November 1, Members of Parliament voted on this motion. The
motion passed 155 to 121. To view the full text of the debate and
the way your Member of Parliament voted, click on the links below or
scroll this page.
Response of Harper Government to
Motion passed by the House:
* * *
39th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 064
October 18, 2006
* * *
Speaker, I move that the second report of the Standing Committee on
Agriculture and Agri-Food, presented on Thursday, June 22, be concurred
I will be splitting my time with the
member for Churchill
am pleased to stand in support of the second report of the Standing
Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food which has the following in its
| 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.
We put the
motion today because of the tactics being used by the Conservative
government. These tactics that have been taking place in a Canadian
democracy are shameful.
questions concerning the Canadian Wheat Board and the Conservative
government really are: What will the Conservatives not do to destroy
single desk selling under the Canadian Wheat Board? What will it not do
to take power away from primary producers and give that power to the
international grain trade? What will it not do to tear down a marketing
institution that has become renown around the world for how it
maximizes returns back to primary producers? What will the Conservative
government not do in terms of catering to its American friends in the
grain trade who have challenged the Canadian Wheat Board 11 times and
have lost every time under international trade law?
its actions to date, it would appear that the government is prepared to
use any device up to the very line of legality in an effort to
undermine the Canadian Wheat Board.
Under the act, producers should determine
their marketing future. I was shocked and surprised by what I heard
from the Prime
today during question period. What we heard in the House just 30
minutes ago was absolute arrogance from the Prime Minister. He
basically told farmers that he would decide what was best for them.
does not matter whether it is the law of the land or not, he was going
to decide what was best for primary producers even though under the
Canadian Wheat Board Act they have a right to determine the Wheat
Board's future. The government opposite is not only by its words
showing its true colours but its actions are even worse.
on in this exercise we heard about a secret meeting in Saskatchewan,
that became public, and the only people on the invitation list were
those who were opposed to the Wheat Board. In the final analysis, after
Saskatchewan and Manitoba kicked up a stink, they were allowed to go as
observers. Imagine this happening in Canada.
provincial governments are duly elected to represent their citizens on
the Wheat Board and two of those provinces were denied the right to
participate. They were denied the right to take part in discussions
concerning a marketing institution that affects their constituents. In
other words, duly elected governments were denied the right to speak on
behalf of their citizens at that one-sided meeting
set up a task force which is stacked with only those who oppose the
Canadian Wheat Board. We cannot find its schedule. We cannot find out
who this task force is meeting with, although we have had a few little
brown envelopes slipped to us. This task force is holding secret
meetings for invitees only and participants are not talking to those
who believe strongly in single desk selling under the Wheat Board.
know as well that there is word of a fake letter writing campaign,
encouraged via the email from a communications firm in Saskatchewan,
which said “encouraged by government, MPs and others”. We know they are
catering to a propaganda campaign from the other side as well. However,
the worst of all was an order in council from the minister himself
directed toward the Canadian Wheat Board, which is absolutely nothing
short of a gag order.
What we are seeing now is not only has it stacked task forces, not only
has it denied democratically elected governments the right to
participate in a meeting, but it is also taking away freedom of
expression for those Wheat Board directors who have the most knowledge
and experience in this industry. They can tell their primary producers,
who elected them to their positions, what the pros and cons of various
proposals relative to the Canadian Wheat Board really mean to those
producers on the ground
It is unbelievable that this could happen
in a democracy like Canada. Those with experience are being
The minister will say that it is not really a gag order, but this is
what the Library of Parliament has said on these orders in council:
| It appears that several
activities could fall within the
purview of this Order in Council. For instance, electronic and print
publications, information on the CWB website and information
sessions/meetings held by the CWB, may be prohibited under the order,
if it advocates the retention of monopoly powers and involves the
expenditure of funds. Further, the term “advocating the retention of
its monopoly powers” may itself be subject to very strict
interpretation. It is possible that publications prepared following the
Directive (and therefore involve the expenditure of funds), which do
not necessarily advocate the retention of the CWB's monopoly, but
discuss the single desk selling capacity, from a positive point of
view, may also potentially violate the Order in Council.
It goes on to say:
| Similarily, advertisements
sponsored by the CWB,
containing information about the advantages of the CWB monopoly may
also be considered to violate the Directive.
pretty serious stuff. I never thought that a Government of Canada would
deny freedom of expression in our country to primary producers, to
elected producers to the Canadian Wheat Board who have the information
and the knowledge to talk to their fellow farmers.
There are many other factors as well.
Let us look at the economic losses that would occur if we lose that
marketing power through the Canadian Wheat Board. I will give summary,
and this comes from the Wheat Board itself in terms of independent
Summary of the annual Canadian Wheat Board, benefits and services for
single desk marketing approach for wheat are: the net benefit to
producers, $146 million to $255 million per year; the value of single
desk marketing approach for barley, $59 million per year; the value of
single desk marketing approach for durum, $92 million to $103 million;
tendering and railway and terminal handling agreements, $38.1 million
per year; net interest earnings, $66.2 million; approach to managing
the delivery system, giving farmers power within the delivery system, a
benefit of $115 million per year; terminal blending, $7 million to $10
million per year; and farmer access to producer cars, $6 million per
The net total loss to primary producers,
if they lose single desk selling, which the Prime
is doing everything in his power to take away from them, right up to
almost illegal means, is $530 million to $655 million per year. Why
would the Prime Minister want to take marketing power away from western
grain producers? I just cannot understand it.
He will go on. He tried this today in the
House by the way that the Prime
tries deception, tries to confuse people about the real issues. The
Conservatives are using the words “dual marketing”. There is no such
thing. We either have single desk selling or we have an open market.
Let us not be fooled. If we lose single desk selling under the Wheat
Board, then we have an open market in which the multinational grain
trade controls. It will take control and gain those profits and those
benefits now accruing to primary producers.
the law, the Government of Canada, under the Canadian Wheat Board, is
supposed to give primary producers a vote on single desk selling in our
country. That is what the government should do, even though, at the
head depots, it is trying influence producers in many ways with fake
letters, manipulation of the press, gag orders in the Wheat Board
itself and so on. Producers deserve the right to decide their own
destiny on single desk selling.
Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent
of the House to move the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
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
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
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.
It 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.
I 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.
Is 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
am 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.
I 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
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.
In the past few hours we have seen another example of that on the part
of this government. The Bloc Québécois introduced a
an 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
They are 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”.
It 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
Earlier, 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.
For 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.
I 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 significant evidence.
So 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.
I 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
Parliament from 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.
The 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.
Things 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
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.
At 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.
This was a highly unusual if totally understandable reason, which
required that there not be any trade with a country that had just
committed such an act.
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
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.
There 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
We also 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 to it.
The fact 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.
The 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
But 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.
To 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.
The 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.
The 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.
Yet 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.
I 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
Another 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.
This 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.
So 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.
Could 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 province?
can 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
will 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.
He 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
have 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.
Farmers 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.
We 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--
They were invited. Get the facts right.
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
It will not be the government for long, as my
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
* * *
39th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 073
October 31, 2006
Committees of the House
Agriculture and Agri-Food
The House resumed from October 18
consideration of the motion.
Speaker, I am pleased to have this last few minutes to speak about the
importance of the Canadian Wheat Board, what it means in Manitoba and
what it means to Canadians.
am going to very quickly touch on three main points. My colleagues have
spoken on a number of them. I want to talk about the tainted task force
report. I want to talk about the Canadian Wheat Board II that is
proposed and its difficulties against the giant American companies. I
want to touch on the loss of the Canadian Wheat Board and the impact it
will have on my home city of Winnipeg, which is significant.
want to say that the tainted Migie task force is totally lacking in two
key areas. There was no information on who was consulted. We know that
producers were not. We know that academic experts on grain economics
were not. We know that provincial agricultural ministers were not. We
know there were no public meetings. We know there was no list of
submissions. We know there was no input except from those the
government wanted to hear.
was no discussion in the report about the economic advantages of
destroying the Canadian Wheat Board. There is no economic analysis of
any sort. There is even no argument presenting the economic advantage
of dual marketing versus single desk. Why?
task force report states that hopper car assets, the building on Main
Street in Winnipeg and a contingency fund will be transitioned to the
new Canadian Wheat Board II. This package is worth approximately $109
international grain trade, as we all know, is dominated by five very
large players. Cargill, Archer-Daniels-Midlands, Bunge, Louis Dreyfus
and ConAgra simply dwarf the Canadian Wheat Board.
example, Archer-Daniels-Midland's net earnings for the quarter just
ended equalled $403 million, $292.3 million more than the assets that
the Canadian Wheat Board would receive. ADM has assets of $16.3
billion. How the tainted task force members and my colleagues opposite
think that the new Canadian Wheat Board II could compete against such a
giant is clearly flawed logic, exactly like the report states.
has a board director named Brian Mulroney, the former prime minister of
Canada. What a convenience to the current Prime
Americans have tried for years through the WTO to eliminate CWB single
desk marketing. It is what they want. It was reported in Inside U.S.
Trade magazine that “the timeline is not crucial to U.S. producers,
so long as Canada eliminates the monopoly powers”.
loss to Winnipeg is significant: 2,200 jobs in Winnipeg, 460 jobs at
the Wheat Board, more than $66 million in wages and salaries, and a
gross provincial income impact of $86 million.
We need a plebiscite.
In this House we speak of laws every day. We speak of new laws and of
upholding laws already in existence. The Canadian Wheat Board Act is
the law when it comes to grain farmers.
What we need is this: that the farmers will decide, that there will be
a plebiscite held with a clear question, and that we will all abide by
a democratically arrived at decision by the farmers. The provisions of
the Wheat Board provide this mechanism that will settle the debate. It
is incumbent upon us as legislators to honour the law of this land.
Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak on my hon. colleague's
motion, which would ensure a plebiscite was held by farmers on whether
they support the single desk selling of the Canadian Wheat Board.
However, like many Manitobans, I am extremely concerned with the
Conservatives' objective of destroying the Canadian Wheat Board for
purely political reasons.
am receiving a lot of calls from people in Winnipeg who realize the
importance of this institution to the province of Manitoba. It is
important to speak about the Wheat Board and the critical role it plays
in western Canada.
Canadian Wheat Board has been in existence since 1935. It is the
largest single seller of wheat and barley in the world. It sells to
customers in more than 70 countries. Annual sales revenues average $4
billion and an independent study has indicated that the Wheat Board
nets an additional $265 million per year for producers in western
1998 the government changed the structure of the Wheat Board and put in
place a board of directors composed of 10 members elected by the
producers themselves and five members appointed by the federal
government. The reason I say this is because it is important to note
once again that this is a democratic organization run by western
producers and recent polling has actually indicated that the Canadian
Wheat Board is supported by 73% of western farmers. It is respected
worldwide as a premier institution in the sale of wheat and barley.
The new Prime
and the Minister
of Agriculture and Agri-Food
want to essentially gut the Wheat Board and do away with this essential
tool. I do not think anyone on this side of the House is surprised by
this. The new government, as it likes to call itself, has not exactly
been a model of democracy over the last eight months. We have seen it
in the muzzling of not only its members of Parliament but also of the
civil service. Civil servants are being intimidated into not
cooperating with members of Parliament. I have never seen anything like
this. I have never experienced this in my four and a half years here in
the House of Commons.
am beginning to understand why the PMO is now being called the Kremlin.
Not only are the Conservatives prepared to act on bringing in a dual
marketing system without a plebiscite as required by law, but they are
also now selectively removing 16,000 names from the voters list in an
effort to determine who will be able to vote in the next board of
anti-democratic way the Conservatives are going about destroying the
Wheat Board is one thing, but they also have to consider the economic
impact. My colleague has just mentioned the incredible economic impact
it will have on the city of Winnipeg if we include the Wheat Board
itself and all the spinoff industries, the Cargills and the other
organizations that are set up in Winnipeg because of the Wheat Board.
can assure everyone that the Liberals are not the only ones saying
this. The premier of Manitoba, Gary Doer, has stated publicly that
“destroying the Wheat Board would have a major economic impact on
Manitoba”. What bothers me is that the Conservative MPs from Manitoba
know all this. They know their constituents are furious with the
Conservatives over this. They know the economic impact to Winnipeg and
Manitoba will be devastating. They know the Wheat Board works well for
farmers. The proof is when the local Winnipeg media tries to contact
them to defend their government's position, they are nowhere to be
found. It is obvious the gag order is on once again, just like for
every other issue the Conservatives have brought forward.
The only member of the Conservative Party
who has stood up for his constituents is the member for Dauphin—Swan
. He has publicly stated that he will support the
Wheat Board because his constituents have made it clear where they
the Conservative MPs from Manitoba and the prairie provinces are so
convinced that their constituents would agree with doing away with the
Wheat Board, why not allow these same people to vote on it? It is a
simple question. Allow the farmers to vote on this issue and we will
all live with the outcome of such a plebiscite, but it has to be done
fairly. The list of farmers cannot be manipulated prior to an election
or a plebiscite. There also has to be a clear question.
Conservative party members talk about transparency and we have seen
nothing but back door ways of obtaining their objective of shutting
down the Wheat Board. I can only hope that at one point the
Conservatives' obligation to their constituents will outweigh their
obligation to their leader.
is important to note as well that numerous producers who have
traditionally supported the Conservatives and never thought their party
would go through with this are now saying that they will never vote for
the party again and that is a very strong message. It is more than
that. There is a more cynical plot behind this. This is seen by many as
the first step in dismantling Canada's vaunted supply management
structure. I am being contacted by groups in Manitoba that have
absolutely no link to the Wheat Board that are terrified with what the
Conservatives are doing.
milk producers for one feel that if the Conservatives can do away with
an institution that has worked as well as the Wheat Board, why would
they not attack supply management next? We all know supply management
has served its members extremely well and it has been a thorn in the
side of our American neighbours. I guess it begs the question, whose
interests are the Conservatives protecting here?
Yesterday the Minister
tabled his task force report and I put the onus on “his”. This is a
task force appointed by the minister with a very specific objective:
the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board.
report's recommendations were a foregone conclusion and let me say that
the reaction has been harsh. Stewart Wells, President of the National
Farmers Union, said of the report:
| Buried in the platitudes is
the underlying theme of absolute government control of the Canadian
Mr. Wells also said:
| It is significant that the
task force report was first
unveiled not to western Canadian farmers or even to the Canadian
public, but to a large U.S. business publication Inside U.S. Trade.
That should provide some indication of whose interests are being served
with this report.
President of the Keystone Agricultural Producers, had a similar
reaction to this report and the negative impact it will have on
farmers. He said, “This report is a fraud. It's a cover-up for
something this government was planning on doing for a very long time.
It doesn't speak to any economic reasons why you should dismantle the
Wheat Board. It doesn't recommend a vote by farmers as required by law.
It doesn't address the true consequences of introducing a dual
marketing system. The fix was in and we got exactly what we
has to be stopped. The producers are the ones who should be deciding on
how their crops are marketed. Why would this new government that
apparently believes in transparency and accountability not allow this
democratic process to proceed? What is it afraid of?
the government has such a good pulse on the wishes of producers, as it
claims, then it has nothing to worry about. The reality is different.
We can look at the recent cuts the Conservatives have made to many
programs to our most vulnerable people and the enormous backlash they
fact, the government is showing that it is totally disconnected with
the Canadian mainstream and its right wing ideology is not selling at
all, so it must be forced down people's throats. It is wrong. It is
undemocratic and producers, who the Conservatives have always taken for
granted, will remind them of this in the next election.
Speaker, my colleague has talked somewhat about the impacts in
Manitoba. Would he elaborate for members of the House on the very
serious impact that a dual marketing system would have on the port of
Churchill and how important the port of Churchill is to the economy of
the north and to Manitoba?
Mr. Speaker, our colleague from Churchill
has been in the House debating this question as well. She has indicated
very clearly the impact that Churchill will face.
mayor of Churchill, Mr. Spence, has also come out publicly indicating
that it would devastate the town and there is absolutely no doubt about
it. It is not only the town, but also all these small towns along the
railway line would be affected by this decision.
members may know, people feel that the port of Churchill, in the next
five or 10 years, may play a much greater role in moving wheat and
barley across the world. There is no doubt that this will obviously
have a devastating impact on the town of Churchill, the port of
Churchill, and also all the small communities along the way to the
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague
from Manitoba a question.
often uses the term “right wing ideology”. I would like to point out to
him that in my province, Quebec, we suffer from Liberal party policies
that are on the extreme left.
1968-1969, led by the then honourable prime minister, you recognized
China, a country which is currently closing down companies in the
province of Quebec. There was no plebiscite and you never asked for
question for my colleague from Manitoba is as follows. When Manitoba is
involved, all is well and good. However, when the province of Quebec is
starving because you recognized China, which is competing fiercely with
us right now, that does not bother you. I would like your comments on
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his
a way, he is quite right. I have always wondered how the Quebec
Conservatives, who are usually a little more to the left, could be part
of a party like the one we see today. I sit on the committee with my
dear colleague and I find that he is a very reasonable person. I am
surprised that he can fall in with a right-leaning party as we see him
are not talking about a progressive conservative party, we are talking
about something totally different. We are talking about a party that
sets aside democracy at every opportunity. If we are truly convinced
that an open market is the solution, why not ask the producers? That is
what surprises me. If the people on that side of the House are so
convinced that the market will work, then quite simply let us ask
farmers the question—we will be prepared to live with the answer.
Speaker, the Conservatives seem to have a propensity these days of
manufacturing a crisis in order to bring in their own policies to fix
that manufactured crisis. I speak of my experience in Ontario from 1995
to 2003 when Mike Harris was the premier and a number of his ministers,
one in particular, Mr. Snobelen, was heard to say that if one wanted
change, one manufactured a crisis and then brought in the change to
respond to that manufactured crisis.
I just want to ask the hon. member for Saint
whether there is a crisis in the west where grain and wheat are
concerned. Will doing away with the Wheat Board somehow fix the problem
or is this just another manufactured crisis?
was here the other night speaking to this issue and members around me
from Saskatchewan and western Canada suggested that I really had no
place speaking about something that I lived so far away from. I told
them that my concern was, as you said in your speech, first the Wheat
Board, then supply management and what would be next. As you are closer
to the situation, is there a crisis that this is responding to?
I would just remind the hon. member for Sault
to address his questions and comments through the Chair.
Speaker, it is important for people from eastern Canada to discuss this
issue as well. This is not just a western Canada issue. Obviously,
people in western Canada are affected the most by it, but I have had
some people from Quebec calling me because they are concerned about
Wheat Board has been doing extremely well. The latest reports indicate
that farmers have really benefited from the Wheat Board. It is
absolutely impossible for the government to manufacture a crisis on
this. Every report seems to tell us that farmers are doing better with
the Wheat Board than without it. Obviously, the government will not be
able to manufacture a crisis in this case.
I appreciate the question because it is important. I do not think
members on this side of the House should be muzzling other members who
are interested in knowing what is going on in western Canada with the
Speaker, I am pleased to address the government's vision for the future
of the Canadian Wheat Board because the future of the Canadian Wheat
Board will be bright.
speak to the motion before, we fully realize that farmers want input on
this issue before any changes to the Canadian Wheat Board are made. We
are committed to moving forward in an orderly and transparent manner.
should be no surprises and no hidden agenda. We will be clear and up
front with Canadians about our commitment to marketing choice for
western Canadian wheat and barley growers.
were clear and up front with the sector about our commitment to consult
and to listen. On July 27 we held a round table discussion in
Saskatchewan with a cross section of western Canadian farmers and
stakeholder organizations that support marketing choice. Some good
ideas came out of that exercise, including the recommendation to launch
a task force to explore transitional and structural issues.
went ahead on that and yesterday the minister was pleased to release
the findings of that task force report. The report recommends a four
stage transition from a Canadian Wheat Board with monopoly powers to a
marketing choice environment, preparing for change, forming a new
Canadian Wheat Board and launching the new Canadian Wheat Board with
transition measures and post-transition.
are very appreciative of the work of the task force. It did a lot of
hard work on a short time line. We will be examining the report in
detail and we would like to consult on the ideas the task force has put
part of that consultation, an hour ago the minister announced that a
plebiscite on barley will be held in the new year. The government
considers that this plebiscite will form part of the ongoing
consultation with producers on the issue. The plebiscite will be on
think farmers are ready to make a decision on the barley side. It will
have a wide voter base and be founded on a clear question. This is in
line with provisions in the Canadian Wheat Board Act which requires
that the voting process be determined by the minister.
minister will wait until the beginning of the plebiscite period before
he will announce the voter's list and the exact question or questions
which will be put on the ballot. Until then, he welcomes and we all
welcome the input of farmers and farm groups on what these questions
should be. The minister also wants to engage in a more general
consultation about the ideas from the task force or others on how a
voluntary Canadian Wheat Board can be a viable player in a marketing
we cut through the rhetoric and the noise that we hear constantly
around the wheat board issue, what we are really talking about is
opportunity. Opportunity is what brought people to Canada and it is
what continues to draw them today. Opportunity is what settled the west
and made it the agricultural powerhouse it is today. Opportunity is
what will carry the Canadian agriculture and agrifood sector into the
January 23 of this year, Canadians voted for change and Canadian
farmers voted for change. We campaigned on the promise to create new
opportunities for Canadian farmers. What is our rationale for that
the government intends to do the things we promised to do. People voted
for change and that is what will be delivered.
producers tells us that the current system is suffocating innovation
and stifling entrepreneurship. Farmers are independent-minded, which is
why they have chosen the path they are on. They are entrepreneurial
business people. They want to call their own shots on when to plant,
when to harvest and how to market.
agricultural producers want and need opportunity. Like their forebears
who first broke the prairie ground, they want the opportunity to
succeed and the freedom to make their own choices on how they produce
and market their crops. They do not think they should be criminalized
for that, as they have been in the past.
the face of a long term decline in bulk commodity prices, farmers want
the opportunity to add value to their crops and capture more profits
beyond the farm gate. They take all the risk and they make all the
investment. They deserve to have the opportunity to seek out the best
possible return for their product, just as they would with canola,
pulse crops, apples or hogs or a number of any other farm products
raised in Canada. For most of the past seven decades, western Canadian
wheat and barley growers have not had that choice.
Canadian Wheat Board monopoly on wheat and barely was imposed by the
Parliament due to a variety of different dynamics. The system was
essentially designed to collect the grain produced by thousands of
small farmers at small country elevators, market it around the world as
a uniform commodity on the basis of grade standards and divide the
returns from this process among all the producers who contributed the
Today, those dynamics have changed and our
approaches and structures need to change with them.
idea of selling a uniform commodity made much more sense in the days
when a few countries dominated the grain export market and large
quasi-government buyers negotiated long term supply contracts on a
Today, there are numerous new or growing
exporters in South America, the former Soviet Union and Australia.
buy side of the market, too, has moved away from the commodity
procurement model of the past toward a situation in which a large
number of mainly private buyers select a range of quality attributes
for particular market segments. Due to low cost competition, the
commodity end of the market is under relentless pricing pressure.
must make no mistake. Farmers do see a future in grain. However, they
are looking for new, value added revenue streams and greater marketing
flexibility. No longer are Canadian producers the proverbial hewers of
wood and drawers of water. Over the last 15 years, there has been a
paradigm shift. We are seeing the advent of the value added side of
agriculture, the agrifood side, and it is doing very well. It has seen
huge increases. It is controlling the vast majority of the exports and
domestic use in this country now.
by law, western Canadian wheat and barley growers are fenced off from
that business. They are prevented from having the same rights as every
other producer in the country about where to sell their product,
starting a pasta plant, for instance, or a value-added organic grain
business, or supplying high yield low protein wheat to ethanol plants
in the U.S.
are only examples. Every producer and every situation is unique. The
best person to decide the best production and marketing options for
their farms is the person who makes the decisions, takes the risk and
lives with the consequences. We want to level the playing field and
give western Canadian grain producers the same rights and opportunities
that other farmers in Canada have.
those who want to continue to restrict western grain producers from
having the same rights as others, I ask them to show me solid proof
that such a ban is actually paying benefits for them. I have yet to see
vision for the Canadian Wheat Board is a strong, voluntary and
profitable wheat board, one that can offer farmers a viable but not an
exclusive marketing choice.
are some out there who would say that we should get rid of the Wheat
Board but I am not one of them and neither is our government. We want
to have a wheat board but we want it to be in a marketing choice world.
see a bright future for a strong, viable and voluntary wheat board for
those who choose to pool together and use its services. Western
Canadian wheat and barley farmers have a world-class product. They will
now be given the opportunity to use their savvy, market intelligence
and initiative to maximize their returns. If they choose, they will
still be able to sell to the Canadian Wheat Board.
farmers who strongly criticize the current federal government imposed
monopoly have said that the Canadian Wheat Board needs the opportunity
to succeed in a commercial environment and to be a viable, ongoing
marketing option for producers. I see no reason why the board cannot
continue to function and be a strong force in the international grain
conclude, change is never easy, especially change of this magnitude.
There will be adjustment and transition but I am convinced that at the
end of the day the sector will be stronger and more viable with
marketing choice than without.
started out talking about opportunity. Despite the negativity that is
out there, we see a bright future for the Canadian Wheat Board if
things are structured properly and in a way to meet producers' needs.
must drive everything we do is meeting producers' needs. This is why
we, as government, are moving forward on better business risk
management programming, on biofuels, on restoring beef trade, on
science and innovation and on a number of other critical issues where
action has been long overdue. It is why we allocated $1.5 billion to
this sector in this year's budget, three times our original commitment.
It is also why we are moving forward on marketing choice for our
grain industry is of vital importance to Canada's economy and it is a
proud part of our natural history. The government intends to serve it
well and it intends to act in a way that provides the best chance to
earn a living for these proud men and women who toil in the fields so
all Canadians can enjoy the fruits of their labours.
Speaker, I apologize because earlier on, when I was speaking to this, I
was speaking mostly from Manitoba. I know you are from Saskatchewan. If
you were not neutral, if you could speak on this, I am sure you would
probably support everything I have said, but obviously you cannot do
the things my hon. colleague has mentioned is that the dual system will
provide options and choice to farmers. Every expert, who has spoken on
this lately, has indicated very clearly that if the current Wheat Board
loses its monopoly and leverage to sell on the world stage, it will
disappear. Could my colleague expand on that?
why would the Conservatives not ask farmers the question? Why not put
it to them? What is so wrong with the democratic process of asking them
the question? Let them decide on their futures.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should be
brought up to speed. A few hours ago the Minister
announced that there would be a plebiscite on
barley. We are going to go to the farmers and asking them what they
want to do.
it is interesting that this is called the Canadian Wheat Board, but it
applies only to three provinces and the Peace River district of B.C. It
is the western Canadian Wheat Board. It restricts western Canadian
the last number of years of dealing with the Canadian Wheat Board
issue, one of the things that has stopped innovation and value added
industry from starting, is the Wheat Board's buyback. To start a pasta
plant that takes durum and turns it into a product, the durum has to be
sold to the board and bought back, adding a cost to that product.
are not saying that the Wheat Board does not have a place in all of
this, but we could take away that monopoly. It is a move that we will
put to the producers in a plebiscite, as has been asked for day after
day in the House. One would think the members opposite would be
rejoicing that the government is doing this because they have been
asking for it. If we are truly going to move into the next century and
if we are going to allow our producers the freedom and the ability to
maximize their returns, then we have to move in this direction.
do not consider myself a farmer. I have some farmland. This year I grew
malt barley and it managed to make the grade. If I want to sell that
barley for malt, I have to move it through the Canadian Wheat Board. I
have no option.
are options out there for producers. The bottom line is trying to
maximize returns on investments. Land prices and input costs are going
up. Producers need to have the freedom to maximize what they get back
in their pockets. Giving them the tools to do that is what this is all
The member opposite says to go to a
plebiscite. We are doing that.
Mr. Rick Casson:
On barley, of course, but we are taking one step at a time. When we
take the monopoly off barley, it will become very clear in a very short
period of time that this is the right thing to do. We will see a value
added industry. We will also see a higher return to the producer.
we put that in with the other initiatives the government has come up
with in the short period we have been in government, the biofuel
initiative will absolutely be a critical part as we move forward from
this point. All the other things that we have done to help the
producers maximize their returns and to keep them on the land is
absolutely critical, and this is a big part of the puzzle as we move
Speaker, I listened intently to the speech by the member. He said
Canadians voted for change. Yes, they did, because they were unhappy
with the Liberals, but they did not give the Conservatives a majority
government. They gave them a minority, which means they are supposed to
work with all of us around the House. To come in with such a unilateral
aggressive move where the Wheat Board is concerned does not portray
that at all.
hon. member referred to a meeting of July 27 in Saskatoon. I was in
Saskatoon that day at another meeting across the road with about 250
farmers, leaders of farm organizations from across the country. They
were not invited to that meeting. Why?
hon. member also said that there would be a plebiscite on barley. Then
he went on to say that the government would wait until just before the
vote to share information on the question in that plebiscite, how the
voting process would take place and who would be allowed to vote. Why
not be open and free and sharing with the farmers about the question,
how that vote will happen and who can vote? What is it about democracy
that frightens the Conservatives so?
were folks across the road not invited, the 250 farmers and the farm
leaders, to the meeting in Saskatoon on July 27? Why will the
Conservatives not just have a plebiscite like all plebiscites happen?
Let us have the question. Tell us what the process will be and who can
Speaker, the issue is it will be an open process. The first step was
announced today. There will be a plebiscite. The consultations will
continue. We are hoping there will be input from all parties on the
wording of the question and the process that plebiscite will take.
now we are at the start of an election process for the elected members
of the board. Does the hon. member want us to become involved in that?
I do not think so. Let us wait until that transpires.
member has mentioned the fact that this is a minority government and
not a majority government. The government has moved forward on many
issues as a minority government, working with all parties, moving
ahead. Our budget went through. We have bills that have gone through
the House. The federal accountability act, the most sweeping
legislation to come through government in the history of the country,
is languishing in the Senate. We have done an awful lot.
the issue of majority, I invite the member to look at the rural ridings
in western Canada on the electoral map to see who is representing them.
It is members of this government. We campaigned on the issue of dual
marketing and marketing choice. The people in the rural areas
responded. They want to see some change. They have seen declining
returns for years and they want the tools put into their hands so they
can turn that around. Today's announcement on the plebiscite on barley
was the first step to get that done.
Speaker, I am quite excited that we are holding a plebiscite on barley
and that we are moving ahead in listening to producers. This is what we
stand for as a party. Part of our platform was that we would move ahead
on choice. We also said that part of our policy was we believed in
consultation with producers, and a plebiscite is the best way to do
not at all interested to hear the rhetoric from the opposition parties
on this. The only opinion that counts is that of grain growers. That is
the exact feedback we will get through a plebiscite.
am a farmer in my rural riding. There are producers on both sides of
this issue. This is a divisive issue, but they want to know which
direction we are taking. We will move ahead on the issue of barley and
all things will come about in time. Right now we know that producers
for some time have considered whether having barley on the Wheat Board
is worthwhile. It is a rather small crop that has been marketed by the
Wheat Board, so let us go forward on that side of it.
want to have a little more input from my hon. colleague, another farmer
as well in Lethbridge. I want to hear the thoughts of the producers in
his area, which I know are very strong for choice.
Speaker, I and many members of Parliament have been getting 50 to 100
letters from farmers every night on our fax machines The balance is
kind of interesting. I have had three or four from my riding who are
strong Wheat Board supporters and support its monopoly.
rest of the farmers are looking for some help. They appreciate what the
government is doing to help them, but they want to help themselves.
They want to maximize their own returns and to do that we have to give
them the tools they need.
all across the country were clamouring for a plebiscite and our
government is delivering. There will be one. In a very short period of
time we are going to see a change to the agricultural community in our
country, particularly to our grain and oilseed producers.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to
speak to this very important issue.
is an axiom that many of us in public life should remember: if we
cannot be helpful, at the very least, we should do no harm. I would
suggest that in this instance the government would want to be really
careful because it is walking a fine line.
have heard from farmers in my own area. On July 27 I was at a meeting
in Saskatoon where some 250 farmers from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and
Alberta gathered in a room. If what I heard from the farmer leadership
that day is any indication of what the government will do over the next
number of months as it does away with the Wheat Board, it is going to
do great harm to the farmers across this country.
farmers in my own area understand that when the Wheat Board goes, the
next target could very well be supply management. They have gone
through some very difficult times over the last number of months and
years in the beef and dairy industries. They know that supply
management is the only thing that saved a number of farmers
they speak to me or when there are public gatherings, there is always a
very strong message to government and to those of us who represent the
farmers and speak on their behalf to government that we must protect
the instruments that have been put in place by the farmers themselves
over a number of years to protect themselves. This is especially so in
this global economy in which we find ourselves. When product can be
moved so easily from one country to the next, competitiveness becomes
very important and we have to have some advantages. The farmers look at
countries around the world that provide subsidies to their farmers,
such as just across the border in the United States. We do not do that
for our farmers but they have to compete against that.
only vehicles that are unique to our country are supply management and
the Wheat Board. The farmers are very concerned that if that is taken
away and they end up having to compete in this world where huge
subsidies are being given to farmers across the continent, they will be
even worse off than they are now. Indeed many of them are struggling
I say to
the Conservatives who are here tonight and to others that if they are
going to do this, at the very least they should respect the democratic
principles upon which this country is based and which we use so often
to solve issues such as this one when there is a difference of opinion.
They should respect the democratic processes.
member who spoke before me said that the Conservatives are going to
have a plebiscite on barley. He then went on to say that they are going
to consult some more, but they are not sure with whom. We know whom
they consulted with to arrive at the report they tabled today. We know
whom they consulted with in Saskatoon on July 27 of this year. They
consulted with their friends in the corporate sector who want to get
rid of the Wheat Board because it gets in the way of their reaping even
more profits at the expense of the farmers.
will consult with those they think will give them the answers they are
looking for, and that is a problem. They have done that up until now to
arrive at the report that was tabled today. I suggest that as they move
forward with this plebiscite on barley the process that the member
spoke of should be the same. He said they will not announce until just
before the plebiscite what the question will be, what the process for
the election itself will be, and who will vote.
brings me to my next question for the government. It is a warning to
everybody and the government again about democracy concerning this
issue and the election of the Wheat Board. We know they have summarily
decided through an edict, an order in council driven by the Prime
that unilaterally 16,000 farmers cannot vote for the Wheat Board. How
democratic is that? What is it that the government is afraid of where
the democratic process is concerned?
I was an MPP in Ontario, I heard the Conservatives at that time as they
drove their agenda, and I mean drove their agenda, in 1995 until 2003.
They said they did not need to consult with anybody because they had
consulted in the election. There is consultation in an election in a
very superficial way, in a brief and busy way, but there is no in-depth
consultation or effort to figure out the pros and cons. As I said, try
as much as one can, if one is not going to help, then do no harm while
member who spoke before me said that the people of Canada voted for
change. Yes, they did. They voted to change the government that we had;
they were not happy with the Liberals because of all of the shenanigans
that they were reading about. But Canadians voted for a minority
government, a government they thought would be thoughtful, process
oriented and willing to sit down and work with others to move things
forward, such as the evolution of the Wheat Board.
I was in Saskatoon on July 27 I heard the farmers and the farm
leadership say that they were not against the evolution of the Wheat
Board. They knew there were some shortcomings and that they had to get
into the day that they were in, make change, listen to farmers and
respond to the concerns that the farmers were bringing forward. They
were committed to doing that and wanted to do that and would have liked
some help from the government, some resources so that they could do the
no, that is not what the government chose to do. It did not choose to
sit down with the farmers and the Wheat Board. As a matter of fact, the
Conservatives have told the Wheat Board that it should stop its
lobbying, stop acting as it naturally should do on its own behalf in
order to protect what it has to protect, that vehicle which has served
farmers so well will continue to serve farmers well as it evolves.
is my first concern regarding this concurrence motion, along with the
action of the government where the Wheat Board is concerned. There is
the whole issue of freedom and democracy and yes, true choice, not
manipulated choice and not as we saw in Ontario, the creation of crises
so people might begin to believe they have no other choice in a given
here tonight to put my own thoughts on the record along with the
thoughts of my farmer constituents whom I spoke to only two weeks ago
as I went through our area with my colleague, the member for British
Columbia Southern Interior
who is our agriculture critic. He asked me to put on the record some
thoughts on behalf of our caucus, on his behalf and of course, as I
said, on behalf of the farmers with whom he met in my constituency and
in the constituency next door, Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing
I will put on the record the thoughts that I heard very clearly and
confidently from the over 250 farmers and the leadership of
agricultural organizations across the country who met in Saskatoon on
July 27 this past summer.
Conservative government is not acting in the best interests of
democracy. The whole process of the Canadian Wheat Board task force is
a sham and a needless waste of energy.
I will repeat what my colleague from British
Columbia Southern Interior
has said and what our leader has stated, that it is important for
farmers to have a say in their future. This should take the form of a
vote or a plebiscite on the Canadian Wheat Board as a single desk
seller and not a plebiscite manipulated by the government in the way we
are beginning to see with the plebiscite on barley. Instead, the Minister
has chosen another approach in choosing a task force of anti-Wheat
Board individuals to recommend how the Canadian Wheat Board, a viable,
credible player on the international scene, can be transformed into the
Canadian Wheat Board II, another grain company that will somehow be
able to successfully compete with the powerful multinational
thought came to me as I was saying that. There is one comment that I
heard and which really struck me when I was at that meeting on July 27
in Saskatoon with those 250 farmers and the leadership of the
agriculture community. The comment was about there being people out
there who are willing to pay more for the barley than what is being
paid now and that those people will come forward once the Wheat Board
is gotten rid of. It was said tongue in cheek, but I think they were
serious and it is something we all ought to think about. Is there
someone out there who will pay more for the barley and the wheat once
the Wheat Board is gotten rid of? I do not think so.
is a further insult to farmers. The minister has changed the format of
the Canadian Wheat Board director election in midstream to sow
confusion among farmers. He recently fired a Canadian Wheat Board
director who spoke out against this nonsense. That is the process that
is in place now. That is the kind of thing that is going on as we speak.
us look at this so-called report. In essence, it is the wrong approach,
ideologically driven and a blueprint for the Americanization of our
grain industry. We have seen an approach by the government to bring a
group of people together who agree with the destruction of single desk
selling of the Canadian Wheat Board. Then a so-called task force was
appointed to recommend how this should be done.
looking at this totally undemocratic process, perhaps we could suggest
what could have happened instead. The minister could have met with the
Canadian Wheat Board board of directors to discuss the possibility of
change, for example, to leave the current status quo as a possible
option. A balanced task force could have been set up to discuss all
options and include a truly representable segment of farmers who
currently use the Canadian Wheat Board.
conclusions of these deliberations could have been provided to farmers
to make an informed decision on their future by way of a plebiscite.
Obviously, to respect the democratic process, there would have been no
tampering with the Canadian Wheat Board director election process. This
would probably have taken more than a month, but could have resulted in
a fair and balanced review of the Canadian Wheat Board. Instead, we
have big government interference and steps of how to fulfill this
of the rationales for doing away with single desk selling has been the
supposed effect this has had on our milling industry. Yet statistics
show that Canadian wheat and durum milling has increased by 31% since
1991 compared to 14% in the United States. Canadian flour mill capacity
has grown from 7,700 tonnes per day to about 10,300 tonnes per day.
Canada's mills enjoyed the sharpest increase in flour production among
the leading milling nations since 1990. I do not know where the problem
is here that we are addressing.
If the Conservative government has its way, its Canadian Wheat Board II
will just be another grain company with no power to secure and maintain
quality world markets.
are some very possible scenarios: one, farmers uncertain of the future
would not buy shares in the Canadian Wheat Board II; two, rail rates
would increase to conform to the U.S. rates; three, Canadian Wheat
Board II would be marketing U.S. grain; four, Churchill would suffer
and jobs would be lost; five, the Canadian Wheat Board II would not be
allowed to administer cash advances. This could hit farmers hard.
the transformation to the new free for all system would cause confusion
and uncertainty not only in Canada, but in the global marketplace. This
would wind up to be another bad deal for Canada, just as the softwood
lumber agreement is a bad deal for Canada.
exercise is a sham, a waste of time and a slap in the face to the
democratic process. Hopefully, reason and good judgment will prevail in
the months to come.
There are a few minutes left before the time
allotted for this debate is to end.
Speaker, to my hon. colleague from the NDP, I am farmer. I am a
producer. I have sold wheat. In Ontario I have a choice. I can sell my
wheat directly or I can sell it through the Ontario Wheat Board. It is
my choice. What a concept. Obviously, the party across the way does not
believe in that. Obviously, the party of my colleague to my right does
not agree with that.
is what this is all about. The political rhetoric in trying to make
this into something that it is not is wrong. I have relatives in
Saskatchewan and in Alberta. I do not in Manitoba, but they all ask me
why should they not have the same choice that I have as a farmer in
Ontario. I would ask the member to comment on that.
the members bring up supply management and how it will affect supply
management. Again, it is nothing short of fearmongering because there
is a big difference that has to be recognized. Under the Wheat Board it
is split across the country, but in supply management there is 100%
unity behind it. How can the member explain that?
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the
member for Bruce—Grey—Owen
I know he is a farmer and a good farmer. In eastern Canada, yes, that
is the way that producers market grain. In western Canada farmers have
chosen to do it differently. Over the years they have elected
themselves a board and that is the way that they have chosen to do it.
that we are saying is if the government wants to make changes, it
should at least talk to the farmers. I was in a room with 250 farmers
from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta on July 27 of this year. Every
one of them, including the leadership of the agricultural organizations
from across Canada, spoke and were in favour of the Canadian Wheat
Board. They knew that it was not perfect but they were willing to work
to make it better and have it evolve.
at the very least at that meeting they were saying, “Let's have a vote.
Let's have a plebiscite, not a controlled manipulated plebiscite but a
true plebiscite, a free plebiscite. That is what we're asking for”. The
member accuses me of fearmongering. I have to say it is not me.
being 7:10 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today all questions
necessary to dispose of the motion are deemed put and a recorded
division deemed requested and deferred until Wednesday, November 1 at
* * *
39th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 074
November 1, 2006
Committees of the House
Agriculture and Agri-Food
The House resumed from October 31
consideration of the motion.
being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the
deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the second report
of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in the name of
the hon. member for Malpeque
Call in the members.
* * *
(The House divided on the motion, which
was agreed to on the following division:)
(Division No. 52)
(Vancouver Island North)
(Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
(Sault Ste. Marie)
Total: -- 155
(Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
(South Shore—St. Margaret's)
(Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
(New Brunswick Southwest)
Total: -- 121
Total: -- 4
I declare the motion carried.
* * *
Response of Harper
Government to Motion passed by the House:
MINISTERIAL STATEMENT FOLLOWING PARLIAMENTARY VOTE ON THE FUTURE OF THE
CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
OTTAWA, Ontario, November 3, 2006 - The Honourable Chuck Strahl,
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian
Wheat Board, today issued the following statement after Members of
Parliament voted on an opposition motion related to the future of the
Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) and marketing choice for western Canadian
wheat and barley.
“We campaigned on the promise of freedom of choice for marketing of
wheat and barley and voluntary participation in the CWB. Since forming
government, we have taken careful and deliberate steps towards
developing a marketing choice environment in consultation with grain
producers in Western Canada.
“The November 1st vote stemmed from a recommendation by the Standing
Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to hold a plebiscite with the
same voters list as a Wheat Board election. The government respects the
work of the committee, but we could not support this motion.
“We have promised to implement a system of marketing choice, and we are
moving in that direction. As we do so, we will be consulting with
producers. To that end, earlier this week, I announced that we intend
to hold a plebiscite in the new year on the marketing of barley. I will
develop a plebiscite question that is clear and that will be decided on
by a broad base of voters. We have not yet made a decision on how best
to proceed with respect to wheat. This motion would limit the
government’s ability to make decisions on this important matter and
goes beyond what the Canadian Wheat Board Act requires.
“Canada’s New Government will continue to work towards giving producers
more power in the marketplace through creation of a marketing choice
environment, something they have long deserved.”
For information on the new government’s path towards marketing choice,
please visit <http://www.agr.gc.ca/>www.agr.gc.ca.
- 30 -
For more information, media may contact:
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Minister Strahl’s office