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[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Wednesday, November 5, 1997

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The Chairman (Mr. Joe McGuire (Egmont, Lib.)): I call the meeting to order. We resume consideration of Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act and consequential amendments to other Acts. I call clause 1.

Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner (Portage—Lisgar, Ref.): I have a point of information, please. Yesterday at the end of the meeting I was told that you would get a ruling on whether I was in conflict of interest. Has that ruling been asked for?

The Chairman: I'll defer to Mr. Bonwick.


Mr. Jean-Guy Chrétien (Frontenac—Mégantic, BQ): On a point of order, Mr. Chairman. Would it be possible to start from scratch? I'm sorry but I didn't hear. I don't know who was saying what.


The Chairman: From scratch; okay. I called the meeting to order to resume consideration of Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, and I called clause one. Mr. Hoeppner had a point.

Do you want to re-express that point?

Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner: Yes, Mr. Chairman. I was informed yesterday that you or somebody would be asking about whether I was in conflict of interest because of the court challenges on certain issues with the wheat board. I was told I would be informed of that ruling before the meeting today. I haven't heard anything, so I'm wondering whether I'm breaking bread with you or not.

The Chairman: Of course you are.

Mr. Bonwick was the member who posed the question, so I'll turn it over to him.

Mr. Paul Bonwick (Simcoe—Grey, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

About my point of privilege yesterday and the inquiry about the potential conflict, the courtesy extended to witnesses, and whether or not Mr. Hoeppner should be permitted to question members of that organization, in view of a potential pecuniary interest, I would like to withdraw that query at that time, please.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Any further discussion?

Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner: Mr. Chairman, this thing has been haunting me for the last year. Every time I want to ask some pointed questions of witnesses and they have any connection with the wheat board issues I get this thrown at me. I'm getting a little tired of it. I was elected by my people to represent them on issues like this. I think when we call witnesses they should have the privilege of answering without interference. It's not that I object to the member sitting here, but I still insist that I get my privileges, because I was elected to carry forward their message.

Mr. Paul Bonwick: We did hold off until the witnesses were done before bringing that point forward. We waited until we were going into clause-by-clause, so it wasn't done for the record, before any of the witnesses were finished.

The Chairman: If it would put your mind at ease, the initial opinion I've received from our legal advice was that you're not in conflict. I can give you a written—

Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner: No, that's fine. I had questioned my own legal advisers on whether this would be an issue during the...and they felt it shouldn't be. I should even be able to ask questions in the House, because the appeal has not been launched any further. There is really no court action right now.

The Chairman: If you insist, we can get that.

Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner: If you're happy with it and we can overcome this issue—

The Chairman: It's fine with me.

Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner: I appreciate that.

The Chairman: The request has been withdrawn.

We'll go to Mr. Breitkreuz.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Ref.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: Mr. Steckle, on a point of order.

Mr. Paul Steckle (Huron—Bruce, Lib.): The question arises from one of our members having to take a seat in the back row.

The Chairman: That is being taken care of.

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Now we've got it sorted out.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Heaven forbid that there be any such thing as a backbench Liberal.

On a more serious note, I would just like the record to show, Mr. Chairman, that I was trying to get amendments in for consideration at this committee stage, but through no fault of your own, I was not able to do that. They were very poorly drafted by legislative counsel, and in asking for an analysis and consequential amendments that would follow mine I was unable to get that.

I think we have a very serious problem here in the support services for members in order to do our job properly. We need that done. So I have not been able to get those amendments in here at this time. If they had been properly drafted by legislative counsel, I would have had them here, but that was not the case. Also, the analysis that was done was not properly done. I would like to register that complaint at this time. Let the record show that I was unable to get that support. That should be of concern to all members on both sides of this committee.

The Chairman: I will take your concerns to a higher level.

Mr. Chrétien.


Mr. Jean-Guy Chrétien: Mr. Chairman, I am indeed satisfied with your answer to my concerns. Thank you.


Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Just to pick up on the point of the previous speaker, I wonder if the problem here isn't undue haste, that we seem to be in a great rush to judgment, for reasons that I don't fully understand. I would blame it more on lack of time.

For example, yesterday, I'm told, substantive amendments were being proposed by the Canadian Wheat Board representatives that were here, and yet our amendments had to be in before we had even heard from those witnesses.

So I think it's really a lack of time.

I just wanted to record that for the benefit of the committee.

The Chairman: Any other points? We're ready to proceed? Okay.

I'll begin by introducing the witnesses who will help us this afternoon: from the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the parliamentary secretary, Mr. Gerry Byrne; Mr. Howard Migie, director general, adaptation and grain policy directorate, policy branch; Don Adnam, deputy director, international markets analysis; and David Byer, legal counsel, legal services. I think those are all the witnesses we have.

We will begin our clause-by-clause consideration.

Shall clause 1 carry?

(Clause 1 agreed to)

The Chairman: Shall clause 2 carry?

(On clause 2)

Mr. Leon E. Benoit (Lakeland, Ref.): I don't want to put forth an amendment on this clause, but this clause, we believe, shouldn't be in this legislation because it hinders the democratic process by restricting provinces from, if they so choose, moving to a more democratic or, say, a voluntary board. For that reason, we're opposed to this and believe it should be withdrawn. The federal government shouldn't be imposing this type of restriction on a provincial government.

Mr. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.): Really what clause 2 does is define what is already the case. If you're going to have this kind of marketing agency working in a designated area, you can't operate without that kind of clause. Otherwise, you would have divisions that would in fact undermine the very intent of this legislation, which is to market collectively and maximize returns to producers.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: On that point, I think it's incumbent on the government to explain to us, with the reasoning we have just heard from this member, why it applies to only three provinces in the main and does not apply to the other provinces. Why would they segregate out one area of the country and not have this legislation apply to the entire country? That is discriminatory.

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The Chairman: Yes, Mr. Easter.

Mr. Wayne Easter: Mr. Chairman, I would see it, from my perspective as a grain producer in Prince Edward Island, as discriminatory in the sense that it denies me the right to operate through a national grains board, which I'd far prefer.

The wheat board has been working for a number of years in the designated area of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and that area of the Peace River block. It has shown success in that region, and this legislation builds on that. What this particular section does is clarify, in the legislation, something that was already ruled by the courts.

The Chairman: Mr. Breitkreuz.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask, if this included the province of Quebec, would they have the same attitude?

The Chairman: It's a hypothetical question.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: It's not hypothetical. That's exactly what I'm asking.

The Chairman: Could we hear from the parliamentary secretary?

Mr. Gerry Byrne (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for the opportunity just to basically state as a matter of fact that there are approximately 84 pieces of federal legislation that contain these exact same words, not the least of which are the Customs Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Broadcasting Act, the Aeronautics Act, and so on and so forth.

Speaking just a little bit with my partisan hat here, I appreciate that there may be an agenda here to draw divisions between certain members of our colleagues. However, I'm quite confident that our colleagues present here are going to choose their battles a little more skilfully and a little more tactfully than what the honourable member would have them drawn into.

The Chairman: Mr. Hoeppner.

Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner: Surprise, surprise, surprise. I really thought this was only the Wheat Board Act. Now you're saying there are another 34 different—

Mr. Gerry Byrne: It's 84, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner: Eighty-four different acts—is that sort of a division east from west, or how do you decide which areas in the other legislation?

Mr. Gerry Byrne: Where those acts have jurisdiction, that's where they apply.

Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner: But does it segregate our country in those types of regions—east, west, Atlantic or Quebec?

Mr. Gerry Byrne: The clause that we're referring to doesn't actually specify three provinces. I think actually what you're referring to is a separate clause in the bill.

Perhaps, Mr. Chairman, we could get on with clause 2.

The Chairman: Mr. Benoit.

Mr. Leon E. Benoit: Mr. Chairman, could I ask the parliamentary secretary, as a member of the expert panel we are drawing on here today, what the grain farmers who might be involved in the wheat board, should the wheat board stretch right across the country...what the grain farmers of Newfoundland feel on this issue.

Further, Mr. Speaker, I think it would helpful to the committee if the parliamentary secretary would kind of lay out his expertise, his background, in this area.

The Chairman: I don't think his expertise pertained to this bill.

Mr. Gerry Byrne: I'm an elected member of Parliament.

The Chairman: Is there any further debate?

(Clause 2 agreed to: yeas 11; nays 4)

(On clause 3)

The Chairman: We'll start with Mr. Proctor's amendment.

Mr. Dick Proctor: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I move that clause 3 be amended by replacing line 6 on page 3 with the following:

In other words, you delete “and a president”. That's proposed subsection 3.01(2).

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The Chairman: Mr. Byrne.

Mr. Gerry Byrne: Basically, this amendment would remove the CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board from actual membership on the board. The government's position is that this would not, in effect, be appropriate. The CEO should indeed be a voting member on the board.

The Chairman: Is there any other debate on Mr. Proctor's amendment? Mr. Chrétien.


Mr. Jean-Guy Chrétien: Mr. Chairman, I have some problems with the term "président" in the French version of clause 3. We all know, as my friend has just said, that it is the "directeur général". So why not say "président-directeur général" to clarify things? You know in French, when we talk about the "président" we mean you, Mr. Chairman. You are the "président". The "directeur général" is the one working for us; he is the main director who also wears the hat of chief executive officer. Sometimes he can also be chairman in which case he is called the "président- directeur général".

I don't know whether the legislative counsel could clarify this point for me. Afterwards we could come back to Mr. Borotsik's amendment.


The Chairman: Is there any other debate on Mr. Proctor's amendment?


Mr. Jean-Guy Chrétien: Mr. Chairman, I expect to get an answer.

I have asked the legislative counsel why the term "président- directeur général" is not being used in the French version of Bill C-4. In French, a "président-directeur général" is not the same as a "président".


Mr. Howard Migie (Director General, Adaptation and Grain Policy Directorate, Policy Branch, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food): The drafters felt that the président du conseil would always be the chairman and that the


word "président" could refer to the "président-directeur général". That is the distinction that was made and that is why the term "président-directeur général" was not used.

Mr. Jean-Guy Chrétien: Are they two different persons?

Mr. Howard Migie: Yes.

But in the Act, the term "président du conseil" is always used in French as the equivalent of "chairperson" in English. When the word "président" is by itself, it refers to "president" in English.

Mr. Jean-Guy Chrétien: But why, Mr. Migie, won't you use "PDG"? Why? It would make things so much easier in French.


The Chairman: Shall Mr. Proctor's amendment carry?

Madam Alarie, did you want to—


Ms. Hélène Alarie (Louis-Hébert, BQ): I want to add something to what my colleague has said. It is truly a French language problem. "Chairman" or "president" is not the same as "président" or "président du conseil". It might be better to clarify the distinction by adding definitions. Really, the French version is confusing for us. "Chairman" is easily understood and different from "president". But when you read the French, you have "président", "président du conseil" et "président".

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Mr. Gerry Byrne: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the comments. It's very important to get the legal language correct. We're advised by legal counsel that the wording as it's currently drafted in the bill is, from a legal point of view, I guess, the proper form.

However, with respect to the comments of the honourable members from Quebec, I suggest we stay the motion and receive further advice from legal counsel as to whether or not improvements—


Mr. Jean-Guy Chrétien: What we need to know is whether French- speaking people are on an equal footing in this country and whether the French and English versions of this bill have equal authority or whether one of them prevails.


Mr. Gerry Byrne: That point is understood. What we just want to do is, in terms of the legal language...we want to get input, advice, as to how exactly we can change this particular clause to suit your needs.

So if we could, Mr. Chairman, just stay this particular amendment until we—

The Chairman: No. I think that has been dealt with under C-72, the previous bill, and I think it was settled. My advice was that it was settled to that point. There was no legal difference. There's no problem with that amendment at all.

Mr. Rick Borotsik (Brandon—Souris, PC): I have a question.

The Chairman: Mr. Borotsik.

Mr. Rick Borotsik: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

As I understand the amendment, it is to remove “and a president”. Does that then mean, Mr. Chairman, that we will still have 15 directors on the board, and if so, what is the makeup of that 15-member board of directors? Is it going to be appointed or elected? I'd like Mr. Proctor to answer that, please.

Mr. Dick Proctor: Later on, my recommendation will be that we would recommend that 11 directors be elected and 4 be appointed by the government.

The Chairman: That's included somewhere later on, is it?

Mr. Dick Proctor: Yes.

The Chairman: We'll deal with that as it comes.

Mr. Breitkreuz.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I had a question for the government on proposed subsection 3.02(3), which says:

This is in regard to—

The Chairman: We're dealing with Mr. Proctor's amendment.

Shall Mr. Proctor's amendment carry?

(Amendment negatived)

Mr. Rick Borotsik: We had agreement.

The Chairman: Do you want a vote on that?

A voice: Yes, a show of hands.

(Amendment negatived: nays 8; yeas 7)

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: On a point of order, can a witness vote?

The Clerk of the Committee: Although he is acting as parliamentary secretary, he is also a member of the committee.

The Chairman: We'll go to Mr. Chrétien's amendment on page 3 in your booklet, which is about replacing lines 7 to 9.

Mr. Rick Borotsik: Excuse me. We're dealing with amendments. There was an amendment on—

The Clerk: Mr. Borotsik, yours is from lines 7 to 14. We go according to the lines.

The Chairman: These lines come before your lines.

Mr. Rick Borotsik: Okay. It wasn't in the book that way.

The Clerk: That's right. I'm looking at it here.

Mr. Rick Borotsik: I'm new at this, Santosh. I do appreciate being walked through it. Thank you.

The Chairman: Mr. Chrétien, do you want to speak to your amendment?

Order, please. Mr. Chrétien has the floor.


Mr. Jean-Guy Chrétien: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

It is clause 3 on page 3. My colleague and myself are moving that clause 3 be amended by replacing lines 7 to 9 on page 3 with the following:

So, Mr. Chairman, this means that 12 directors instead of 10 would be elected to represent the grain producers.

The Canadian Wheat Board would be even more democratic. It would be better.

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There would be less of those appointments that seem to be the target of criticism by all of the producers and members, including members from the government side. There would be only three appointments to be precise: two directors and the president. The purpose of this amendment is to respond to all the concerns expressed by the witnesses who appeared, and also to improve democracy within the Canadian Wheat Board.

Therefore, I move this amendment and I ask my colleagues to approve it unanimously. Thank you.


The Chairman: It's been moved by Mr. Chrétien that clause 3 be amended by replacing lines 7 to 9 on page 3 with the following....

Is there any debate?

Mr. Easter.

Mr. Wayne Easter: Mr. Chairman, what we're really talking about here is different numbers. As Mr. Chrétien knows very well, based on the previous hearings that we held in the country, there was a long and hard debate in terms of what the best balance would be. It was determined after a lot of analysis and discussion that the best balance would be roughly two-thirds. That has been incorporated in the act under the government proposals.

So I would have to reject Mr. Chrétien's proposal on the basis that what the government already is going forward with is basically what producers have asked for.

The Chairman: Is there any further debate?

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Mr. Chairman, on the vote we just took dealing with the NDP's amendment as contained on page 1 in this book, your ruling was that I was not discussing that amendment. I was in fact discussing it. I think it was incorrect to say that I was not dealing with their amendment when I was referring to lines 19 and 20.

Mr. Dick Proctor: That's not where we are.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Is that not part of your amendment as I have it recorded here?

Mr. Dick Proctor: It may be, but we're not there yet. We were at lines 5 and 6.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: So when we deal, we do not deal with your whole amendment?

Mr. Dick Proctor: I guess not.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: We only deal with part of it?

The Chairman: Order, please.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: How can you vote, Mr. Chairman, on part of an amendment?

The Chairman: Mr. Proctor, are you amending clause 3 only in (a) or are you amending the whole...?

Mr. Dick Proctor: I'm brand new here, Mr. Chairman. This is the first time I've sat in on these. I thought we were dealing with it line by line and going through it that way. We have a number of amendments to put forward in this area of board of directors. I can do them all at once, if that's the wish of the committee.

Mr. Gerry Byrne: Mr. Chairman, in fairness to Mr. Proctor, the way I see it, it's procedurally quite right that we would have to do this, each line individually. However, I would like to point out for the record that I don't think our legislative drafters who helped Mr. Proctor put this together did him a very good service. Really, the legislative drafter should have helped him out.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Mr. Chairman, I would like to make a comment on that. I come back to the comment we made before we started, that our legislative drafters have done such a poor job that we can't even continue in this committee. I think we ought to recess right now until we get it right.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.

The Chairman: Well, we're not going to recess right now.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: It's terrible to have this kind of stuff come before this committee. It's not acceptable. I move right now that we recess until it's done right. This is ridiculous.

We're talking about the legislation of this land, the Canadian Wheat Board Act, which is going to affect the livelihood of how many farmers? And we're not getting it right.

The Chairman: There's a motion on the floor.

Mr. Benoit.

Mr. Leon E. Benoit: I want to make it clear that we're not necessarily being critical of the legislative draftspeople, but we should have lawyers that have experience at drawing up legislation doing this for us. That's what we've asked for repeatedly, and we haven't gotten it.

Certainly we should adjourn this meeting until we can have this material in front of us properly. It's bad enough we're getting this stuff the minute we walk into this meeting, not having it in advance so we can have a look at it, but it's also not placed properly before us.

We have to adjourn this meeting, get it together properly, and start again.

The Chairman: Mr. Easter.

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Mr. Wayne Easter: Mr. Chairman, I think a number of parliamentarians around this table were here last term. Last term there was no problem with the legislative branch or with drafting the legislation amendments last term. I don't know why there would be a problem this term.

There has been a great tirade by those opposite here trying to make a political stand to delay the legislation and blame it on somebody else. The fact of the matter is that these people are having trouble getting their amendments put forward, but we have no idea what the amendments they put forward to the legislative branch were like. If it's anything like their understanding of some of our clauses in the bill, I can understand why the legislative branch had a problem.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I want to reply to that directly. Serious changes have been made to the support services, including legislative counsel. I raised this as a point of privilege in the House. If the honourable member had been watching or reading Hansard he would realize we've already raised this concern and it has not yet been dealt with. Since the last Parliament major changes have been made to our support services, and he ought to know that.

The Chairman: Mr. Borotsik.

Mr. Rick Borotsik: Mr. Chairman, I really would like to try to do my job properly. Regardless of whether or not I have two terms of experience, like some of the honourable members, a set format and information have to be before us in order for us to be able to do that job properly.

I appreciate that the government is on a very short time line, but that should not be a result of shoddy workmanship we are going to do at this table. I don't believe one day or perhaps two days will stop that time line. We recognize it's still going to get to the House when it's required to get to the House by the government side of this committee, but please, can we not adjourn this, as the member has suggested, where we could have it listed and identified properly so we are all singing from the same song sheet, Mr. Chairman?

I admit I made a mistake. I said mine was next and I was told no, it's not, because it's in the wrong order of the book, and we're going line by line. Can we not have some direction from the chair on this over the next two days so we can do the job properly, or at least give the perception that we want to do the right thing here?

The Chairman: I'll give you direction right now, Mr. Borotsik. This is put together and approved by legal counsel, and we'll be continuing with this today unless the committee wants to postpone it. There's a motion on the floor.

Mr. Byrne.

Mr. Gerry Byrne: Mr. Chairman, you're quite right. A lowering of the tempo here would probably be appropriate, for the simple reason that it has been pointed out that Mr. Proctor's I see it, the changes in the lines subsequent are actually consequential amendments, pending approval of the first line. So if you actually look at it....

Quite frankly, Mr. Chairman, I apologize too, because I was probably part of the process that was very quick to condemn our legal counsel and our legislative drafters. I think a lowering of the tempo here would be very appropriate. As I see it, this amendment is in order. However, the subsequent lines are consequential and therefore should we decide to amend the clause as written those lines will be amended in consequence, and should we decide to reject the amendment those lines would not be changed.

Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner: I think we're running into a real problem, and we're going to have tempers flaring worse and worse as we continue. This doesn't start just here. When you think back about six or eight months, I asked the minister in the House to explain the Wheat Board Act, and I tried to do it again yesterday with certain witnesses. It never has been explained to us what the act really says. Now we're supposed to change that legislation without really knowing what the act says. I was ruled in conflict of interest. I've tried to get an explanation of the act. How do we change legislation if we don't even know what the act says? We're going to change it. That's what we're doing here. For God's sake, we have 120,000 farmers out there who want to know what is in this act. They depend on us to have it defined, and we're not doing it.

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The Chairman: Mr. Harvard.

Mr. John Harvard (Charleswood—Assiniboine, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, let's just move on. I think the explanation given by the parliamentary secretary is quite adequate. If you have to proceed with the motion, let's have the vote on the motion.

The Chairman: There's a motion on the floor from Mr. Breitkreuz that the committee do adjourn. Those in favour, signify by saying aye or by raising your hands.

Mr. Rick Borotsik: I have a point of order, please. This committee should adjourn and reconvene at a time that is set by the motion, with the amendments in fact in place. And please, give us the amendments beforehand so that we can identify them in terms of how they fit into the act. Having them come to this table at the same time as the act, Mr. Chairman—

The Chairman: We'll deal with the motion on the floor.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: The meeting is adjourned. The meeting will reconvene tomorrow at 9 a.m.