,700 direct and indirect
jobs, with spinoffs amounting to $852 million a year.
I urge everyone in this House to vote for
the motion presented by the member for Malpeque
Speaker, I have a few comments and a couple of questions for the
member. I find this whole episode this afternoon very unfortunate.
There are many good and more productive things about which we could be
motion would compel us to have a plebiscite in order to pay farmers a
higher initial price. How ridiculous this whole motion is. It is beyond
the pale. We want to react quickly to market conditions and help
also is beyond the pale is the attempt by Bloc members to link the
future of the Canadian Wheat Board to supply management. What they
should be talking about is a commitment on this side of the House to
keep, maintain and follow through on our campaign promises. What were
The first promise was to provide more
marketing choice for western Canadian farmers, when it comes to wheat
second promise was to maintain the supply management system. We fought
for that in Geneva. We fought for that in every negotiation we have had
internationally. We will continue to fight for supply management
because this party on this side of the House promised we would follow
through on that ,and that is what we will do.
important, what I want to know is, when will the hon. member from the
Bloc bring in the motion to expand the Wheat Board to ensure it covers
Quebec? He will not do that. Why? Because he does not want the Wheat
Board to affect his business in his province. He does not want the
Wheat Board to affect the hogs. He said that there had never been a
success in another marketing board. Tell that to the hog producers in
Canada. Tell it to the canola producers in Canada. Talk to the pulse
crop people and the cattle industry. All of them are successful. Why?
Because the government is not mucking around in the decisions that
should be made by farmers, who take the risk and take the problems on
to their shoulders and try to market their own products.
I can guarantee that he does not want the
Wheat Board in Quebec. How about if we expand it to include potatoes?
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
one Deputy Speaker, to a former deputy speaker, the member knows that
many people are seeking the floor for questions and comments. A couple
of minutes have already expired. I hate to interrupt the minister in
flight, but if he could ask a question.
Speaker, as you can tell, I am kind of passionate about this subject. I
guess I will have to wrap it up with a question for the hon. member. I
can hardly talk because it is such a silly motion.
the hon. member tell us which products he would like us to include
under the Wheat Board in the Quebec area? How many products and lines
would he like us to have compulsory, managed by a national board in his
be quick, but I will answer it for him. The answer is none. No one
wants the Canadian Wheat Board to run the products in his provinces, or
in Ontario or in the rest of the country. This only applies, for some
reason, to the farmers in western Canada--
The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.
Mr. Speaker, I can finally respond.
was a rather passionate speech. I would like to see the hon. member
equally passionate, fiery and firm when the time comes to defend the
supply management system.
I used the example of our considerable concern in committee, when he
said that Canada would not decline on a future WTO agreement, rather it
would sign on. I asked if that would mean “at all costs.” I did not get
an answer earlier, so would it be “at all costs”?
is what I thought. The minister just said yes. He is going to sign at
all costs, for all of Canada, a WTO agreement, even though this would
jeopardize the Canadian Wheat Board and especially the supply
management system. Is that what the minister wants?
would like to see him stand up for our farmers a bit more. Recently, we
made requests on behalf of potato farmers. Farmers in Saint-Amable are
still having problems with golden nematode. We would like to see a
program specifically for farmers affected by golden nematode. Once the
embargo was lifted and the problem with the Americans was resolved,
these farmers had to destroy their potato crops. Growers in the
Saint-Amable region are also affected by this problem. Yet, the CAIS
program cannot help them.
would like the minister to rise—and be just as passionate and firm as
he was earlier when he tried to corner me—and defend these farmers, and
not only by pointlessly attacking—
Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member was asked a direct
question by the Minister of Agriculture. He has completely avoided it.
What products are to be included under the
If unanswered questions were points of order,
we would be constantly in points of order in the House.
The hon. member for Saint Boniface.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for
colleague is right. The Canadian Wheat Board has a great deal of
support in western Canada. This is apparent when we talk to people who
live in towns near us in Manitoba, in Portage la Prairie, for example.
Some hon. members opposite agree that it works extremely well.
I am surprised that the members opposite are not prepared to represent
their constituents. They are under a gag order, just like they have
been in every other matter introduced by the Conservatives.
are these members under a gag order supposed to represent the people in
their riding? Some 73% of people truly believe in the Canadian Wheat
hon. member mentioned that he received letters and opinions from people
in western Canada about the Canadian Wheat Board. We have also received
comments from people in Quebec who are very concerned about supply
are worried. Even if the Minister of Agriculture says he will protect
supply management, people do not believe him. It is certainly a source
of concern. I would like the hon. member to elaborate on this.
Mr. Speaker, when I was speaking earlier, the
Conservatives were not listening.
presented the opinion of the Union des producteurs agricoles du
on this. I was criticized for making a connection between plans for the
Canadian Wheat Board and plans for supply management. I did not make up
this connection. This comes from supply managed producers in Quebec who
immediately see the Conservatives' ideology on free trade. To them this
ideology falls precisely in line with what the U.S. and the European
Union are asking for. The latter claim our collective marketing systems
are suspect and rely on government subsidies. This makes me laugh
because the Americans and the Europeans subsidize extensively. We are
simply agreeing with them. We are saying that perhaps our systems are
upsetting to others and we should abolish them. Quebec does not share
imagine that the member who just rose also knows supply managed
producers elsewhere in Canada who are not at all happy with what the
Conservative government is doing to the Canadian Wheat Board. What
comes next is cause for concern. It is not good for producers not to
have the right to choose what they want for their own organization. We
should let them vote, be democratic and adopt the motion of the member
It is the only way to have the real answer. The Conservatives will not
give us the real answer.
Mr. Speaker, Ottawa is a far away place from
the very farms we are dealing with at this point.
know the Reform and the Alliance movement started by promising to give
democratic rights to the grassroots. One of the key elements was the
right of farmers to vote for their own future, not politicians
somewhere in Ottawa. I do not understand why farmers are not given the
choice to decide the future of their farms and the future of the Wheat
government continues to undermine public institutions. Then it says
that we are attacking its integrity when we point out its
anti-democratic practices. I thought I heard the
say, in the past, that gag orders were
the hon. member agree that it is our duty to defend the Constitution
and ensure that the farmers have the right to decide on the future of
the Wheat Board?
Speaker, I thank the member for her question, although it is a bit hard
to hear because the atmosphere is rather charged. In my opinion, the
Conservatives have so few arguments to support this decision to put the
Canadian Wheat Board out of commission that they are talking nonsense
and hurling insults. I find it very rude of the members. I can take it,
though, it is no problem for me.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. André Bellavance:
Despite everything, I have managed to understand the member's question.
I agree with her that this decision is antidemocratic, because we saw
the Canadian Wheat Board stifled when the Russians invaded Afghanistan,
as I mentioned earlier in my speech. At that time, there was a reason,
but today there is none.
minister, in his passionate speech—which was not supposed to be a
speech—never explained why the government was using such a harsh method
against the Canadian Wheat Board.
section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act gives farmers the right to
choose what they want. Nothing but a referendum would give them the
opportunity to decide on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the
hon. member for Winnipeg
I want to say that I think this gag order is an insult to farmers. The
last time this happened was to stop selling wheat to the former Soviet
Union during the war in Afghanistan. By the way, we know that the
mighty Soviet machine was not able to conquer Afghanistan. There may be
a lesson for us.
point and the point of my party is simple. Let the farmers decide the
fate of the Canadian Wheat Board. Currently, there are democratic
elections in place in the Canadian Wheat Board. Instead of letting them
play out as they should, there seems to be interference by the
the director elections are finished, there should be a plebiscite. Let
us end this debate once and for all. Everybody says the government
represents the farmers and thinks it knows what it is doing. Let us
have a plebiscite. In a cooperative spirit, the minister could work
with the Canadian Wheat Board in formulating a question and this would
be the democratic process. It is as simple as that.
small minority of those who want to go it alone should not be able to
destroy the future of the majority of farmers. That is the question
today. That is the question we are facing.
is about to deliver what an American based WTO challenge and
countervail action could not accomplish. In April 2002, following a
meeting with top U.S. trade officials, North Dakota wheat commissioner
chair Maynard Satrom assured growers that the common objective of both
the U.S. government and the U.S. wheat producers is the ultimate reform
of the monopolistic Canadian Wheat Board.
U.S. department of agriculture stated that American growers should be
able to freely compete with Canadian grain for Canadian rail shipments.
The USDA has called for a fundamental reform of organizations such as
the Canadian Wheat Board to permanently assure that U.S. producers are
treated fairly in the world market.
Canadian government is following along with the demands of the American
government and American multinational corporations. Dual marketing is a
whistle stop. Multinational competitors with deep pockets will bid away
grain into the short term and the Canadian Wheat Board will eventually
cease to exist.
again, farm economists say that grower premiums that are $30 to $45 per
tonne will disappear forever. There will be a domino effect. The
producer cars will probably diminish or disappear. We have the whole
problem of the Port of Churchill in Manitoba.
Speaker, the government is doing its best to take marketing powers away
from western producers. It wants to set up a dual marketing system
under which the Canadian Wheat Board would be but one exporter of
western Canada's wheat and barley. As we know, Canada's competition on
the world market, including the United States, has long been fighting
to reduce our producers' marketing powers.
is a connection between two Canadian programs, namely the Canadian
Wheat Board and supply management. Both are threatened under the WTO.
If we give up our Canadian Wheat Board single desk seller, then supply
management will also disappear. Multinationals, through the
Conservative government, are very close to achieving their goal.
government is under the impression that it was given a mandate to fully
pursue free market initiatives on January 23. It does not feel that
consulting producers unquestionably means holding a referendum. We are
faced with the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board.
is interesting to note that, a few years ago, the Prime Minister
publicly supported producers who had circumvented the law by exporting
wheat without going through the Canadian Wheat Board. The government
wants to take powers away from producers and give them to
attack on the Canadian Wheat Board is another example of the heavy
handed approach by the so-called new government to ram its agenda
through, just as we have seen in the softwood lumber agreement, for
example. Yet, we know that 75% of those people who use the Canadian
Wheat Board would like to have a plebiscite, so the question is, is
this ideologically driven?
am receiving letters from farmers, as are all MPs, stating that they
want the Wheat Board to continue. My hope then is that the Conservative
MPs who represent the farmers will listen to them. My message to the
farmers is: if they are not happy, they should talk to their MPs, put
them on the spot, and ensure that they do exactly what the farmers want
because I have a feeling the government is not doing that at the
Mr. Speaker, I want to take a minute to speak
to my colleague who spoke previously, the member for Richmond—Arthabaska
We sit on the agriculture committee together. Certainly, he has a
passion for his farmers, as do I. I commend him for that, but there is
a little lesson that he should take in the difference between, and I
notice the member for Malpeque
is not telling him this, supply management, that all of the left wing
people pull up as an icon and we support it as well, and the Wheat
give him a quick lesson. I buy a quota at my choice and at my beck and
call, and I join into the supply managed sector. If I decide I want to
make cheese, I use that quota or I buy more quota to make cheese, but
under the Wheat Board, I cannot use my own grain to make flour or
bread. I cannot do that. That is the big difference between the two
operations. They are like night and day, black and white. The hon.
member should quit listening to the member for Malpeque
and start listening to other farmers out there.
member who just spoke talked about the democratic right to have a vote.
At the beginning of the Wheat Board, when it became mandatory in the
mid-forties, there was no vote. Wheat, durum and barley were put in and
there was no vote. Oats were taken out in 1986. There was no vote.
that time, we did 50,000 tonnes of oat trade with the United States and
20 years later, we do 1.3 million tonnes. That is the difference
between taking product out, plus we have a burgeoning processing sector
growing here domestically for oats. That is what prairie farmers are
looking at. Those examples are out there of how the system can do
better when we have marketing choice. Why will the members opposite not
Speaker, I am not sure what the question was, but it was an interesting
discourse. Let us ask the farmers for their opinion. Let us ask them.
Let us have the plebiscite and we will see. Are they on board or are
they not on board? It is as simple as that.
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his
excellent presentation. I also congratulate the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska
my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. Farmers, and the
particular, must be extremely proud to have such an articulate
spokesperson and one who is showing so much interest in the system we
have been using for at least 35 years. I wanted to congratulate him.
a former economist with the UPA, I know what I am talking about after
hearing my hon. colleague describe quite eloquently his understanding
and convictions about supply management, the power of the Canadian
Wheat Board and the will, the democratic will of producers which we
would like to see become reality.
would have a question for my colleague from the NDP. We have an orderly
system. In light of the international situation which is in total
disarray and the American policy which is a total fiasco but that
Canada wants to copy, despite the fact that our systems are working
well, why are the Conservatives trying to scrap everything and offer a
dogmatic vision and a free market system that never worked in the
agrifood sector, particularly at the international level?
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his
question. I am wondering about the same thing myself.
need the power of the marketplace nowadays to be able to compete with
other countries and multinational companies. It seems to me that, if we
start dismantling our Canadian Wheat Board, we are going to lose our
ability and power to compete and, in the end, the farmers will suffer.
Mr. Speaker, it was good to listen to the NDP
critic outline his support for the current concurrence motion.
It was interesting to note that the member
confused the facts in his question, but those members on that side of
the House consistently do that. He is right in what he said about oats,
but that was prior to 1998 when the act had changed. Does the member
for Battlefords--Lloydminster not know that in 1998 the Canadian Wheat
Board changed from being a government agency with appointed
commissioners to an elected board of directors?
question to the NDP critic is really two-fold. The parliamentary
secretary neglected to mention earlier the fact that 88% of farmers in
the survey he talked about said they wanted a vote to decide the future
of single desk selling.
only government that ever mucked around and gave directives to the
Wheat Board is the Conservative government with the exception of the
war in Afghanistan when it was invaded by the Russians. What does the
NDP critic believe? Does he believe that farmers should have a vote on
whether they want single desk selling or not? Should that be the vote
as mandated under the act?
Speaker, if 88% or 80% or 70% of the members want to have a vote on
single desk selling then of course they should do that. Let us remember
that the government is a grassroots party. Let us respect the
grassroots and let us go along with the farmers and let them have that
Speaker, I rise today to take part in the debate. I represent the
downtown area of Winnipeg, which is home to the headquarters of the
Canadian Wheat Board. Also coming from a prairie province that depends
so much on agriculture and farm income, I felt it was necessary for me
to enter the debate.
me start by simply saying there is no business case for abolishing the
Canadian Wheat Board. It is pure ideological madness. It is an
ideological crusade that the Conservative Party has undertaken, really
to do the Americans' dirty work for them.
Wheat Board has been the subject of 11 separate U.S. trade attacks. The
board has won every one, something the Americans could not do. Even
before the ink was dry in the 1989 free trade agreement, they were
gunning for the Canadian Wheat Board. They made no bones about it
whatsoever. In fact, the Americans wanted the Wheat Board out of the
way. It is a trade irritant just as the softwood lumber deal is a trade
irritant. The new Conservative government is dutifully falling in line
to do the dirty work of the Americans.
people, if they are not in the industry, do not understand how the
Wheat Board works. The reason a dual market will not work and the
reason it will be the death rattle of the Canadian Wheat Board is very
simple. If the open market is higher than the initial payment, the
board will not get any deliveries. However, if the initial payment is
higher than the market, then it gets all these deliveries, but it has
to sell them at a loss. That is why this dual marketing will not work.
respectfully ask members to think back to the voluntary central selling
agency run by the pools in the 1920s and to the voluntary Canadian
Wheat Board, which was run in 1935. Both of them had spectacular
bankruptcies. They were the greatest business bankruptcies in Canadian
history for that simple reason. A voluntary Canadian Wheat Board do not
work nor will it survive.
have had letters from farmers and I want to read one. I know people
have questioned the veracity of these letters. These are letters
written by individual farmers and signed by them. This one is from a
farmer in Richmond, Saskatchewan. He challenges the statements from our
current Minister of Agriculture and from the Parliamentary Secretary.
He says, “The statement that the majority of farmers support the
concept of dual marketing is false”.
believe it is false as well. I believe if it was put to a plebiscite,
if it was put to a fair vote, we would be able to verify that.
goes on to say, “The statement that the present government has a
mandate to end the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board is false and
the statement that it's not about economics, it's about freedom, which
I have heard the minister and others say, is just plain stupid”. That
is according to him. I would not say that. “In this case, freedom is
just another word for nothing left to lose. Leave the Canadian Wheat
Board alone. It's the only support left for western Canadian farmers”.
brings me to the point of this gag order. The minister says that I
called him a Fascist for denying them the right to vote and then
imposing this gag order. I did not call the minister a Fascist. I said
it was like Fascism to deny them democracy. I said that Mussolini would
be proud the way the government introduced this gag order over Canadian
farmers because it is an unfair fight. It is an issue of natural
misinformation abounding or information with which we disagree. The
Canadian Wheat Board claims to have other evidence to the contrary, but
it is not allowed to bring it into this public debate about the future
of the Wheat Board. How can that be seen to be fair?
mention a couple of the facts that we would enter, and I am sure the
Wheat Board would make public if it were allowed to. One study found
that in 2001 farmers got about $10 per tonne more under single desk
selling than they would have otherwise received. That is a study by a
Dr. Richard Gray. I would be happy to table that.
study, the Kraft-Furtan study in 1997, showed the benefit from single
desk selling at $265 million per year. Again, we would like to promote
those figures as opposed to the figures we heard from the parliamentary
secretary, who said that farmers lost up to $400 million a year by
single desk selling, I believe.
earlier study by a Dr. Andrew Schmitz showed that marketing through the
Wheat Board increased the returns of barley producers by $72 million a
Conservative government would have to admit that there is a body of
evidence on the contrary of the position it is tabling. How is it
anybody's best interest to deny the Wheat Board what I would see the
legitimate right to make its case and to have its argument known. It is
a bit like a boxing match where we have one guy with his hands tied
behind his back. In nobody's mind could that be viewed as even remotely
There are things that we could challenge
about the parliamentary secretary's comments. I have a quote from Hansard
where he said, “In fact 60% to 80% of the farmers do support change, I
am not sure why 20% to 30% of the farmers should hold the other 70%
cannot get away with that kind of thing without being challenged. If
the Canadian Wheat Board is being denied a voice, we will be the voice
for it. I serve notice right here that we will be dedicating our time,
between now and whenever the government plans for the axe to fall, to
make the case for the Canadian Wheat Board and to fight the government
if it intends to tear down this great prairie institution.
should want to go back to the bad old days, least of all a party that
says that it represents the grassroots farmers. I used to deliver
papers in the rich part of Winnipeg when I was a kid. Virtually every
one of those mansions was built by the robber barons, the grain barons,
who used to systematically rip off the prairie farmer. Those mansions
were built on the backs of prairie farmers who could not get a fair
price for grain, so they started to act collectively and cooperatively.
that is what the Conservative Party has in opposition, that it is
ideologically opposed to acting collectively. It is against public auto
insurance, unions and that kind of action.
banded together to protect their own interests, and that is a good
thing. It was a survival thing and an issue of basic fairness. Since
1943, when the Wheat Board was founded and given it its single desk
monopoly, they could get a fair price, compete on the world market and
get the prices because its was a superior product.
because I come from the province of Manitoba, the future of the Port of
Churchill is in serious jeopardy because the grain will be sold south.
It will be mixed with the inferior American product. We will lose the
commercial identity of our superior Canadian wheat product, and that
will be to our lasting detriment as well.
am happy the minister stayed to listen to the speeches. I beg the
government to reconsider this idea. There are consequences that go far
beyond living up to the campaign promise that Conservatives made to
their base. Clearly, there is a legitimate pocket of farmers who do
want the Wheat Board dismantled, or at least a dual marketing system.
However, it is a more complex issue than that.
remember the bad old days on the Prairies, when an individual farmer
had virtually no bargaining strength in terms of trying to sell product
to the Paterson's and the Cargill's and whomever would be dominating
and controlling these things. Maybe Cargill is a bad example.
our experience, the Canadian Wheat Board is the best opportunity to get
a fair price for the product. I cannot argue enough that we need to
defend this great prairie institution for all those compelling reasons.
Let me go back to the directive that the
minister put forward, what we are calling a gag order.
It's not really a gag order, but that's what
you're calling it.
are calling it a gag order. It says right here on the top of my page,
“The minister's gag order”. It clearly says that the Canadian Wheat
Board will not be allowed to expend funds directly or indirectly, even
for market research. One would think that would be a necessary aspect
of its day to day function, to conduct market research, publishing and
advertising et cetera. It will not provide funds to any other person to
do a similar task.
there are two legitimate sides to this debate, and we would have to be
pretty pigheaded to say that there are not two legitimate sides to this
argument, it has been wrestled with for the last decade, then should we
not be hearing both of those sides equally? Should we not be allowed to
have both sides of the argument represented and then the one side will
win on the virtue of its merits, hopefully, not on some ideological
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. We should
hear from farmers and we should hear from both sides.
I just received a letter from someone in
my constituency. I will give a little background. If the member for Malpeque
will tone it down a bit, maybe we can get some communications going.
This farmer is from my constituency. Just so someone from downtown
Winnipeg can understand the trials and tribulations of some of these
farmers, I want to give him an idea what is involved and to also
counter some of the spin that the NDP have put out.
says: “The majority of farmers in my area want choice. The Wheat Board
knows that. They have elected a free marketing representative. I come
out of an area that used to be NDP for 25 years until the Conservatives
came along. They have changed their mind and they understand the
advantages of it”.
farmer marketed 3,837 bushels to the Wheat Board. He got 24¢ a
from the Wheat Board. Today he could take that same grain to Butte,
North Dakota and get $3.42 a bushel. That is many times more. We are
talking less than $1,000 to over $12,000. The Wheat Board is holding
his grain. There is more to this story. The Wheat Board said that it
was malt, it took it and sold it for feed and there is a lot more to it.
my time is limited I cannot go through the whole story. He is upset. He
has now got farming bills which he has to pay and he cannot do it. That
is an example of what happens when one does not have choice on the
I think people from the cities, people
from Quebec, who are holding back--
apologize to the member from Yorkton, but there are a lot of members
who want to ask questions or make comments. I do have to allow the hon.
member for Winnipeg
Speaker, I do not know what to say. I do not think one can make this
kind of broad policy decision based on isolated ad hoc incidents.
I read a letter from one farmer and he
read a letter from another one farmer. Therefore, we are even on that
point is that no one is being allowed, in any kind of a public way, to
make this case to the Canadian people. Instinctively, I think most
Canadians would understand that, collectively, we are a lot stronger in
terms of marketing this product. This is the only chance we have to be
taken seriously on the world market.
Canadian Wheat Board is respected as perhaps 18% or 20% of world
market. We are taken seriously as a player. If we dismantle that, we
will not have that advantage in terms of world marketing and et cetera.
issue I do want to point out is that the spokesman for the National
Farmers Union talks about how the dual market kills the CWB because its
monopoly seller position is precisely what earns farmers premium prices
in those global markets. In unity there is strength. It is an old adage
that we use on this side of the House. Those guys would be well advised
to consider that as well.
Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague speak about the dual marketing
system and why it did not exist. It is a smoke screen. This is a scam.
we put this in place, we are in fact dismantling the Wheat Board. The
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture has been stating
for years that he wants to dismantle the Wheat Board. If that is what
the government wants to do, why does it not just come out and say it?
Why does it go through this backroom way of doing this?
Would my hon. colleague agree with me that
this is a round about way of doing things?
Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member has attacked me
personally. I would like to make it clear that our position is what it
has been in the past, and that is, we want to see the Canadian Wheat
Board as one of the options for farmers. If he is going to accuse me of
other things than that, he should be accurate in what he is saying.
I am not sure if that is a point of order or
not, but I thank the hon. member for that intervention.
Could have a bit of order in the House for
the last few seconds for the hon. member's response?
Mr. Speaker, I think I understand the question
from my colleague, the member for Saint
The Conservative government is trying to do through the back door what
it could not do through the front door. By statute, to make these
changes to the way the Wheat Board operates, it has to be put to a vote
of the member farmers.
government started a gerrymander with the voter's list because I think
it knows it is on shakey ground. It is going to have to allow farmers
to vote on this. It is not just because we accuse it of being
undemocratic. It is probably getting that same advice not only from the
Canadian Wheat Board and the member farmers. Maybe there are people who
are not afraid of democracy breaking out.
government is trying to do this through the back door without going to
a vote of the people, which is required by statute. That is what led me
to say that this is Fascism to deny democracy in this way.
Before I recognize the hon. member for Winnipeg
on debate, I would just let her know that at 5:30 I will have to
interrupt the proceedings to call in the members for a vote. The member
has about four and a half minutes.
Speaker, it is no coincidence that you see so many members from
Manitoba rising today, my two colleagues here, and my colleague across
the way. This is a very important issue for the province of Manitoba.
It is important for the farmers of Manitoba. It is important for the
communities of Manitoba. It is important for the city of Winnipeg and
it is very important for the port of Churchill. We rise with great
concern today to speak to this issue.
Because I have only a short time, I am
going to take a slightly different tack.
Mr. Speaker, I should add that I am
sharing my time with my colleague from Saint
, who will pick up when we resume debate on this matter.
I am struck by is the whole lack of any semblance of balance or
fairness on this issue. It is all gone. It is out the door and members
across the way make no pretense.
often find myself sitting here thinking of the fact that, like many of
my colleagues, I go into schools to talk about how democracy does and
does not work, how we as members of Parliament advance issues, how
there is opportunity for community members to speak to both sides of
the issue. Here is a good case study for students on what one does not
want to see in a democratic country: muzzling, gagging, misinformation,
keeping people out of meetings.
Order. The hon. member for Winnipeg
does not have a whole lot of time before we have to
call in the members, so maybe we could just let her finish her comments.
Mr. Speaker, boys have their fun too; I do not
muzzling began with a private meeting in Saskatoon. We have heard about
that. We have heard about how the interested parties in Manitoba and
Saskatchewan were not invited. We heard how the--
Hon. Anita Neville: Only when
they asked for an invitation were they included, and in the back row,
not at the table, my friend.
heard about this meeting earlier. We heard about the appointment of a
task force. Any semblance of balance was absolutely gone. Just give
one, two, three people an opportunity who might put forward a
pro-Canadian Wheat Board position, but no, they do not trust the
arguments that might be there.
we have documented evidence of lobbyists setting it up so that we get
letters from those who are opposed to the Wheat Board. Anyone with a
contrary opinion has been ignored by the Conservative government.
An hon. member: It will not be a
Conservative government for long.
Hon. Anita Neville: It will not be
the government for long, as my colleague says.
semblance of dissent has been stifled. Does my colleague here think
that those who work for the Wheat Board, those who are concerned with
the Wheat Board are allowed to speak to their members of Parliament?
Are they too frightened, or does the gag order go that far?
is my duty to interrupt the proceedings on the motion at this time.
Accordingly, the debate on the motion will be rescheduled for another
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