House of Commons Debate

Canadian Wheat Board


* * *



Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Canadian Wheat Board Act

    The House resumed from June 19 consideration of the motion that Bill C-300, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act (direct sale of grain), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer)
    Order, please. I would invite all hon. members, including cabinet ministers, to carry on any conversations that they may wish to continue outside the chamber so the rest of us can get on with the private members' business that is before the House.

    The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board has two minutes left in his remarks and may do so now in debate.

Mr. David Anderson (Parliamentary Secretary (for the Canadian Wheat Board) to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, CPC)
    Mr. Speaker, it is good to be here this afternoon and to speak again to this bill that was brought forward by the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster. This is one of the most progressive bills we have had in the House and I say that even though I am on the government side.

    The bill would allow producers to come forward and sell their grain directly to any kind of a processing organization that is controlled or owned by producers themselves. We think this is necessary. It is a tremendous advancement for western Canadian farmers. What could be better than producers finally taking their own product and selling it to processing plants in which they can have a share. The producers can value add that way.

    Other farmers across Canada take these kinds of opportunities for granted, but not western Canadian producers because they are prohibited from doing this. This bill would deal with that situation and help them to have the same advantages and opportunities that others do.

    The real disgrace here is that the opposition is, apparently, going to oppose the bill. I do not understand why they would. The member for Malpeque has said that he wants to give farmers a bigger role in the marketplace. This bill would do that. It gives a tremendous opportunity to farmers.

    The NDP members seem to have been taken over by the big city unions. They said at one time that they used to represent the little guy but obviously they do not and they are showing that one more time by opposing this bill.

    The Bloc, unfortunately, has jumped on this bandwagon by mistake. I do not think that party understands the implications of the bill.

    However it is important for western Canadian farmers to have this opportunity. We are certainly calling on the House to support the bill because we think it would finally bring forward some of the value added activities that we need in this country.

    I do not know if I can stress how important this is to western Canadian farmers, to our small towns and to our cities to have value added plants, to participate in the ownership of those plants and to deliver their product directly to them. It is a shame that we cannot do that right now. I think we are only asking for what everyone else in this country has. We look forward to the time when we will have that.

    When this bill comes to a vote I call on all members of the House to please support it. I beg the opposition members to reconsider their opposition to it. They have taken a bad position but hopefully they will change their minds and support the bill and help the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster to actually move ahead and give our farmers the opportunities they need.

Mr. Ken Boshcoff (Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, pulling on the thread of stability means the seam of prosperity the Wheat Board provides will be destroyed.

    Bill C-300 has, as its hidden intent, the goal of dividing and conquering, which would lead farmers to go head to head against the multinational corporations. Can anyone Imagine individual farmers competing directly with international cartels for rail cars?

    It has been said that the bill would do in 12 weeks what the Americans have been trying to do for 12 years: destroy the Wheat Board.

    The farmers of Canada have questioned, what? First, the CWB and then supply management. It is not far-fetched to assume that this is the logical progression. There is definitely a hidden agenda at play.

    Ken Larsen writes:

    Two American firms (Cargill and Tyson) slaughter and package 90% of Canada's beef. A handful of millers process wheat into flour. Three grocery chains control over 70% of the retail grocery market. These giant companies are the customers that thousands of individual farmers must deal with to sell their product.

    The now chronic farm income crisis is largely a manifestation of this imbalance between the thousands of farmers and the handful of giants they have to deal with. Compared to these giants, there is no such thing as a large farm. Due to the limitations of technology and biology, it is essentially impossible to create a sustainable farm that can bargain on an equal footing with these giant corporations.

    This arrangement gives farmers bargaining power to negotiate freight and handling with the railways on the 350,000 or so grain cars which go to the west coast each year. A customer like the CWB has more negotiating power with the railways than a farmer shipping six or even 50 cars of grain to port.

    The latest attempt to weaken this marketing power of farmers is Bill C-300. It is another attempt by the agri-business sector and its lackeys to take a greater share of the economic pie from those whose powers are the weakest, the farm producers.

    Independent economic studies have demonstrated that the Canadian Wheat Board is worth an extra $2 million per day to western farmers. As one prominent farm writer said of Bill C-300, “Apparently innocuous to the uninformed, Bill C-300 will deliver up the CWB's head on a platter to the concentrated American wheat lobby, led by multinational grain interests”

    Ken Ritter, a farmer and chair of the CWB, said it best:

...the ability to attract premiums and the strength to go toe-to-toe with the world class heavyweights in the grain industry - are predicated on the single desk. So the notion that you can have a "dual market" with a strong, effective CWB alongside the lack of restrictions that come with the open market is quite simply misguided. It can't work. The second the CWB is voluntary, the single desk disappears and with it, the benefits I have just outlined.

    Recently we talked about the flexibility of the Canadian Wheat Board and the fact that the board can adapt as necessary is indicative. One of the three newest initiatives, the delivery exchange contract, will provide farmers with increased flexibility in how they manage their deliveries and their cashflow needs throughout the crop year. The second initiative is a pilot program for marketing organic grain in partnership with the Canadian Organic Certification Co-operative Ltd. The third initiative is a series of enhancements to farmers to contract their durum wheat for delivery throughout the CWB.

    The overriding message with respect to Bill C-300 is that without discussing the merits or de-merits of the bill we believe any major changes to the manner in which western grain is marketed or processed must be a decision by the farmers affected and that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food should take those proposals to the board and seek the endorsement of producers through a fair plebiscite.

    We oppose the bill not for what it does, but because of the means used to change the relationship of western grain farmers to the Canadian Wheat Board. Normally we consider private members' bills as free votes in the House but it is my contention, along with many others on this side of the House and other parties, that this is nothing more than a stalking horse for the Conservative government in an ideological vendetta. This would undermine and ultimately dismantle the Wheat Board.

    In effect, it attempts to circumvent the process by which the board of directors of the Wheat Board, the majority of whom are producers and are elected by producers, is consulted and required to vote on these proposed changes. The problem is that farmers, through a plebiscite on a straightforward and honest question, will decide their own future. The question must be simple and unambiguous: Do you or do you not support the single desk selling feature of the board? It is a straightforward yes or no.

    Bill C-300, although short in length, could have a very serious and long term negative impact upon our western grain producers. This is absolutely high-handed, anti-democratic and truly a railroad of the lowest order. Never before in the history of the Canadian farmer has any government deliberately attempted to destroy the farmer's ability to profit and succeed.

    This will also prove disastrous for ports such as Thunder Bay, the one I represent in Thunder Bay—Rainy River, as it will for Churchill, Montreal and even Vancouver, because when it is decided to send the wheat south, what else will go south? Not only will the marine industry, the headquarters and the research capabilities go south, but will the Vancouver grain industry move to Seattle? Likely. Will Winnipeg and all its research and development capabilities move to Minneapolis or St. Paul? Highly likely.

    What we are doing here is unravelling the thread, essentially condemning western Canada to a demise. We are putting its farmers essentially at the whim of a market where they have to compete against people and corporations international in scope with all the effective marketing skills they have.

    When we talked about the dilution of this, it not only affects those ports, but it also affects the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system and indeed, the internal marine economy of North America. It will certainly have detrimental effects on Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Windsor and Toronto. We can name them as we go down the St. Lawrence Seaway; they will all be affected detrimentally.

    It is easy to say we can do one thing with the bill, that this is only to affect one part of it, but when it destroys the railway system, when it destroys the producer network, when it destroys the grain elevator system, that will all have a horrendous impact on the Canadian economy. It is interesting to see that some people just do not care what those impacts will be because of their ideological perseverance, but it will hurt and it will hurt big time.

    When we talk about the people we represent, in my riding truly the port and the railways are most affected, but so are the grain elevators, the grain companies and the hundreds of people who work there. Western Canada will also be extremely detrimentally affected. I have actual proof from farmers. I have no idea who they are or what their political background is, but it is highly likely that they did not vote for my party in the last election, but they will the next time because of this highly undemocratic way--

    Mr. Brian Storseth: Why don't you go run in one of those seats?

    Mr. Ken Boshcoff: I do not think anybody in Canada has ever seen such a totalitarian approach to eliminating democracy.

     I get correspondence, faxes, letters, calls and emails from western Canadian farmers saying that they will never again vote for the Conservative Party because of this method. I have the correspondence and it is a delight to me, but it is still scary to see this still being carried through. The western Conservative MPs are not returning their phone calls. They are not responding to their constituents. Why? Because they know that this is a railroad and they are embarrassed and ashamed, and they should be.

    When I go to Winnipeg and talk to people at the Wheat Board, when I receive correspondence and call the farmers back, they give me the straight goods. I do not understand why the government will not accept this message: stop fiddling, stop destroying, stop dismantling. The government has done enough damage. It should do what is right and let the farmers decide.

Mr. Louis Plamondon (Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, it also gives me pleasure to rise and speak to Bill C-300, which I think is one of the elements of an effort to demolish the Canadian Wheat Board. The other elements are the leader’s statements, the ministers’ positions and the government’s position within the committees. They all clearly show that this government, without consulting farmers, has put in place a diabolical machine so that the Canadian Wheat Board will disappear or become so unimportant that, for all practical purposes, it will disappear of its own accord.

     It seems to me that attacking the Canadian Wheat Board is a first, extremely dangerous step. The Canadian Wheat Board has existed since 1940 in its form of monopoly. When it is attacked, it is a first step towards further attack, no doubt, on supply management, which serves very well the interests of Quebec and also many parts of the western provinces and Ontario.

     This dismantling of everything that is government intervention is part of a sort of ideology, of a doctrine that is obvious at all levels, in all departments, and particularly in agriculture. Those people, however, got elected by saying they were going to be the big defenders of agriculture.

     We know that all this got started a few years ago when the Conservatives, here in the House, took a stance in favour of 13 people who had sold their wheat directly in the west. They were prosecuted for this. They had not followed the rule that says that everyone has to go through the Canadian Wheat Board. From that time on, the ideological intention to demolish the Canadian Wheat Board was very clear.

     The Canadian Wheat Board, however, has three very clear mandates: providing a sole marketing agency, pooling accounts and guarantees by government when needed. It seems to me that that is why this board is indispensable for ensuring income and service for farmers and making sure their wheat is disposed of in the best possible way. Furthermore this is what the government should be checking with farmers since no vote has been held. It should at least have a democratic consultation. No. Instead, the Conservatives even had the audacity and the nerve to appoint to the Canadian Wheat Board Mr. Motiuk, who is recognized as a passionate defender of choice in marketing.

    This again shows where the government is headed. We can see from the introduction of this private member's bill and this appointment that the government is determined to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board. The government has also set up round tables, but with the very neutral objective of laying the groundwork for a dual marketing system. So consultation is not on the agenda, but the government's new direction is, with the result that the Canadian Wheat Board has refused to take part. In other words, board managers were going to take part in a round table where they would be a party to the abolition of their own agency. It was unthinkable.

    These actions by the Conservatives, which are becoming more numerous, are unacceptable in a democracy. A vote absolutely must be held for producers, especially since this bill seems to contravene section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, which reads as follows:

    The Minister shall not cause to be introduced in Parliament a bill that would exclude any kind, type, class or grade of wheat or barley, or wheat or barley produced in any area in Canada, from the provisions of Part IV, either in whole or in part, or generally, or for any period, or that would extend the application of Part III or Part IV or both Parts III and IV to any other grain, unless

(a) the Minister has consulted with the board about the exclusion or extension; and

(b) the producers of the grain have voted in favour of the exclusion or extension, the voting process having been determined by the Minister.

    That is what must happen in order for change to occur. However, this bill, without consultation, is saying exactly the opposite of section 47.1.

    We are bordering on the unlawful.

    I would also like to remind the members of the statements made by the Conservative leader when in opposition. He even tabled a motion on November 6, 2002, stating:

    That, in the opinion of this House, all Canadians are to be treated equally and fairly, and since Prairie wheat and barley producers are discriminated against solely because of their location and occupation, this House call on the government to take immediate action to end this discrimination and give Prairie farmers the same marketing choices that are available in the rest of Canada.

    On November 6, 2002, the Conservative Party, by means of a motion tabled by the current Prime Minister, was staking out its position against the Canadian Wheat Board, favouring those who cheated or who wished to sell their wheat directly to the United States.

    That was the first step. Subsequently, there was the Conservative Party's election platform which spoke of the appointment of a pro-choice director—just one more component; the round table, which stated in advance that we must go with a task force and end up with dual marketing; letter and e-mail campaigns, also orchestrated by the IWC; and, to top it all off, the ministerial order muzzling the Canadian Wheat Board directors as they would no longer have the right to say anything.

    In other words, they no longer have the right to participate in a forum or to use, in any manner, their money to publicize action, report on the successes of the Canadian Wheat Board, organize conferences and consultations. No money must be spent.

    Thus, the Canadian Wheat Board is muzzled and in the meantime money is spent on establishing a biased consultative panel, which must absolutely lead to dual marketing as the outcome. In fact, the conclusion is given prior to consultation. That makes no sense. Farmers must be consulted.

    I do not have a lot of time, so I would also like to quote the Bloc Québécois agriculture and agri-food critic, the member for Richmond—Arthabaska, who described the Bloc Québécois' position very well. He said, and I quote:

    Therefore, our position is to defend at all costs the existence of publicly-owned corporations as discussed at the WTO negotiations, for if the government abandons the Canadian Wheat Board, the entire collective marketing system may be weakened. I spoke earlier about the domino effect.

    In other words, we will start with the Canadian Wheat Board, then, hypocritically, move on to attack supply management, which is indispensable to dairy producers and other collective marketing organizations. Our critic added:

    This bill opens the door to attacks on all fronts, on all sides, against our collective marketing system.

    With this bill, as with all of its policies concerning the Canadian Wheat Board, the Conservative government's intention is to offer farmers the freedom of choice. This might appear entirely democratic. In fact, we are talking about varied opportunities to sell their grain. In 2002, the current Prime Minister proposed a motion to eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board. Voluntary marketing is being proposed. However, that does not work, which is unfortunate for the member who is presenting the bill. A few people have tried this and experience has shown that the balance of power between sellers and buyers does not exist if the selling agency is not compulsory.

    I urge all members present here today to keep the Canadian Wheat Board. In conclusion, I would like to express how disappointed I am that Conservative members from Quebec—who claimed to seek election in order to defend the interests of Quebec and said that the Bloc Québécois was all talk and no action—are not taking action themselves, are not speaking up, and are allowing such a bill to pass, although they know that this is the first step towards the destruction of supply management in Quebec. Yet, they remain silent.

    This collaboration among Conservative members from Quebec and this government is unacceptable.

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask at the onset if it would be the will of the House to allow me to split my time with the member for Sault Ste. Marie?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer)
    Does the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre have the unanimous consent of the House to split his time with the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): The hon. member will have five minutes for the first speech.

Mr. Pat Martin
    Mr. Speaker, thank you for that generous permission, I appreciate it.

    The NDP opposes Bill C-300, although I appreciate the right of my colleague from Battlefords—Lloydminster to bring this idea forward. We oppose this with every thread of our being and I am critical that the Conservative Party seems to be obsessed with dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board. It is not even a healthy thing because there is no business case to make as to why we should dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.

    I have said before that I believe it is pure ideological madness to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board and I cannot say how critical I am of it.

    Those of us who grew up on the Prairies remember the bad old days of the robber barons who would exploit farmers. Most of the mansions in Winnipeg were built by these very grain robber barons. We should also remember, if we read our history, the voluntary wheat board that was introduced in 1935 failed in a catastrophic bankruptcy, one of the largest bankruptcies in Canadian history, because it is simple.

     If the initial offering price is higher than the market, the entity would get all the deliveries but the grain would have to be sold at a loss. If the initial offering is lower than the market, there will be no deliveries. It simply cannot work and Bill C-300 stripped down to its most fundamental basics means an end to the single desk marketing mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board and without the prerequisite vote. The legislation guarantees a plebiscite of Canadian farmers before any such fundamental changes are made. This bill seeks to undermine and usurp that democratic right.

    The Conservative government is trying to do an end run on democratic process by first denying farmers the right to vote, as is their statutory right, and second, by this gag order prohibiting the Wheat Board from even defending itself.

    I would like to read parts of a press release from the National Citizens' Coalition of 1998 on this very issue because at that time the Liberal government tried to impose a gag order on the National Citizens' Coalition over the Canadian Wheat Board.

    After stating it was going to run the ads anyway, here is what the current Prime Minister, then the chair of the National Citizens' Coalition, had to say:

    The NCC position is that such gag laws are unconstitutional and unenforceable. We intend to freely express our political opinions using our own resources--

    In other words, he was advocating civil disobedience. He also said:

--our ads will point out that the agriculture minister--

    --the current member for Wascana--

--seems to get his definition of democracy from Suharto and Castro.

     I would argue that the current Prime Minister gets his ideas from Mussolini and Franco because it is absolutely fascist to deny the democratic right of farmers to vote and it is Fascist to use statutory strength and ability to silence opponents, and not even allow them to represent their own point of view.

    The minister of agriculture from Manitoba will be coming before the agriculture committee tomorrow to announce that if the Government of Canada denies farmers the right to vote, Manitoba will conduct its own vote of prairie farmers on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. That is democracy in action.

    We will not take this lying down. We will not accept these draconian measures that would deny prairie farmers the right to their own self-determination as to how they market their grain, whether it is by a private member's bill or by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and his heavy-handed jackboot approach to this issue.

    We say without any fear of contradiction whatsoever that we will defend the Canadian Wheat Board, this great prairie institution, because all the empirical evidence shows that prairie farmers are better off by marketing their products through the Canadian Wheat Board and its strength is in its universality.

    In unity there is strength. It is a popular saying where I come from and that is why prairie farmers banded together as a grassroots movement to build the Canadian Wheat Board to market their grain internationally, effectively, and at a higher rate of return than they could individually.

    I am opposed to Bill C-300. It will not get our vote. I can speak for the NDP caucus. We will vote against Bill C-300 and we will stand up for the Canadian Wheat Board.

Mr. Tony Martin (Sault Ste. Marie, NDP)
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Winnipeg Centre for allowing me these few minutes to put my thoughts on the record with regard to this draconian bill that is before us here today. I want to ask the questions that farmers, who I have been talking to over the last two or three months, are asking. Why are we doing this? Why is the government heading down this road?

    I met with 250 farmers in Saskatoon this summer. They were asking the same questions. I traveled across the breadth of my riding and into Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing yesterday and talked to farmers. Each one of those farmers asked the same thing because they know that once we get rid of the Wheat Board, which does not have much impact on them, next comes supply management. They are concerned about that.

    They see what government has done to them over the last two or three years. The different challenges from other jurisdictions and mad cow disease has racked their industry. They want to know what the government is going to put in the place of this most important vehicle if in fact it takes it away. They want to know if it is going to be helpful because they know that the programs that are in place now are not working for them, programs such as CAIS and this new Conservative Canadian farm families options program.

    Let me read into the record something that one of my farm constituents said about the Canadian farm families options program:

    This program is one of the most useless programs announced by any Government. This is another example of our taxpayers' dollars being wasted which will eventually be eaten up by administration. Announcing programs such as this one misleads the general public. What is quite upsetting is that the individuals who develop these programs are also taxpayers. Receiving these letters just reminded us once again that another program will not help the farmers of the country - the backbone of society which is quickly becoming very brittle.

    This same farmer and his neighbours said to Alex Atamanenko, our agriculture critic, yesterday in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma that this program was not going to work. The only programs that work for farmers, that have been proven over time to work for farmers, are vehicles like the Wheat Board and supply management, so let us keep them.

    Let us protect our farmers. Let us stand shoulder to shoulder with our farmers as they take on the countries out there that have subsidized their industry to the hilt, to a point where our farmers just cannot compete anymore.

    They want the Wheat Board. They want supply management. They want the government, our government, all governments to stand shoulder to shoulder with them as they put in the work that they do every day, and the investments that they make into their farms to make a go of it. The family farm in this country is a thing of the past if we do not stand up right now and defend the vehicles that are actually working for farmers and protecting their industry.

    They see governments, the previous government and this government, going to international trade discussions and entering into agreements that are selling out, little by little, the vehicles that we in Canada, the farmers in Canada in partnership with some governments, have worked so hard to put in place. These are the vehicles that farmers themselves say will protect them. In fact, these vehicles, through the very difficult BSE experience that we just had in this country, have protected a number of farms that in fact have supply management agreements in place.

    The other farmers out there that are on their own are trying to make it on their own. They are trying to participate in the free market that the government wants to impose upon them and they are finding it more and more difficult. They are walking away from their farms. They are going into bankruptcy. Their kids do not want to take over their farms because there is no money to be made in farming anymore where the family farm is concerned. They are saying to me, they are saying to my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, and they are saying to our critic for agriculture, Alex Atamanenko, that they want the--

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer):  
    Order, please. I let that slide the first time, but we do not refer to hon. members by their names. We stick to titles or ridings.

    Is the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie finished his remarks?

    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Vegreville--Wainwright.

Mr. Leon Benoit (Vegreville—Wainwright, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I have been looking forward to speaking to this bill for some time. I would like to thank the members who have just spoken to the bill tonight in the House.

    The member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River asked how much Wheat Board grain is grown and shipped in Thunder Bay. The answer is none. It is not even covered under the Wheat Board monopoly.

    The Bloc member for Québec asked how much Wheat Board grain is produced in the area where he is from. The answer is zero. The Wheat Board monopoly for some strange reason does not cover that area either.

    What about the NDP member for Winnipeg Centre and the member for Sault Ste. Marie? The city of Winnipeg to my knowledge does not produce an awful lot of Wheat Board grain and Sault Ste. Marie is not even covered. It is not even in the Wheat Board area. It is interesting that not one member from the other three political parties represents an area that is covered by this particular legislation we are talking about today.

    I want to thank my colleague, the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, for bringing this bill forward. It is an important bill. I would like to thank him as well for the work he has done as chair of the House of Commons agriculture committee. He has done a lot of good work in that position.

     I would also like to thank the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands who has done an awful lot of good work on the Wheat Board for the Conservative Party and on behalf of farmers. Those two members are trying to help improve the role of western Canadian farmers, and those are the farmers who are actually covered and limited by the Wheat Board monopoly right now.

    This bill actually has nothing to do with the Wheat Board monopoly. It has nothing to do with it, yet what have we heard all of the speakers talk about tonight? They say that somehow this is going to kill the Wheat Board and end the monopoly, when in fact it has nothing to do with that. It is important to clarify that.

    I want to point out exactly what this bill is intended to do. I would like to remind the hon. members that the intent of Bill C-300 is to allow prairie farmers to market their wheat and barley directly to processing facilities owned by prairie producers. It sounds like a terrible thing to allow. People must think to themselves, “What is he talking about in this bill? I had better reconsider. He is talking about allowing prairie farmers to ship their wheat directly to processing facilities which are owned by prairie farmers themselves. That is a terrible thing”. It is amazing that we are standing here talking about this at all.

    In other words, they would not have to go through the Canadian Wheat Board to sell their wheat back to farmer owned processing facilities. That is what this legislation is about. It seems obvious and logical that it should be supported by every member of the House. I would assume that if members were to listen to what it is actually about, they would in fact change their positions and support the bill.

    To speak to the intent of the bill, it widens the marketing choices for farmers and encourages more producers to get into the value added side of the business. We all know that right now farmers could use the boost and really need the boost that would be provided by allowing them easier access to the board grains, wheat and barley, which would be used in processing facilities.

    An hon. member: Durum.

    Mr. Leon Benoit: That of course includes durum as well. That is what this bill is about. It has nothing to do with the Wheat Board monopoly. This issue should be pretty simple.

    I am going to talk about the Wheat Board in a broader way right now. The issue of the Wheat Board and what it should be is a difficult issue. I am the first to acknowledge that. It is an emotional issue. Farmers are split on the issue. It is an ideological debate.

    We have to take the ideology out of the debate and bring it back to one fundamental issue. What is best for farmers who grow wheat and barley, which are board grains? That is what we have to turn the discussion to and away from what we have discussed so far.

    It is important to look at the history of the Wheat Board. I have heard members erroneously refer to the history of the Wheat Board and how it got started. They have been completely incorrect in what they have said. I want to point out how the Canadian Wheat Board was founded, why it was founded, and how it got its monopoly and that type of thing.

    I believe the Wheat Board actually was first established in the 1920s. It was established because farmers would take their grain to their local elevators and the companies in many cases would get together and set a price, but the market was not working. People were using horse-drawn wagons, so it was pretty hard for them to take the grain back home again because the market was unfair. The Wheat Board was created to help deal with this.

    There were founding principles of the Wheat Board, carefully thought out and written down. These were the same founding principles that covered the establishment of all the wheat pools and the pools that were established before that and after that. The Canadian Wheat Board was established by farmers to protect farmers, and its main principle was that it be a voluntary organization, that no one would be forced to use it. That is the reality. That is the truth of how the Wheat Board was established.

    Where did the monopoly come from? The monopoly was put in place during the Second World War in the early 1940s. Why was the monopoly put in place? It was put in place to allow the Canadian government to get cheap grain from Canadian farmers at well below market value to help with the war effort in Europe.

    Was that wrong? It was not wrong the way it was presented to farmers. Everybody had to do their part for the war effort and they did a lot. The farmers were promised they would be compensated after the war for their grain being taken from them by the Wheat Board monopoly, but it never happened. Not only did it not happen, but the monopoly was not removed after the war effort, after the war ended. It was left in place.

    Members here talk about a vote on the Wheat Board. Was there a vote when the monopoly was put in place? No. It was done in the cabinet room behind closed doors. There was no vote in the House of Commons. It was put in place and forced upon farmers to get cheap grain for the war effort. Nobody can deny that. That is history. That is the truth.

     I only say this so that when we are examining this issue we can do it in an honest fashion, knowing how the monopoly came about and knowing the founding principles of the Wheat Board, the main one being voluntary participation. Again, I want to point out that this is not the same position taken in the member's bill. I would never say that, but I am saying that there is a relevance issue. This certainly is not in the member's bill, but it is an important consideration when we are talking about the whole debate on the Canadian Wheat Board issue.

    It really concerns me when I hear the member from Thunder Bay. What is his great concern about maintaining the monopoly? His concern is about protecting the port and the shipping industry in his riding. What about grain farmers? I say fine, he should be standing up for people in his riding, and that is good, but by gosh, let us talk about the Wheat Board issue and keep in mind what is good for farmers.

    Then we heard from the member from Quebec. What was important to him? It certainly was not the interests of western Canadian or prairie grain farmers who are covered by the monopoly. It was not that.

    Let us go to the members of the NDP. This is ideology for them. It really has nothing to do with what is good for farmers.

    So who is looking out for what is good for farmers? Members of the Conservative Party of Canada are. We are the ones who are looking out for what is good for farmers.

    What we want to do with the Wheat Board is a difficult thing for all of us to deal with. All the members of the Conservative Party are talking to farmers in our constituencies because we represent those constituencies. We certainly are having that discussion with the farmers in our constituencies and trying to determine the best direction to take to give them more choice in marketing.

    What we have said is that two things have to happen. First, western Canadian grain farmers have to be given more choice. Second, whatever is done has to be to the benefit of western Canadian grain farmers. Those are the two really important things when it comes to this debate, not the things that the member for Malpeque or members from other parts of the country want. They have no vested interest in this legislation and their constituents have no vested interest in this legislation. It is not what they want that is important. It is what western Canadian grain farmers want.

    I see that I am out of time, Mr. Speaker, which is unfortunate. I have a lot more to say. I will talk about it at another time.

Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)
    Mr. Speaker, certainly the House has had a substantial amount of discussion in relation to the Canadian Wheat Board.

    The member who just spoke suggested that the member from Thunder Bay somehow was not qualified to speak because Ontario farmers who produce grain are somehow not involved in the Wheat Board. As a parliamentarian, I cannot live in every province, and I certainly cannot say that I have a direct vested interest in my riding on every issue that comes before this place, but as a legislator I have a responsibility to inform myself. When I see information being provided to all hon. members that maybe does not tell the straight story, I have a responsibility to participate as well.

    I was the corporate treasurer of the United Co-operatives of Ontario, which had 100 retail outlets in Ontario in an agricultural co-op. We had the grain in the southwest of Ontario and the dairy in the northeast. When the economic situation turned down, the farmers were always the first ones to get hit. When the economy turned around, they were the last ones to recover. That happens in Ontario. It happens in the agricultural community. It happens in the western grain producer community as well.

    I also was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, who at the time also had responsibility for the Canadian Wheat Board and spent over a three year period, a fair bit of time, being briefed on a regular basis on developments with regard to the Canadian Wheat Board.

    The member will recall that there was an interesting case when a farmer decided to take his grain down to the United States. Then there was a charge laid and a fine levied. Rather than pay the fine, farmers decided to go to jail instead, as a protest.

    So I am not totally ignorant about the agricultural industry or the Wheat Board. I would say, in looking at the bill, that one of the things we should acknowledge is that the Canadian Wheat Board operates like a co-op. It requires the support of its membership. It requires the patronage of its membership to be viable.

    In the case of grain producers in the west who have transportation distances much greater than those of producers who are closer to the U.S. border, without the Wheat Board they have no option, because they cannot compete. The Wheat Board is the great equalizer. The member will know this.

    What does this bill do? This bill says that the producers are going to be given some options. If they want to sell their grain to someone engaged in the processing of grain, that is fine, and by the way, they will not have to pay any fees to the Canadian Wheat Board. This means that by providing these greater options, the Canadian Wheat Board, this co-op that operates in a fairly lean way, is asked to forgo some significant amount of revenue, I would suspect, based on the estimates, that otherwise would have been there if it was handled through the Wheat Board.

    If we have a situation where we are going to start to undermine the fine underpinnings of the Canadian Wheat Board, the Canadian Wheat Board dies. That is the reality. That is the concern.

    The member also said that the board is a federal monopoly. That is not exactly so. The board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board actually does have some federal appointees to the board, but the majority of the directors of the Canadian Wheat Board are in fact elected by the member farmers themselves.

    Therefore, the decisions of the Canadian Wheat Board are not the decisions of the Government of Canada. They are the decisions of the farmers who utilize the services of the Wheat Board.

    This whole discussion in this debate is one aspect of it, but it is very clear now that the Minister of Agriculture has taken a special interest in the Wheat Board and in fact has made certain statements and certain instructions for his officials which I believe ultimately will lead to the demise of the Canadian Wheat Board. Mark my words, this in fact is the beginning of the end of the Canadian Wheat Board if the minority government continues to operate in this fashion, as if it were a majority.

    The Canadian Wheat Board must survive. I do not believe that members of the Conservative Party will support the continued operation of the Canadian Wheat Board. I do not believe that they support its principles. In fact, I believe they support the large producers in the southern areas of production who want to make a lot more money by exporting to the United States, but they are prepared to sacrifice some farmers for the benefit of others. This is pitting farmer against farmer. That is the problem. That is what is wrong with this wrong-headed thinking, this ill-advised thinking of the government.

    The Canadian Wheat Board has long served the producers in Canada. There have been some good years and there have been some bad years, but the Canadian Wheat Board has provided the safety net and the stability within the grain industry to support those farmers when they needed it. That was the purpose of the Canadian Wheat Board when it was established. It was to ensure that there was a stable marketplace.

    Sometimes we have had a situation where there is a massive surplus of grain production. In fact, that has not been the case in recent years. Grain production and the demand have been quite the contrary. So when a member of the government starts saying that Ontario has nothing to do with it, that it is all about the west so let us forget about talking about it, I believe that is nonsense.

    We are an integrated system. The agricultural interests transcend all of Canadian farmers. If we have a healthy agricultural community in the west, it translates into a healthy agricultural community in other parts of Canada, whether it be in the transportation side or not. Members will also know that 70% of the people who work in the agricultural industry are off farm gate. They do not work on farms. If we start to put in jeopardy the Canadian Wheat Board, which will put in jeopardy Canadian farmers, that is going to cost jobs as well. The members also have not addressed that.

    I will say to members that this bill is not inconsequential. It is symptomatic of an ill-advised position that is taken by the Conservative minority government.To somehow suggest that we do not as parliamentarians have the right to speak because we are not farmers ourselves and we do not live in the west is a bad starting point.

    Our critic on agriculture has been a champion on behalf of the farmers of Canada regardless of whether it is grain or dairy or otherwise. Farmers need a voice. What they do not need is the divisive voice of the Conservative Party. The unifying voice, the representative voice of the fundamental needs of the farming and agricultural community in Canada, has been represented by the opposition critic for agriculture.

    This bill is short, but it does represent in microcosm something that is happening on a larger scale. As I say, I am concerned. I am concerned on behalf of farmers that this is the beginning of dismantling some of the stabilizing influences within the agricultural industry, which will be very bad for farmers in Canada. This is a bad bill. This bill should be defeated at second reading. In principle, I cannot support it.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer)
    There are about three minutes for the speech of the hon. member for Westlock—St. Paul.

Mr. Brian Storseth (Westlock—St. Paul, CPC)
    Mr. Speaker, I will not have time to read all my prepared remarks on this topic. I want to put a bit of an Alberta tint on this.

    We talk about the oil and gas that we have in Alberta. It is a fact of life that the agriculture industry and the agrarian economy has been the backbone of the Alberta economy for many years. It will continue to be so.

    If we do not start giving all farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and across western Canada the same as they have in Ontario and in the other parts of eastern Canada, it is going to be very difficult for our agriculture producers in the upcoming years.

    I want to address some of the comments that have been made in the past by the member for Mississauga South, the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River and the member for Malpeque. None of these members are calling for single desk selling for the producers in their areas.

    I have never heard the member for Malpeque call for single desk selling for the potato producers in P.E.I. Yet he pretends to care about and know what is best for the producers who live in our ridings in western Canada.

Hon. Wayne Easter
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. For the information of the member opposite, I called for a Canadian potato commission 15 years ago.

Mr. Brian Storseth
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member for Malpeque's interest in my speech.

    I was also very interested in the airport tour he did a year or so ago, in which it was proposed to have a bunch of different solutions for agriculture producers, particularly in western Canada. Again, none of those solutions are now in the Liberal policy platform he just unveiled the other day, at least none of the core four solutions that he originally put forward.

    I want to ensure I take the time to congratulate the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster in the exemplary work he has done, and the parliamentary secretary from Cypress Hills—Grasslands. They are men of ethics and moral standards. They fought for something in opposition. When they got to this side of the aisle, they continued to fight for the same thing. They did not flip-flop on these issues. They did not decide one day that they were for farmers and what was best for farmers and then the next day decide they would rather choose politics over it.

    While the bill may be succinct and small, it is very important for providing the impetus of change and choice that we dramatically need in western Canada. I am proud to stand today and support the bill. I ask all members to take the time, learn a little more about the Wheat Board and support the bill.

Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC)
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again today and speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-300.

    The purpose of the bill is producer empowerment. “Who gets the final say with my product?”

     There has been a lot of talk about the vote. The member from Mississauga talked about how the Canadian Wheat Board was a co-op. It is the only mandatory co-op I have ever heard of in the history of the globe. He talked at great length about how producers should be assured of that.

     The member for Sault Ste. Marie said that grain farmers in western Canada had told him in Saskatoon that they were not in trouble because they had the Canadian Wheat Board as a safety net for them. That safety net is full of holes. A lot of farmers are slipping through it. We have a tremendous problem in the grains and oilseeds sector. They are hurting a lot.

    I listened to all of this today. I was frustrated and angry. Then I started to think this was the best thing that could possibly happened on the bill. I know the opposition will kill the bill before we get a chance to talk about it in committee, and that is their right to do that. This is a democracy, but I grit my teeth. However, I then started to think.

     I am going to get a tape of this sucker and I am going to send it out to every farmer on my database, and there are some 5,000 or 6,000 of them in my riding. They are going to get the biggest laugh of their lives out of this. It shows them who is controlling their livelihoods and how much they understand the pressure that they are putting them under and keeping them under with the Wheat Board, which will not flex like it should.

    There is a lot of talk out there that farmers cannot go head to head with the big multinationals. Nobody is expecting them to do that. Nobody is saying the Wheat Board is even doing that.

    We look at other examples in the grain sector such as canola, pulse growers, flax and rye. Oats is a great example. When oats were under the board, 50,000 tonnes was our export in a year. Now it is up to 1.3 million tonnes, plus a burgeoning processing sector in western Canada for oats. That is a success story. Cattle, pork and all these issues go head to head with the multinationals and do very well. They are not clamouring for some release from out underneath the marketing system they are held within.

    There was some mention of transportation, that we were landlocked so we should not do anything but ship out the raw material. That is the absolute wrong way to go.

    The report that the member for Malpeque put forward had a couple of points in it. It talked about producer empowerment to get higher up the food chain. This bill would do that. It would allow them to have the transportation costs become part of the purchase, not part of them. Since the Crow rate was taken away, it is killing us.

    The Bloc always tries to tie supply management in this. The member who spoke about this used to sit on the agriculture committee. He should know better than that. I have been talking to people in the supply managed sector, the dairy side, and they say the comparison is apples and walnuts, not just apples and oranges.

    This is the biggest difference. The supply managed sector is voluntary. If I decide I want to get into the sector, I buy some quota and I am in business. If I want to grow grain in western Canada, I am under the Wheat Board. I have no choice, none whatsoever. If I decide I want to take some quota in a supply managed sector and start a cheese factory, I can do that. I can do that with the quota I have or I can buy more quota, I can start a cheese factory and I can do what I want with it.

    In the west, I cannot do that without going through the punitive buyback. That buyback entails me selling my wheat to the Wheat Board on paper. It charges me a buyback at whatever it says the world price is that day. Then it charges me freight and elevation to tidewater, those ports that I, as a western Canadian farmer, am supposed to subsidize and keep alive all on my own. I cannot stand that burden any more.

    That is the big difference between them. One is voluntary and I can value add. The other one is mandatory and I cannot value add with my product without adding on about 30% to 40% to the input costs of that product, which makes it prohibitive. I cannot get a good bottom line. There is no way they are the same type of thing. We can support one and not the other simply because one is not open to any kind of change, or allowing the in or out. Therefore, that argument flies apart.

    The member also quoted section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act. What the party left out was the minister can put wheat, barley or whatever is produced in any area in Canada. That means Quebec producers could be under the Canadian Wheat Board, the same as I am. I wish him well with that.

     The Ontario wheat producers could be under that same single desk selling. If single desk is the answer and the ultimate control, then why do we have three separate marketing boards for grain products across the county? Why is there not one? Why do we not amalgamate them and everybody can roll around in the same bed. That is probably the answer.

    The collectivism ideology of the NDP members will not let them grasp the idea that this is a private property right. I own that product, I will deal with it and market it as I want.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer):  
    It being 7:30, the time provided for debate has now expired.

     The question is on the motion.


     Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    Some hon. members: No.

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

    Some hon. members: Yea.

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): All those opposed will please say nay.

    Some hon. members: Nay.

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): In my opinion the nays have it.

    And more than five members having risen:

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 25 immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

* * *



Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Canadian Wheat Board Act   - Vote on Bill C-300

    The House resumed from October 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-300, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act (direct sale of grain), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

    The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-300 under private members' business.

     The question is on the motion.

    (The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

(Division No. 51)



Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Barrie)
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Cannon (Pontiac)
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Van Kesteren
Van Loan

Total: -- 111



Bell (Vancouver Island North)
Bell (North Vancouver)
Brown (Oakville)
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Murphy (Charlottetown)
St. Amand
St. Denis
Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Thibault (West Nova)

Total: -- 149



MacKay (Central Nova)

Total: -- 4

The Speaker
    I declare the motion lost.

* * *

Return to CWB under attack page.

Return to The Holm Team home page.