Skip to main content
Start of content

House Publications

The Debates are the report—transcribed, edited, and corrected—of what is said in the House. The Journals are the official record of the decisions and other transactions of the House. The Order Paper and Notice Paper contains the listing of all items that may be brought forward on a particular sitting day, and notices for upcoming items.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at

Previous day publication Next day publication

36th Parliament, 1st Session



Friday, March 27, 1998


. 1005

VBill C-26. Second reading
VHon. Hedy Fry
VMr. John Harvard

. 1010

. 1015

. 1020

. 1025

. 1030

. 1035

VMr. Jay Hill

. 1040

. 1045

. 1050

. 1055

VMr. David Pratt

. 1100

VMr. Paul Steckle
VMr. Derrek Konrad
VMr. John McKay
VMrs. Rose-Marie Ur
VMr. John Duncan

. 1105

VMr. Guy St-Julien
VMr. Hec Clouthier
VMs. Val Meredith
VMrs. Monique Guay
VMr. John Harvard

. 1110

VMs. Bev Desjarlais
VMr. Mac Harb
VMr. Maurice Dumas
VMr. Jean Dubé
VMr. Joseph Volpe

. 1115

VMr. Grant Hill
VMr. Joseph Volpe
VMr. Grant Hill
VMr. Joseph Volpe
VMr. Grant Hill
VMr. Joseph Volpe
VMr. Ken Epp

. 1120

VMr. Joseph Volpe
VMr. Ken Epp
VMr. Joseph Volpe
VMrs. Suzanne Tremblay
VHon. Sheila Copps
VMrs. Suzanne Tremblay
VHon. Sheila Copps
VMs. Hélène Alarie

. 1125

VHon. Sheila Copps
VMs. Hélène Alarie
VHon. Sheila Copps
VMs. Alexa McDonough
VRight Hon. Jean Chrétien
VMs. Alexa McDonough
VRight Hon. Jean Chrétien
VMr. Mark Muise
VHon. Ralph E. Goodale

. 1130

VMr. Mark Muise
VHon. David Anderson
VMr. Mike Scott
VHon. Sheila Copps
VMr. Mike Scott
VHon. Sheila Copps
VMr. Michel Guimond
VHon. David M. Collenette

. 1135

VMr. Michel Guimond
VHon. David M. Collenette
VMr. Jay Hill
VHon. David Anderson
VMr. Jay Hill
VHon. David Anderson
VMr. Stéphane Bergeron
VHon. Christine Stewart
VMr. Stéphane Bergeron

. 1140

VHon. Ralph E. Goodale
VMs. Val Meredith
VHon. Arthur C. Eggleton
VMs. Val Meredith
VHon. Arthur C. Eggleton
VMr. René Laurin
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VMs. Susan Whelan
VMr. Walt Lastewka

. 1145

VMr. Darrel Stinson
VHon. Sheila Copps
VMr. Derrek Konrad
VHon. Sheila Copps
VMr. Yvon Godin
VHon. Ralph E. Goodale
VMr. Gordon Earle
VHon. Arthur C. Eggleton

. 1150

VMr. André Harvey
VHon. David M. Collenette
VMr. André Harvey
VHon. David M. Collenette
VMr. Benoît Serré
VHon. Ralph E. Goodale
VMr. Eric Lowther
VHon. Jim Peterson

. 1155

VMr. René Canuel
VHon. David Anderson
VMr. Pat Martin
VHon. Ralph E. Goodale
VMr. Charlie Power
VHon. David Anderson
VMr. Robert Bertrand

. 1200

VHon. Arthur C. Eggleton
VMr. Lee Morrison
VHon. David M. Collenette
VBig Bob
VMrs. Claudette Bradshaw
VMr. Peter Adams

. 1205

VMr. Peter Adams
VJustice and Human Rights
VMr. John McKay
VNuclear Weapons
VMr. Bill Gilmour
VGoods and Services Tax
VMr. Bill Gilmour
VProstate Cancer
VMr. John Cummins
VMr. Peter Adams
VHon. Marcel Massé
VMr. John Cummins

. 1210

VBill C-26. Second reading
VMr. Jay Hill

. 1215

. 1220

VMs. Hélène Alarie

. 1225

VMr. Pat Martin

. 1230

. 1235

. 1240

VMr. Bob Kilger
VMr. Roy Bailey

. 1245

VMr. John Harvard
VMr. Jay Hill

. 1250

VMr. Gerald Keddy

. 1255

VMr. Jay Hill

. 1300

VMr. John Harvard

(Official Version)



Friday, March 27, 1998

The House met at 10 a.m.




. 1005 +




Hon. Hedy Fry (for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food) moved that Bill C-26, an act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and to repeal the Grain Futures Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. John Harvard (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce at second reading Bill C-26 which would amend the Canada Grain Act and the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and repeal the Grain Futures Act.

This initiative reflects our government's willingness to meet the express needs of the grain industry. The industry has had to evolve in order to deal with many challenges. Legislation must also evolve to ensure that industry's efforts to meet these challenges are not hindered by arcane government regulation.

I will begin by placing this bill within the framework of our government's priorities. Agriculture and agri-food is a key sector of our economy that offers tremendous opportunities for Canadian producers and processors. This industry is growing at an impressive rate. Our exports continue to expand, as does the domestic market for our products.


. 1010 + -

Producers are generally optimistic about the future, investing in and diversifying their operations in order to benefit from new opportunities.

The main objective of this government is to build a competitive and innovative economy that will create even more jobs and more economic growth for Canadians. One of the ways to accomplish this objective is to work co-operatively at the grassroots level to ensure the views of stakeholders are incorporated at the early stages of discussions on policies surrounding new and emerging issues.

We are committed to a policy of full consultation with both the agri-food industry and the provinces. We endeavour to be responsive to the changing needs of the industry. Together we are working to develop strategies for achieving this goal.

This is particularly significant in light of our recently announced rural impact test, a policy which commits federal departments and agencies to consider the impact on rural Canada when formulating their policies, their programs and their services.

This policy is part of our government's ongoing commitment to build stronger rural communities by ensuring that federal policies and programs support community development.

We believe that the bill before the House is another example of our commitment to rural Canada. It will allow easier access to the special crops processing industry and will therefore have a positive impact on rural employment opportunities.

The federal and provincial governments must also work together to avoid, wherever possible, overlap and duplication so that we can better serve Canadians.

Having placed this bill in the context of the government's priorities, I would now like to review the major aspects of this legislation.

The provisions of this bill were developed and recommended by the Canadian Grain Commission, the organization responsible for administering both the Canadian Grain Act and the Grain Futures Act.

Under the Canada Grain Act the commission is responsible for regulating grain handling in Canada and for establishing and maintaining standards of grain quality.

Under the Grain Futures Act the commission regulates grain futures trading in Canada by monitoring the activities and transactions carried out at the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the valuable contribution that producers and other members of the grain industry have made to this bill. These amendments are the result of two separate sets of consultations throughout the industry.

I will outline this consultation process so that members can share the confidence I have that this legislation represents the needs, the expectations and the views of the majority of stakeholders from all sectors of the grain industry.

In 1995 Bill C-51, an act to amend the Canada Grain Act, was being moved through this House. At that time there was considerable interest on the part of members to deal with the concerns of the special crops industry, especially those in the industry who wanted to become licensed special crops dealers. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I talk to this bill today.

The grain industry categorizes crops either as standard crops or as special crops. The standard crops are wheat, barley, oats and canola and these make up the bulk of agricultural production on the prairies. Special crops production on the prairies is considerably less than standard crop production but includes a wide variety of agricultural products.

I would like to begin by outlining the consultation process concerning the proposed special crops amendments. The first round of consultations was undertaken by a panel of producers. As part of the special crops initiative funded by the commission, members met with a variety of producers and industry organizations to assess their regulatory needs and to make recommendations to the commission.

In November 1994 the Canadian Grain Commission circulated a discussion paper to individuals and companies involved in the special crops industry on the prairies. The commission met with individual producers and their organizations, processors, grain dealers and representatives of elevator companies. The purpose of the discussions was to chart a new course for licensing and security in the special crops industry in western Canada. A consensus on licensing and security emerged from those consultations.

In March 1995 the commission released a report reflecting that consensus. Following the release of the report, the commission provided support to an advisory committee consisting of producers and dealers representing the principal special crops organizations as they developed the basis for this legislation.


. 1015 + -

Let me add for the benefit of members who represent ridings in eastern Canada that the special crops provision of the bill will apply to crops named in the proposed legislation and grown in western Canada. Persons and companies dealing in eastern special crops will not be affected by the legislation.

The special crops industry plays a significant role in the development of the rural economy of western Canada. The bulk of the country's special crops production comes from the three prairie provinces.

Statistics Canada figures indicate that special crops production on the prairies increased by about 300% in the last 14 years. In 1984-85 production was approximately one million tonnes. In 1997-98 this figure has climbed to approximately three million tonnes. The special crops market continues to expand. Both large and small players are contributing to its impressive growth.

The special crops industry exports a considerable amount of product. In 1996-97 the figure was 1.3 million tonnes. This represents about 5% of total exports.

The western Canadian special crops industry has become one of Canada's export success stories. Naturally, domestic seed cleaning plants are anxious to get into the business of buying and marketing. On the other hand, producers want to expand the number of outlets for their special crops. Moreover the entry of new players will stimulate innovation and the development of new markets.

The Canada Grain Act amendments relating to special crops involve three major elements: a voluntary producer insurance plan; affordable licensing for special crops dealers; and a special crops advisory committee. The first element of the proposed legislation is the financial protection that will be available to producers under a voluntary insurance plan. If approved, the amendments will provide financial protection to producers who are prepared to pay for it and will be simple to administer.

I emphasize that the plan is voluntary. This was a key recommendation of the majority of producers consulted and their representative organizations.

In consultation with a special crops advisory committee, the Canadian Grain Commission will manage the producer funded insurance plan. Producers can choose whether or not to participate.

Only those producers who are members of the producer insurance plan will be eligible for compensation if a licensed company they deal with fails to meet its payment obligations. Producers will be considered members of the plan and eligible for coverage unless they notify the Canadian Grain Commission in writing that they want to opt out. Producers who do not want to belong can opt out prior to the start of the crop year.

All producers will pay a levy when they sell special crops to licensed dealers. The initial levy will be a small percentage of the value of grain delivered. It is expected that the initial levy will be 0.038% or 38 cents per $100 worth of grain. This works out to between 50 cents and $1 per acre depending on crop price and yield. It may be adjusted up or down in accordance with the level of losses and the costs of administration. Producers who have opted out of the plan will at the end of each crop year receive a full rebate on the levies collected from them.

The plan has administrative benefits for companies. The dealer takes a levy for each delivery, whether the producer is in the plan or has opted out. For the industry this keeps paperwork to a minimum.

Special crops dealers will remit levies to the Canadian Grain Commission, the agent for participating producers. After deducting an administration fee, the commission will forward the premiums to an insurer. The Canadian Export Development Corporation has agreed to act as the insurer for the plan. The insurer and the agent can be changed in the future if the special crops advisory committee recommends it. I will talk about this committee in more detail shortly.


. 1020 + -

Prospective licensees will have to demonstrate financial ability to receive a licence. This protects producers and ensures the viability of the insurance plan. It is expected that most producers will participate. To encourage their participation, startup funding of $500,000 will be made available from the Government of Canada to assist in implementing this new program. The insurance plan will be self funded after initial startup.

The second element concerning proposed changes to the Canada Grain Act is affordable licensing for special crops dealers. The handling of special crops is regulated under the Canada Grain Act which was initially designed to regulate the bulk handling of cereal grains. The licensing and security system in place however was not designed to serve the unique needs of special crops dealers.

Under the current system, buyers and sellers of Canadian grain, including special crops, must be licensed by the Canadian Grain Commission. They must also provide security for producers by posting a bond or letter of credit. Security protects producers if licensed elevators or grain dealers default on their payment obligations.

Unfortunately for small companies in the special crops industry, the security that must be provided is expensive and depletes their available credit restricting their ability to buy special crops. Security requirements are tough on small companies and prevent the special crops industry from developing.

About 800 seed cleaning plants operate on the prairies. They are currently exempt from licensing, provided they do not buy and sell grain. Only a few operators of seed cleaning plants are currently licensed.

It is not uncommon in this growing industry for a seed cleaning plant to act as an agent for an established licensee. This will not change in the future. However it would be easier for them under the provisions of the bill to evolve to the next level, to actually become a grain dealer buying and selling special crops.

More special crops dealers would become licensed if they could satisfy the licensing requirements. Because they cannot, they are constrained in expanding their operations. Furthermore they are not in a position to offer the full range of services demanded by producers and provided by their licensed competitors.

Unfortunately there have been cases where dealers have ignored the legislation and bought grain without a licence. This places producers at significant risk of not being paid if the dealer defaults on payments because no security has been provided to the Canadian Grain Commission.

For Canada to make further gains in the special crops market, a regulatory environment is required that allows companies, both large and small, to participate. The proposed legislation before the House this morning would reduce entry barriers for special crops dealers by making licensing more affordable and making the licensing requirements easier to satisfy.

If approved, it is expected that the new special crops provisions will initially apply to the following special crops: beans, buckwheat, corn, fababeans, lentils, mustard seed, peas, safflower seeds, soybeans, sunflower seed and triticale. This list could be expanded or reduced if the special crops industry wants this to happen.

A special crops dealer will be defined as an elevator operator or grain dealer who buys only special crops from producers.

An amendment to the Canada Grain Act will create a class of licence called a special crops licence. This licence will give companies the right to use official grade names when buying and selling special crops.

Individuals and companies that also buy and sell standard crops such as wheat, barley and canola will continue to be licensed under current provisions of the Canada Grain Act. They will not have to obtain a special crops licence to buy and sell special crops but will have to collect levies from producers for a producer funded insurance plan. However, the security that companies currently post in the form of bonds and letters of credit to cover their liabilities to special crops producers will be reduced correspondingly.


. 1025 + -

Finally, special crops dealers will not have to post security to cover payment obligations to special crops producers. This will remove a major barrier to owners of small companies who want to participate in the special crops industry.

The new program will encourage companies currently operating without a licence to apply for one. By making licensing affordable and by eliminating costly security requirements, this proposed legislation will allow the number of licensed special crops dealers to increase. Both large and small dealers will operate on a level playing field.

The third element concerning proposed changes to the Canada Grain Act is the establishment of a special crops advisory committee. The committee will be appointed by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. It will be composed of a maximum of nine members representing special crops producers, processors, producer-processors, and exporters. Each prairie province and sector of the industry will be represented on the committee. The majority of the members will be producers.

The special crops advisory committee will advise the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on the operations of the special crops program. The committee can recommend to the minister that the administrator of the insurance plan or the insurer be replaced. It can also make recommendations on the designation of new crops and on other issues referred by the minister.

I will now talk about our proposed amendments to the Administrative Monetary Penalties Act, AMPA, so that AMPA applies to the Canada Grain Act. The Administrative Monetary Penalties Act is legislation that was enacted in 1995. It provides a broad range of enforcement options by allowing monetary penalties, fines, to be levied for non-compliance with regulations. The Fertilizer Act, Plant Protect Act, Health of Animals Act, Pest Control Products Act and Feeds Act are subject to this innovative legislation.

The main enforcement options now available under the Canada Grain Act are the suspension and revocation of licences and prosecution. However, those sanctions have the impact of stopping business operations either temporarily or perhaps permanently. Because their impact is so serious, they are seen as a sanction of last resort, not as a normal regulatory enforcement tool. The current options are also costly, lengthy and mean that strict procedural requirements must be followed.

With this proposed change, the Canadian Grain Commission will have a broader range of measures to enforce its regulations.

An important feature of AMPA is that it allows for the issuing of warnings and negotiated solutions to non-compliance. Administrative monetary penalties can be reduced to zero if a violator takes immediate corrective action to comply. In this way AMPA emphasizes compliance, not punishment.

I would now like to move on to talk about our initiative to repeal the Grain Futures Act.

As members may be aware, the Grain Futures Act is federal legislation that was created in 1939. Under the act the Canadian Grain Commission is responsible for regulating grain futures trading in Canada which is done solely at the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange with trade clearing done by Winnipeg Commodity Clearing Ltd.

In the spring of 1997 the Canadian Grain Commission completed its consultation process with nearly 70 stakeholder groups and companies involved in the trading of grain futures and options. The purpose of the consultations was to determine the extent of industry support for a proposal to repeal the Grain Futures Act. These consultations were triggered by a recommendation made by the board of governors of the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange in 1996 calling for a change in regulator from the Canadian Grain Commission to the Manitoba Securities Commission. This recommendation stemmed from the exchanges plan to introduce trading in non-grain products.


. 1030 + -

There is wide agreement that the Manitoba Securities Commission has the appropriate statute to effectively regulate all trading activities at the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange. The province of Manitoba has enacted the Commodity Futures Act, giving the Manitoba Securities Commission the mandate to regulate grain futures trading. The legislation is expected to be proclaimed very soon.

Several strong messages were received as a result of the consultation process. They included the following. The current Grain Futures Act is outmoded and no longer meets international and domestic regulatory standards. It does not have the elements or scope to be an effective regulatory tool for the futures industry today. The act provides for only the regulation of grain futures contracts. It does not provide the authority to regulate all trading current and proposed at the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange.

This key prairie institution wants to get involved in non-grain contracts such as hogs. Under the current legislation for non-grain commodities the WCE would be subject to provincial legislation and regulations. Transferring regulatory responsibilities to the province of Manitoba will eliminate the unsatisfactory prospect of the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange being subject to regulation by both the province of Manitoba for grain and non-grain contracts and by the Government of Canada for grain futures contracts. This scenario is inconsistent with our national objectives of avoiding overlap and duplication of federal and provincial activities.

The province of Manitoba's regulatory body, the Manitoba Securities Commission, has the legislation to provide the regulatory oversight that meets national and international standards. The Manitoba legislation features comprehensive regulation of all aspects of futures and options trading from the point of order taking by futures commission merchants to the transactions on the floor and the clearing of trade. In contrast the Grain Futures Act provides for only the supervision of grain futures trading and the clearing process.

The Manitoba Securities Commission has also indicated that it will acquire additional expertise in grains futures by hiring experienced staff, giving it the necessary resources to do an effective job.

The Canadian Grain Commission intends to maintain an ongoing liaison with the Manitoba Securities Commission through a memorandum of understanding. Preliminary discussions have already been held. This process will ensure that a formal mechanism is in place to communicate grain industry concerns and to ensure harmonization of trading regulators with grain handling regulations.

I would like to conclude by stating that this proposed legislation is our government's response to the express needs of the western agriculture industry. If passed, the legislation would benefit the special crops sector by recognizing and addressing the following principles: that security should be available to all producers who are prepared to pay for it; that their participation in an insurance plan should be voluntary; that the regulatory system for special crops should encourage development of the industry and not impede it; and that the program should be affordable, simple to administer and should not impose any additional costs or bureaucracy on any sector of the special crops industry.

Repeal of the outmoded Grain Futures Act would recognize the following principles: that the federal government supports the introduction of a comprehensive, contemporary regulatory framework that will allow futures and options trading on the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange to develop new contracts and that dual regulations should be avoided or eliminated.

The principal amendments before the House represent what the industry and producers believe are necessary for the future growth of the agricultural sector. I recommend that members of the House support Bill C-26.


. 1035 + -

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to Bill C-26. As outlined by the parliamentary secretary, it is an act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and to repeal the Grain Futures Act.

I challenge government members across the floor to truly and carefully listen to what farmers have to say about Bill C-26. The parliamentary secretary spoke long and eloquently about the consultative process that led up to Bill C-26, but I believe the job is only half done.

While it is true the government has a dismal track record when it comes to listening to either farmers or the Canadian people, I believe it has a chance to partially redeem itself through the legislation. On behalf of farmers I encourage the government to seize that opportunity.

They have a chance to seriously consider concerns that producers of special crops have about this very complex bill. After all, that is what MPs are supposed to be doing here. Reformers place very heavy emphasis on consultation and feedback from Canadians. Reformers base their policies on what voters have indicated are their wishes. We consult, listen and then we consult again. The result is a product that provides the most accurate reflection of the will of the people ever seen in the Chamber.

Consensus building is never easy but it will always produce better legislation than simply responding to lobbyists, special interest groups or bureaucrats, which seems to be the Liberal method of drafting policy. The parliamentary secretary referred to the consultations he believes and the government believes have taken place, but I believe the job is not yet done.

It is high time Liberal MPs gave this process a try. I realize it is a little against their natural tendencies but they might be surprised to find some pleasure out of newly found democratic ways. From personal experience I can attest it is a great feeling to know one is accurately reflecting the views of constituents and those of Canadians.

It is due to this need for feedback and consultation that Reform MPs have given tentative support to Bill C-26. I describe that support as tentative because it is in the early days yet. The debate and analysis of the legislation has only just begun.

While at the outset it appears as though parts of the legislation may reap positive results in the form of increased financial security for producers of special crops, we have yet to hear from the majority of those producers and from other stakeholders affected by the legislation. We have yet to hear from the majority of producers of beans, buckwheat, corn, faba beans, lentils, mustard seed, peas, safflower seed, soybeans, sunflower seed and triticale. The same goes for any other party, and there are other parties, that feel the legislation will touch them as well.

It is members of these groups who are the experts. We must listen to their expert opinions on how Bill C-26 will affect their livelihoods. I have personally written to a number of these groups which represent special crops farmers asking them to send me their praise or their criticisms of the bill. I have also sent an open letter to the editor of the Western Producer inviting persons affected by the legislation to share their views with me. Hopefully it will find room in its next publication to print my appeal for input.

This will kick-start a process of consultation, an ongoing process that I am confident will result in some concrete proposals to actually improve Bill C-26. This consultative process must be given the opportunity to achieve results. That means that when the bill goes to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food all members of that committee must be ready and willing to give sufficient time and opportunity for witnesses to come forward with their opinions and proposals.

Unfortunately this is not something we simply expect to happen. It should be something we should be able to expect as part of our democratic parliamentary process. However the government has shown us time and time again that this process can be manipulated and mutilated to the point that democracy can barely be seen.


. 1040 + -

For those who are unfamiliar with the sad story of Bill C-4, I will tell them how that bill was rammed through committee stage. Grain farmers and farm groups whose livelihoods depend upon reform of the Canadian Wheat Board were given less than two weeks, or just six short meetings in Ottawa, to tell MPs on the agriculture committee what was wrong with Bill C-4. They were lumped together, up to four at a time, in a round table style presentation. These stakeholders who have the right to have their views heard by elected representatives were barely squeezed in to the Liberal members' agenda and once they were before the committee their comments were virtually ignored and their expertise was disregarded.

Reform MPs on the committee, including myself, collectively had just seven minutes to question witnesses to garner a complete understanding of their position. By the time the sixth and final committee meeting allotted for Bill C-4 came along, it was apparent that Liberal committee members had no intention of making any of the substantive changes required.

In less than two hours the entire bill was analysed clause by clause and returned to the House, not as improved legislation that reflected farmer feedback but as the same ineffective unanimously despised bill that was tabled by the minister responsible for the wheat board in the first place.

Since it had been immediately apparent that amendments would not be given fair consideration at committee, my Reform colleagues and I chose to table our amendments at report stage, hoping that all MPs in the House would take the time to thoroughly consider them.

What did the Liberals think of the amendments that were derived by farmers? They thought they were a waste of time. The government invoked time allocation and cut off debate on Bill C-4. Consultation was certainly not to get in the way of the government's tight schedule.

You can understand, Mr. Speaker, why I challenge government members to truly consult with farmers on Bill C-26. I am understandably sceptical. I am concerned for farmers. I am concerned that their voices will be ignored as they were during the debate on Bill C-4.

At this point I have little doubt that my Reform colleagues and I will be proposing amendments to Bill C-26 either at the agriculture committee or at report stage in the Chamber. Certain problems with the bill are already apparent through the limited feedback we have received thus far. As I mentioned, even if the government is not ready to consult with farmers Reformers are.

I am looking forward to the responses to my invitation to comment on Bill C-26. Based on those responses if the majority of farmers support the bill we will know it. If the majority of farmers oppose the bill we will also know that.

I have a number of preliminary concerns about Bill C-26 that I believe should be addressed in coming days along with the concerns we will hear from farmers. One of the most worrisome aspects of Bill C-26, which I hope can be addressed through amendments, is the lack of details outlining how the special crops industry insurance plan will function. Instead of having these details put in place by parliament, meaning that they will undergo the scrutiny and debate of MPs and farmers, regulations will be put in place. Regulations are not subjected to the consultation and approval required for legislation.

Passing Bill C-26 with the details of the insurance plan missing is like signing a blank cheque. I am not prepared to sign off the legislation without at least setting up some essential parameters for the operation of the insurance plan. Perhaps the government felt this task is too onerous or too complicated to be included in the bill.

I assure the government and the minister of agriculture that producers of special crops will be willing to meet that challenge. There is too much at stake to avoid the particulars and leave them to be determined through regulations. Farmers' interests need to be protected.

For example, the insurance levy requires limitations. The special crops rural initiative program or SCRIP committee, which includes producers and processors from the three prairie provinces, made a number of recommendations in the April 1996 report, many of which are contained in the bill as the parliamentary secretary outlined. However, the SCRIP committee recommended that the insurance levy remain under 1% of the gross value of grain sale proceeds but there is no clause to reflect this limit in Bill C-26.


. 1045 + -

I cannot be content nor can farmers to rely on the minister's word or assurances that in future regulations the levy will not surpass 1%. Bill C-26 requires more certainty on this issue and on many other particulars of the insurance plan.

Another concern arises from experiences that tell us that government interference in agriculture can often be a hindrance to progress. Bureaucracy and farming do not mix. Whenever possible, the market and the private sector must be allowed to determine an industry's direction. There are two examples in this legislation that run opposite to this philosophy.

The first is that the Canadian Grain Commission will run the insurance plan. Perhaps during the formative months that the plan is being established the CGC could play a stabilizing role as administrator. However, there is no reason that legislation should not call for the eventual return of the plan to one of the producer groups. The insurance plan runs the risk of becoming bogged down in the infamous government bureaucracy.

In a related issue, the insurance plan is insured by the Export Development Corporation, a federal government institution. Why not allow a private insurance company to act as the insurer? It is an option that must be investigated. It is often found that private companies have premiums competitive to premiums charged by the federal government to ensure an insurance plan. If that is the case then farmers and taxpayers would be better off if a private company were chosen.

The Reform Party favours fostering the development of private sector management strategies in the Canadian agricultural industry. We need less government interference in agriculture. We need to support an increase in private enterprise.

Further concerns will no doubt arise over the levy. The CGC says the initial levy will be set at .0038 or almost four-tenths of 1% which is slightly higher than the SCRIP committee had originally suggested. There will be questions about this increase in the levy. The CGC also says that one-third of the levy will be consumed by administrative costs and two-thirds will go toward the premium on the fund. Minimizing the administrative costs will be a priority for farmers and Reform MPs. It has also been suggested that the deductible be set at 20%.

I remind everyone that all these figures mentioned are not in the legislation. They were either contained in the SCRIP report or in a press release issued by the CGC and this gives cause for great concern. While it may be difficult to specify precise numbers and percentages, farmers will want some assurance through legislation that rigid guidelines are in place to prevent the plan from becoming too expensive or too administratively burdened.

Even though levy rates deductibles are not found in any clause in Bill C-26 government MPs better be prepared to accept the reality that producers and processors will demand the opportunity to discuss them. They will not be willing to leave the fate of their livelihoods to be determined solely by regulation.

I refer to some of the feedback that has come. This legislation is really in its infancy even though there has been a consultative process under way for quite some time. This legislation is quite new to this place. Despite what the parliamentary secretary indicated during his remarks, I found many producers are not really aware that this legislation even exists at this point. We have some feedback coming to us about Bill C-26. I would like to read into the record a couple of letters I have received from groups.

The first is from the Foam Lake marketing club, a group of producers from Foam Lake, Saskatchewan.


. 1050 + -

In a February 19, 1998 letter to the minister on Bill C-26 they say:

    We are very concerned with the SCRIP portion of Bill C-26 and as such, request that it be withdrawn for further study or substantially amended. Our request is supported by the following points:

    1) There appears to have been a calculated effort by the CGC and the SCRIP committee to develop their proposal in secret.

This is quite contrary to the opening remarks of the parliamentary secretary about the great consultative process that the government went through.

    There are very few farmers who know that the SCRIP bill is about to become law, let alone know the contents.

    2) There have been several large membership organizations which have rejected SCRIP at their annual meetings, (1) the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association, (2) the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, (3) the Saskatchewan Pulse Crop Development Board and (4) the Western Barley Growers Association.

    3) The SCRIP proposal, while being promoted as voluntary, is nothing short of a worst case example of negative billing. This of course could be made acceptable if it was made truly voluntary for both the special crop growers and the grain dealers.

    4) The key reason for the various commodity groups rejecting the SCRIP proposal was the suggestion in the CGC briefing notes that cereal and oilseed crops may well be added at a later date. It is obvious from this that the federal government is anxious to absolve itself of the security responsibilities which are clearly spelled out in the Canada Grain Act.

On point 4, I believe the author is talking about this bill as being more unloading, more downloading of government responsibilities to the producers. The letter goes on:

    5) The other very troubling aspect of this proposal (which is left up to the regulators) is the fact that farmers will be paying a tax rather than a competitive cost item which would normally be built into the grain buyer's basis. Our industry has far too many regulated cost items which are void of any competitive forces.

What the author is referring to is competition. There should be open competition. Any time we get a situation where we have only one person supplying the insurance for an industry, without competition, we run the risk that the premiums and administration costs could be to high.

    6) The final concern we would like to raise with you is the recent aggression which has been initiated by the CGC. Special crops dealers have indicated to us there have been a number of instances where the CGC has instructed the RCMP to seize records and close businesses down. These RCMP raids would appear to be linked directly to the SCRIP legislation. We urge you, Mr. Minister, to call off these scare tactics and allow the special crops industry to advance and prosper as it has done without the onerous regulations which are inherent in the grain industry in western Canada.

    The Foam Lake Marketing Club is a group of 20 commercial farmers who meet on a regular basis to keep abreast of commodity market trends and advance our vision for a less regulated and a more market responsive agriculture industry in western Canada.

    We trust you will respect our recommendation for withdrawal of SCRIP or make the necessary amendments to have it completely voluntary.


    Bill Cooper, President

I briefly want to refer to another copy of a letter that came to me from the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association. It is also about this particular legislation. As I indicated, we are starting to get some feedback about Bill C-26.

This letter states:

    Dear Minister:

    Re: an act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and to the repeal the Grain Futures Act

    I am writing today specifically on the issue of the Special Crops Rural Initiative Program (SCRIP) proposed under Bill C-26. The attached resolution, passed by delegates to the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA) annual meeting earlier this year, clearly spells out the position of our association on this program. Similar resolutions were also passed by delegates to the Saskatchewan Pulse Crop Development Board, Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association and the Western Barley Growers Association this year.

    Since the passage of the resolution, the WCWGA took the initiative to meet with the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) President Barry Senft and his staff as well as several members of the SCRIP committee to discuss our members' concerns. Our primary concern with the program is with the insurance plan. The mandatory payment of the levy at source is, in our opinion, a form of negative billing, and will be perceived as a tax on the farm community. We would therefore suggest that the program be amended to ensure participation in the program is truly voluntary for both the special crop grower and the special crop dealer.


. 1055 + -

It goes on in that light. Another concern he refers to is on page 2:

    Because a significant number of wheat grower members are growers of special crops, we are also compelled to comment on the fact that the CGC is considering including cereal and oilseed crops in this program. If in fact the proposed legislation is all encompassing and only requires regulatory additions to include wheat, other cereals, and oilseeds, then we must demand that the SCRIP section of Bill C-26 be repealed.

That letter was signed by Larry Maguire, president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association.

As I noted during my remarks, what we have seen is some feedback already starting to filter back.

I am not sure I can wrap up before question period. I have some other stories I would like to relate concerning this legislation.

One of the concerns about this legislation and the fact that there is a need to have insurance and bonds posted by grain dealers, in this case special crops dealers, is that farmers always run the risk of having their product sold to a company that goes bankrupt. The farmer is then left on the hook. Unfortunately we have seen that happen a few times.

I was told about a case where a company called Klemmer Seeds in Saskatchewan a couple of years ago went into receivership and some farmers were left on the hook and government and taxpayers had to come to their assistance.

Those of involved in agriculture and follow the agricultural industry are very well aware of what happened in the last week or so with Palliser Grain going into receivership.

Reform MPs from Saskatchewan showed great initiative recently by holding and hosting an open forum. They invited farmers from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and approximately 300 showed up. I was also at this forum and spoke to the farmers. Many of the farmers approached me with concerns about Palliser Grain going into receivership. Their immediate concern was for the grain the company had in storage.

I would just like to give a bit of an indication of the magnitude of the disaster. I had a couple of farmers tell me that they were unfortunately in a position where they had eight carloads of flax that they had unloaded sometime last fall. The value of this, to put this in some perspective for a reasonably mid sized farm, is about $200,000. This flax was with Palliser and they are unclear at this point, because they had opted for a deferred payment, whether they are going to be covered by the bond that Palliser was carrying.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): I am sorry but I must interrupt the member for Prince George—Peace River. However, the member will have almost 16 minutes remaining after question period.




Mr. David Pratt (Nepean—Carleton, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday night the quiet community of Sandy Hill here in Ottawa reverberated with the sound of cannonading slap shots and the roar of a partisan crowd.

The event was the annual MPs versus the pages hockey game. It is the only game in town where opposition and government members can be seen skating in the same direction and working toward the same goal.

The pages put together a solid effort. Led by their very capable goalie Julian Ovens, they were energetic and enthusiastic.


. 1100 + -

The TSN turning point came when the pages, with four MPs in the penalty box, were unable to score. Spurred on by the inspirational play of the member for Nunavut, the MPs finally triumphed with a score of six to five. But the pages had the last laugh because yesterday I saw none of them limping around with sore muscles.

*  *  *


Mr. Paul Steckle (Huron—Bruce, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, let me set the record straight by congratulating successful companies from British Columbia which this government is supporting through Technology Partnerships Canada. Investments to date are over $57 million. This federal support is expected to create more than 4,800 jobs in B.C. These innovative companies include Ballard Power Systems, Avcorp Industries, Western Star Trucks, Dynamotive, Doyle Argosy (Coincard), Starvision Multimedia and Paprican.

Federal government investments are helping to position these B.C. companies as world leaders in the environment, information technologies, aerospace and pulp and paper sectors. Together we are working to support innovation and promote economic growth.

*  *  *


Mr. Derrek Konrad (Prince Albert, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, European subsidies are threatening Canadian jobs in the dehydration industry, in particular in my riding of Prince Albert where about two-thirds of Saskatchewan's capacity lies. This week I met with representatives of the Canadian Dehydrators Association who came to Ottawa because federal rail policies are killing their business.

Unfair subsidization by the European common market already creates problems for the industry. Our producers have already lost the European market due to its subsidies and now they stand to lose the Asian market as well.

In addition to the disadvantage caused by the subsidies, unreliable piecemeal rail service undermines Canada's best efforts to compete. They are not asking for subsidies, just for the freedom to compete. Canadian dehydrators want economic efficiencies to determine rail service in Canada and to ensure grains are not unduly favoured at the expense of their industry.

*  *  *


Mr. John McKay (Scarborough East, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, given your elevated status in life I do not know whether you have occasion to take taxis to and from the Ottawa airport. However, other members and I do and, in fact, there will be a rush for the taxis in a short period of time. The likelihood is that I will be picked up by a computer engineer from Sri Lanka, delivered to the airport and then returned to my home by a science graduate from Sri Lanka. I was delivered to my office building this morning by a history graduate from Kenya.

Our greatest resources are our human resources. It is somewhat scandalous that in this country we do not use our immigrants in a more useful fashion which would allow them to contribute to our country.

The legislative review entitled “Not Just Numbers” states the following in recommendation No. 27: “The proposed federal-provincial council on immigration protection should establish access to trades and professions and foreign credential recognition—”

The Speaker: The hon. member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex.

*  *  *


Mrs. Rose-Marie Ur (Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Middlesex Federation of Agriculture is one of the leading farm organizations in southwestern Ontario. This weekend, in what has become an annual event, Middlesex farmers will meet with my colleagues from Perth-Middlesex, Elgin-Middlesex-London and myself as well as the area provincial member. The variety of issues for discussion will range from international trade and farm finance to research investment and rural development.

Ontario's agriculture industry is world class in management technology and production, with more than $6.5 billion in farm gate receipts in 1996. It is contributing nearly $22.2 billion to the provincial GDP, employing 672,000 people.

Sound government policy is required to encourage the growth and stability of agriculture. I look forward to working with the Middlesex federation to ensure that agriculture is at the top of the government's agenda.

*  *  *


Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the 1998 low salmon returns in British Columbia are a direct result of shortfalls in returning four-year old spawning salmon. The late returning Fraser River sockeye run was fished out within 12 hours in 1994. The 1994 disaster led to a major re-examination of DFO policy and gave a black eye to the department. Now the minister is blaming some guy called El Niño and a host of other things rather than accepting responsibility for disastrous fishery management on both coasts, affecting the livelihood of tens of thousands. This is despite clear evidence to the contrary.


. 1105 + -

Why is the minister refusing to accept responsibility and to make the tough decisions?

The Liberals are an odd lot
Always hoping to change the plot
Campaigning for the byelection
They are hoping for a resurrection
But after Monday this fact they will dread
In B.C. the red heads are dead

*  *  *



Mr. Guy St-Julien (Abitibi, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the member for Sherbrooke, the hon. Jean Charest, who officially announced his—

The Speaker: I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but I should remind him that we cannot name a member of Parliament.

Mr. Guy St-Julien: Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the member for Sherbrooke, who officially announced his candidacy for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Quebec.

The man from Sherbrooke can do it. He can bring people together. He is brave, honest and a diplomat.

We are proud of his decision. Today is a great day for the people of Quebec and for the province's economic future.

Thanks Michèle, thanks to the people in the riding of Sherbrooke, and thanks Jean. See you soon.

*  *  *



Mr. Hec Clouthier (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, many farmers including those from the great riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke were hard hit by the January ice storm, one of the greatest natural disasters in Canadian history.

The Government of Canada recognizes the magnitude of the losses faced by these farmers and it is for this reason that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada along with his provincial counterparts announced this morning that all farmers in eastern Ontario will be eligible for compensation for ice storm damage.

This package provides a further $20 million for economic recovery for damages not covered by the DFAA. The governments of Canada and Ontario agree to cost share this program on a 50:50 basis.

The total assistance being provided in eastern Ontario is consistent with that provided for farmers in the Saguenay and Red River disasters and to the support the Government of Canada is giving to help with the effects of this tragic ice storm.

*  *  *


Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, British Columbians were greatly amused yesterday at the spectacle of Liberal MPs from Ontario and Quebec professing their love and concern for our province, but only because there is a byelection under way.

They seemed so sincere as they read their prepared scripts and almost pulled off this piece of fiction until question period.

In response to a patsy question from one of her own colleagues, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Status of Women showed the true colours of the Liberals when she could not even remember the name of the constituency where the byelection is being held. This is truly remarkable considering that the secretary of state represents a riding that is less than 20 kilometres from Port Moody—Coquitlam. This shows British Columbians just how ignorant the Liberals really are about British Columbia.

*  *  *



Mrs. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the theatre world is celebrating these days. The International Theatre Institute is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Its representative in Quebec, the Conseil québécois du théâtre, is marking its 15th anniversary.

Today is World Theatre Day. The Conseil québécois du théâtre and the performers and craftspeople in Quebec theatre are taking part in the various celebrations around the world. In this connection, over 20 theatres in Quebec have organized free activities to encourage sharing and discovery.

The eighth annual theatre congress, with this year's theme of “Theatre: a collective art”, will be held this weekend at Montreal's Maisonneuve CEGEP. Performers and craftspeople will be invited to take part in round tables and so will the public, the focus of and the audience for the theatre.

I therefore urge Quebeckers to enter the world of theatre and give it the support it needs to continue filling their lives with dreams and magic.

*  *  *



Mr. John Harvard (Charleswood—Assiniboine, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, at the Western Canada Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association convention in Victoria yesterday, delegates from the private sector and the provinces called for more investment in the infrastructure of our country.


. 1110 + -

As Liberals we are glad to observe that others are starting to see value in the idea we first proposed in the 1993 campaign.

While the Reform Party would have us believe that money spent on improving our nation's roads, sewers and municipal buildings is a waste, grassroots Canadians know that it is an important investment in our communities. According to an industry spokesperson the spinoff for every construction job is three more jobs. That is why we are proud to have spent over $100 million federal dollars in British Columbia over the last four years in direct support of these efforts.

We join British Columbians like Lou Sekora in Port Moody—Coquitlam who have been at the forefront in calling for direct community investment.

*  *  *


Ms. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the government announced an offer to compensate less than half of those who contacted hepatitis C through the blood system. Over 30,000 people will suffer in poverty simply because they went to a hospital for treatment and came out sicker than when they went in.

The Canadian Hemophilia Society said this is not a compassionate solution but a legalistic one. The Hepatitis C Society of Canada calls it a compensation plan created in hell. The government has forced hepatitis C sufferers to wait, to become embroiled in legal wrangles and has ignored the Krever report recommendations to compensate all victims.

The New Democratic Party urges the federal government to show leadership on this issue and put additional money forward to compensate all victims of this terrible tragedy equally rather than pit one group of ill and suffering people against another.

*  *  *


Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the NDP Government of British Columbia promised to deliver tax relief and a deficit of almost $200 million. It sounds like something out of the Reform Party platform. Just like Reform the B.C. government fails to understand that good government means cleaning your house before you redecorate.

The priorities of Canadians in B.C. and across the country are clear. They want governments to eliminate their deficit first and then lower the tax and debt burden while improving our social programs. Promising a tax cut while running a deficit is like selling the house to save the furniture.

I wonder when the tail will stop wagging the dog. Is that as good as it gets?

*  *  *



Mr. Maurice Dumas (Argenteuil—Papineau, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, we Bloc members from the Lower Laurentians, in conjunction with the hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, tabled a brief during one of the hearings held by the commission on the future of Mirabel airport.

The Bloc Quebecois cares about the survival of the airport and the social and economic development of the Laurentians. We have made several recommendations to the commission, including one asking the concerned authorities to finish building highway 13 as soon as possible in order to allow Mirabel to maintain the highest level of economic activity.

We have recommended that ADM, Aéroports de Montréal, try to attract companies to Mirabel and allow the use of the facilities at an attractive price. For Mirabel airport to achieve its full potential, it must diversify its economic operations and be given a multi-sectoral mandate.

We deplore the fact that the federal government is not on the Tardif commission, for it is responsible for the mess we are in.

*  *  *


Mr. Jean Dubé (Madawaska—Restigouche, PC): Mr. Speaker, at times I understand how people can become frustrated with politicians. Take for instance a matter I have raised in this House: the backlog of legal cases in the Restigouche region.

In this region, delays in court proceedings are so long that an extra judge should be appointed to turn the situation around. What are the Liberal politicians doing about it? They are passing the buck from one level of government to the other.

On February 18, the Minister of Justice of New Brunswick made the following comment “As you know, appointments to the Court of Queen's Bench are the responsibility of the federal government.”

In Ottawa, on March 19, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice made the following comment: “the matter is a provincial responsibility.”

While the two levels of government are busy washing their hands of the matter, delays at the Campbellton Court keep getting longer. The people of the Restigouche region are being denied their fundamental right to justice.

I urge the Minister of Justice to show leadership on this issue.

*  *  *



Mr. Joseph Volpe (Eglinton—Lawrence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform this House and all Canadians that March is kidney month.


. 1115 + -

The Kidney Foundation of Canada will again be focusing its effort on educating the public regarding the importance of organ donation.

An estimated 20,000 Canadians suffer from kidney failure. Millions of others suffer from kidney related disorders. For many Canadians a kidney transplant is their only option. Nearly 2,400 of 2,800 Canadians that were on the waiting list in 1996 were still waiting for kidney transplants by the end of that year. A strategy to improve organ donation and distribution was endorsed by federal, provincial and territorial health ministers.

I take this opportunity to encourage all Canadians to sign an organ donor card and to support the Kidney Foundation of Canada.




Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the government today chose to exclude half the victims of the hepatitis C tragedy from compensation. Twenty thousand victims minimum are being excluded from the compensation package.

I am going to give the government the opportunity to explain this to the Canadian public. Why does Pam Rasmussen of Nantom, Alberta, who got hepatitis C from contaminated blood in 1985 not get fair and just compensation?

Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member opposite has taken a very calm approach to a very serious problem.

Ever since the Krever commission submitted its report and even before, the Government of Canada, in collaboration with its provincial counterparts in the health departments, has taken an approach to deal with the issue on a fair and compassionate basis.

The package that is now before Canadians represents just such an approach. We hope people will take a look at the package as it is and address it in the very many positive points that it presents for victims of this tragedy.

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I am certain Pam Rasmussen will know that the parliamentary secretary did not answer my question about why she is excluded. This is a human tragedy, a major human tragedy, and the government is viewing it only as a public relations damage control issue.

We received a document from them which says that they are suppose to talk in compassionate terms but deliver nothing. I want to know why the lawyers in the government won out over those who surely must know that these victims deserve a compassionate, fair settlement.

Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, compassion and fairness are to be seen in the package itself. There is an offer on the table representing $1.1 billion that victims can access as well as an estimated value of $1.6 billion for services in addition to those that are regularly provided under Canada's health care system through the provinces.

This represents in my view a very fair and compassionate address to a problem that has been longstanding and that we want—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Macleod.

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the leaked strategy document says a huge amount to me. They know themselves that this compensation package is a failure. Why else would they try to exclude the victims from the microphone as the minister makes his announcement? Why else would they try to say to those victims “you cannot get anything if you were infected before 1985?”

Why did they choose a hard-hearted legal route rather than extending the warm hand of compassion to those unfortunate innocent victims?

Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is important to review some of the details of the package that are there for consideration.

It is true this represents a combined negotiated approach. All governments of Canada, all political parties of all stripes, have come together to put an offer on the table to address the needs of victims that were longstanding and were facing a long process in the courts.

We all agreed including stakeholders that—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Elk Island.

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, to this government the lives of some hepatitis C victims are worth less than those of others. If people were affected in one year they are eligible; it if was one year before they are not.


. 1120 + -

My uncle died just two months ago. He is one of the faceless names being callously dismissed. Why will the government not show some caring and compensate these victims fairly, instead of punishing them for dying at the wrong time?

Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I feel sorry for all those who have suffered from this terrible tragedy. However I think it is important that the member keep in mind that the estates of the victims who have since passed on are also eligible in the compensation package.

All governments of Canada of all political stripes have taken to heart the need to address this issue in the best possible fashion.

The member opposite ought to take a moment to reflect on the fact this is something extremely positive that all victims can access. Should they wish not—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Elk Island.

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are spending money on hiring public relations consultants and they are ignoring the victims. They have spent more time drafting damage control plans like the one that was leaked last night than they have consoling the dying.

Why will the government not compensate these victims instead of fighting them in court and turning off their microphones at press conferences?

Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said a moment ago, the compensation package that is on the table is one that all victims can access.

It is those victims who regrettably are limited to a time when we can identify the cause. Those who do not want to participate in that package are quite free to proceed in the courts.

I remind the member and all members in the House that there is a third party: all negotiated offers are subject to court approval. Those who prefer to go a different route still have that option.

*  *  *



Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on January 8, 1998, the auditor general informed the Minister of Canadian Heritage that he was not satisfied with the report submitted in December 1997 by Option Canada.

The minister then ordered a new report, which she received on March 20, but which was similar in every respect to the first one.

Knowing that the auditor general will not be pleased with the new report, since he already said that the December report was inadequate, will the minister now demand a comprehensive report to identify who got the contracts, at what time, to do what, and when?

Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I already provided the House with over 100 pages of information.

As soon as I received Option Canada's reply, I transmitted it to the hon. member and to the auditor general. I am fully satisfied that the requirements which had not been met originally have now been met and that the case is closed.

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is easy to make fun of taxpayers.

With the second report, we now know how much GST and QST Option Canada paid. It is the only difference between the two reports.

Will the minister pledge to ask for a new report that will answer the auditor general's question, which is “What was actually done, produced and achieved” by Option Canada?

Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the PQ and the BQ are always griping and this is unfortunate, because it is harmful to the Quebec and Canadian economies.

An hon. members: Troublemakers.

Hon. Sheila Copps: Yes, troublemakers. If so, since we provided all the information available, why did they not go after Bernard Landry, who never followed up on the request made by Jean-Marc Fournier regarding Plan O? Mr. Landry refused to provide any documents. These people are the ones who do everything in secret regarding Plan O. They are troublemakers.

Ms. Hélène Alarie (Louis-Hébert, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

We have a mystery. The minister sent us a copy of a letter she had sent to the home of Claude Dauphin, informing him that her officials had written his lawyer. This letter is undated and fewer than three lines long.

On March 20, Option Canada wrote to the minister and referred to another letter that is dated February 3 and contains a number of questions. What is behind this new mess?


. 1125 + -

Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have here a letter. Unfortunately, it is a letter that was written in Quebec City on November 28, 1996. It is addressed to Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt, the man responsible for the Commission sur l'accès à l'information.

The writer was trying to find out exactly what became of the billions that were spent, siphoned off, by Quebec finance minister, Bernard Landry. As things stand, they have been refusing for two years—

Mr. Richard Marceau: Answer the question.

Hon. Sheila Copps: —to give any information whatsoever, while we have provided over 100 pages to the Parliament of Canada.

Mr. Richard Marceau: Troublemaker.

Hon. Sheila Copps: They are the troublemakers.

Ms. Hélène Alarie (Louis-Hébert, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the deeper one looks, the murkier it gets.

Through her bungling, is the minister taking part in the cover-up that has been going on since 1995 and that was the reason the auditor general said on January 20 that, as long as everything is not out in the open, it will not be clear whether we are dealing with a simple administrative oversight or real misappropriation of funds?

Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, once again, all this party wants to do is stir up trouble.

Mr. Richard Marceau: Give us an answer.

Hon. Sheila Copps: If trouble is what they want, let them go to Minister Landry who, on December 19, 1996, used sections 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 37, 38 and 39 of the Access to Information Act to refuse to give any information whatsoever about the billions siphoned off for the sovereigntists' shady Plan O.

*  *  *



Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

The government refuses to hear the legitimate concerns of small depositors, small businesses and smaller communities on the megabank merger until after the task force on financial services reports.

In stark contrast the government rolls out the red carpet to the international financial elite. The government cannot wait to fast track the WTO deal thereby throwing open Canada's borders to foreign banks.

Why does the government hide behind the task force on financial services when it comes to the megabank concerns of Canadian citizens and Canadian communities but rushes to accommodate foreign banks?

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have a committee studying the problem and we are waiting for the recommendations. A few months ago banks wanted to have an approval right away and we said no, that they had to wait until we had a report and that in the light of the report we would make a decision.

It was very clear. They wanted to have an answer in the month of February and we said “No, wait until we are ready and we will be ready when the report comes to the government in the fall”.

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister conveniently ignored the question about fast tracking foreign banks.

If the financial services report is so important, why not defer the foreign banks issue as well until after the task force report?

Should we not consider foreign banks at the same that we consider the megabank merger? Why does the government not cool its jets on foreign banks legislation until after the financial services task force report, or are the interests of Canadian citizens and Canadian communities not as important to the government as the interests of foreign banks and financial elites?

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not know how the member concludes that sort of thing. At this time she says she is opposed to the merger but she wants more competition. If she wants more competition we should look at the possibility of having even more competition through accepting some foreign banks.

The committee is studying all that. If the member has some views to express she can go to the committee and her views, if they are good views, will be reflected when the committee of the House discusses these things.

*  *  *


Mr. Mark Muise (West Nova, PC): Mr. Speaker, on February 3, I wrote to the hon. minister about a decision to change the employment status of fishers and subsequent demand for retroactive CPP payments effective January 1, 1997. Subsequently I asked the minister to address this issue during question period. I even submitted another letter on March 12, yet there is no response.

Will the minister here and now commit to removing this retroactivity request and agree to negotiate a more suitable implementation date?

Hon. Ralph E. Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Human Resources Development I assure the hon. gentleman that his representations are being given serious consideration by the minister.

As I understand it, the minister has not been able to arrive at a final conclusion on the matter but he does intend to respond to the member at the earliest opportunity.


. 1130 + -

Mr. Mark Muise (West Nova, PC): Mr. Speaker, in the meantime boat owners will have to fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay Revenue Canada, leading to numerous layoffs.

The tax program is slated to end August 1998, leaving thousands of fishers and plant workers wondering how they are going to survive. Both the Harrigan report and the standing committee on fisheries report recommend the creation of a new post-TAGS program. Is the minister of fisheries seriously considering the creation of a post-TAGS program? If so, in what timeframe can we expect a response?

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member has raised an extremely important question which is being addressed by a committee of ministers headed up by the minister of human resources.

As the member is well aware, the issue is one that involves a large number of plant workers as well as a smaller number of actual fishermen. We hope we will be able to have that plan in place in good time before the expiry of the existing TAGS program in August of this year.

*  *  *


Mr. Mike Scott (Skeena, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, in the wake of the tragic shooting on the Tsuu T'ina reserve we asked the Indian affairs minister to investigate the social conditions on that reserve, the root cause of this tragedy and so much misery on reserves right across the country.

The minister, in keeping with her department's practice of denial and concealment, digs her heals in and refuses.

Can the minister tell this House and people on the Tsuu T'ina reserve why she is so opposed to a full public inquiry into the democratic, fiscal and social conditions on the Tsuu T'ina reserve?

Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, the minister of Indian affairs has not only engaged the Tsuu T'ina in the process, she has engaged the whole country in the process in terms of the follow-up to the aboriginal report on the royal commission.

If the member is really interested in healing and reconciliation he might follow the advice of the leadership of the aboriginal community that has said this process should be allowed to carry on in an independent fashion instead of pointing fingers in the way that unfortunately the Reform Party has politicized this tragedy.

Mr. Mike Scott (Skeena, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister is referring to the Liberal puppet.

The minister talks about responding to the royal commission's report. There were over 400 recommendations in that report and they have acted only a handful of them. There is not one shred of evidence that conditions on reserves in Canada are improving. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that conditions are getting worse.

What are they trying to hide? Why will they not commit here and now to a full investigation into all the conditions on that reserve that led to this terrible tragedy?

Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the tragic and sad thing is that the Reform Party does not understand what democracy really is.

Grand Chief Phil Fontaine was elected in a democratic election that was as democratic as the election that resulted in the member's unfortunate arrival in the House of Commons.

The member and his party would be well advised to look to the root causes of the healing process instead of imposing on the Indian community a $1 billion cut in program funding, the kind of cut they recommended in their last discussion paper.

*  *  *



Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, March 26, the Tardif Commission began to hold its hearings. This commission was created by the Government of Quebec in order to work with the public in seeking potential solutions to the mess created by the federal government at Mirabel airport over the years.

My question is for the Minister of Transport. Since ADM is not taking part in this commission, can the minister tell us why the federal government is not a full member of this commission, although it was formally invited?

Hon. David M. Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is well aware that the responsibility of Transport Canada toward the Montreal airports is restricted to matters of safety and security, and the administration of leases and regulations.

The regional development aspect is a matter for my colleague, the Secretary of State for Economic Development for the Regions of Quebec. He will be here Monday to answer questions.

At the present time, an observer has been appointed to the Commission, and this person will act as an observer for Transport Canada and for my colleague's Economic Development Agency for the Regions of Quebec.


. 1135 + -

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, they are passing the buck here.

I remind the minister that the federal government's responsibility in this mess is obvious.

If the government refuses to take part in the Tardif Commission, after pouring more than $250 million into Pearson airport in Toronto, can it at least commit to creating a compensation fund to facilitate getting Mirabel airport back on solid ground? That is all we are asking, not charity, just fair treatment.

Hon. David M. Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are always getting questions about fair treatment from members of the Bloc Quebecois.

They refer to Toronto, which has indicated its intention to make safety and general improvements, as have Calgary and Edmonton. If these things are necessary for Mirabel and Dorval, we are prepared to consider such improvements being subsidized by the federal government.

*  *  *



Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the fisheries minister tried to justify his discrimination against B.C. and Ontario of taxing them at four times the rate in Quebec for oil shipping. He called it an insurance policy against oil spills.

According to his own coast guard studies, the risk of an oil spill in Ontario is 13 times less likely than a spill in Quebec ports.

Why has he ignored his own experts, his own studies, just so he can continue taxing B.C. and Ontario at four times the rate of Quebec?

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the reason there is much less risk in Ontario compared to the river in the Laurentian region is exactly the same reason that the fees are higher. There is much less oil shipped in that region. That is why there is much less risk.

The hon. member should know that the amount of money in question is approximately one-fifth of a cent a litre for the 300,000 tonnes of fuel which come into Ontario. He should also recognize the impact of a major spill, if it occurred in the fresh water system in Ontario, what that might do to drinking water. He should recognize that and get up in the House an apologize for his—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Prince George—Peace River.

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, what this minister needs to recognize is the importance of equity across this land.

Ontario's consumer minister has also written to the fisheries minister complaining about this discrimination. Let us call it what it is. He says that Ontario finds it unacceptable that the federal government would consider a regime under which Ontario consumers would be required to subsidize consumers in other regions of the country.

How many more people have to call this practice discriminatory before the minister stops taxing Ontario and B.C. at four times the rate of Quebec?

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and the other member from the Reform who questioned this simply refuse to understand that in each region the costs are related to the charges made. There is no subsidy from region to region, none whatsoever.

It is entirely in Ontario. It is entirely private sector response organizations that we are talking about. There is no question of taxation.

If we were to risk having a major spill in the fresh waters of Ontario without having adequate response organizations to take care of it we would be totally irresponsible, as is the Reform Party.

*  *  *



Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment.

A few weeks ago, the Minister of the Environment said, in response to a question by my colleague from Rosemont, and I quote “the federal government is looking into investing more in renewable energies both in research and development and in our own energy consumption”.

How does the minister reconcile her statement with the fact that her government decided to cut by $7.2 billion its annual contribution to the Tokamak project in Varennes, which does research on nuclear fusion, the most promising form of renewable energy?


Hon. Christine Stewart (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in the context of climate change the government is doing an analysis and review with all our partners to see how we as a federal government can work with our partners to bring about new measures to reduce greenhouse gases.

We will be looking at all the mechanisms available to the federal government.


Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in this issue, the federal government is saying it wants to encourage the development and marketing of CANDU reactors, which are so unsafe that Ontario Hydro is forced to close a number of its reactors and contemplate using highly polluting generating stations.


. 1140 + -

In the light of the agreements Canada signed in Rio and Kyoto, will the minister acknowledge that the federal government has to reassess its strategies in the energy sector?


Hon. Ralph E. Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it first needs to be made clear that the hon. gentleman's references with respect to Candu are completely inaccurate and false.

The problem in Ontario was related to the management of Ontario Hydro. It had absolutely nothing to do with the technology of the Candu. In fact, the external consultants concluded that the Candu reactor technology is safe and robust.

With respect to the need to expand in terms of renewable energy, alternative sources of energy, co-generation projects and so forth, indeed those are very much a part of our agenda to deal with climate change—

The Speaker: The hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley.

*  *  *


Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday for the second time in a year the same search and rescue Labrador helicopter had to ditch in the Strait of Georgia.

Fortunately for the six personnel aboard, the Labradors float better than they fly and no one was seriously injured.

Are falling helicopters and automated lighthouses true reflections of this government's commitment to west coast marine safety?

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Labrador did indeed ditch but there is only minor damage. I am also pleased to say that nobody was injured. There is a full investigation now going on.

We make sure that any aircraft we put in the air is as safe as it possibly can be. There are incidents that occur but we cut down on the possibility considerably by the fact that we have a high standard of maintenance.

The hon. member should also recognize that we have decided to purchase new helicopters and some of these will be stationed on the west coast in B.C.

Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, words are cheap and when it comes to protecting Canada's west coast so is this government.

Falling helicopters, automated lighthouses, closing CFB Chilliwack, snubbing B.C.'s Seaforth Highlanders for not being Canadian enough are examples of how this government really feels about British Columbia.

Why does this government have more military personnel overlooking the Rideau Canal than it has on the west coast of this country?

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, that is simply not true. We have highly professional and dedicated people in sufficient numbers to ensure that the kind of service that needs to be provided in British Columbia by the Canadian forces is present in that province.

*  *  *



Mr. René Laurin (Joliette, BQ): Mr. Speaker, rutabaga producers have been using the herbicide DUAL according to the manufacturer's instructions.

However, agronomists have confirmed that the use of this herbicide was the cause of their loss of over half a million dollars.

What measures does the minister intend to take to prevent the use of this herbicide from continuing to cause considerable losses to producers, who believe in the effectiveness of government controls?


Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member did not make clear the specific herbicide he was talking about. We certainly know there is a registration program for herbicides to be used legally by producers in Canada. If there is a problem with the registration of a specific herbicide I would certainly be pleased to know that and I will work with the producers so they can have all the management tools they can possibly have to be efficient and profitable.

*  *  *


Ms. Susan Whelan (Essex, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, tourism is the major source of employment in all regions of our country. British Columbia especially benefits from visitors from countries in Asia.

What is this Liberal government doing, in spite of the Asian financial crisis, to encourage travel and tourism and to create jobs in British Columbia?

Mr. Walt Lastewka (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as members know, the Canadian Tourism Commission, in partnership with the private sector, has been working hard on tourism. Unfortunately some countries in Asia have had difficulty but countries like Taiwan and Singapore have held steady despite the financial crisis.

In addition, there have been projects approved in British Columbia. The latest project I know of is the Anderson—Knowles agreement in the city of Prince Rupert to the tune of $250,000. There is a Canadian Tourism Commission project of $1.25 million over three years for promoting tourism in British Columbia.

*  *  *


. 1145 + -


Mr. Darrel Stinson (Okanagan—Shuswap, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday we asked the Indian affairs minister to appoint a judge to look into the tragic deaths on the Tsuu T'ina reserve near Calgary. She ignored our suggestions. She said the government already had the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and it did not have to investigate any more. That commission produced 400 recommendations but the report has been on the shelf gathering dust.

What specific recommendations from that report is the government applying to the Tsuu T'ina reserve?

Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, obviously the member should take the time to read the government's response to the royal commission. We are working very hard with all of the players, including the leadership of the national organization and the regional organization.

An hon. member: More money for the chief.

Hon. Sheila Copps: The member yells out “more money for the chief”. I find it passing strange that in the Reform Party's last document on aboriginal peoples it planned on cutting $1 billion from programming that was going to help with housing, help with fetal alcohol syndrome and help with a number of the social problems they are facing. The Reform Party did not support the recommendations.

Mr. Derrek Konrad (Prince Albert, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, this standoff and shooting, the Bruce Starlight affair and the poverty on the Tsuu T'ina reserve are symptoms of ongoing problems that need a solution now.

My question is for the Minister of Indian Affairs. If she will not appoint a judge, what specific recommendations from the royal commission will be used to solve the current crisis facing people on the reserve? Will she act before the next tragedy occurs?

Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this is the sad thing about the Reform Party. When there is a human tragedy it tries to exploit it for political purposes.

I refer the Reform Party to an editorial in the Toronto Star where it says: “It can be a short, frightening step from a police shooting on a native reserve to an eruption of violent anger. That is why it is heartening to see Ottawa and Alberta responding quickly in this week's fatal shooting of a woman and her son”.

The Reform Party would be well advised to look at the broader issues and to try and work with aboriginal people instead of pointing the finger at a chief and individual and cutting a billion dollars of programming from aboriginal peoples' housing and social delivery.

*  *  *



Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP): Mr. Speaker, this government is treating people living with disabilities in a heartless manner. Bill C-2 will ensure that fewer and fewer Canadians receive disability pensions.

Implementation of these regressive policies will ensure that thousands of Canadians will find themselves forced to wait close to two years for a final decision on their applications for disability pension. Enough is enough.

My question is for the Prime Minister. When will this government stop taking advantage of the most vulnerable in society, and start speeding up the process for obtaining disability pensions?


Hon. Ralph E. Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in the last Parliament a very distinguished initiative was led by a member of this government who is now the solicitor general in producing a detailed analysis of many of the issues affecting disabled Canadians.

The results of that report were in evidence in the 1997 budget. They were in evidence again in the 1998 budget. The government takes those issues seriously. Many, many disabled organizations in this country have applauded these initiatives on behalf of disabled Canadians.

*  *  *


Mr. Gordon Earle (Halifax West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence.

The alternative service delivery process of the Department of National Defence has wreaked havoc on the community of Goose Bay, Labrador. Will the minister place a moratorium on any further ASD activity until there has been an audit by the auditor general and a thorough assessment by the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs of the social and economic impact on the communities where ASD has already taken place?

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not agree with the preamble to the question. What is at stake here is the survival of Goose Bay and we have been able to save it. We have been able to cut our costs down to make the operation more efficient and effective and at the same time to treat people in a fair and humane way. That is what this is about. We have less resources now in national defence. We want to make sure that we use those resources for our core functions and that we use those resources in the most efficient and effective way. That is what we are doing here and that is what we will continue to do in other parts of the country.


. 1150 + -

We will consult with our employees. We will consult with the unions. We will make sure we do it in a fair and humane way.

*  *  *



Mr. André Harvey (Chicoutimi, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transport.

I know the minister is involved in drawing up a new national highways policy.

I would like the minister to confirm whether there will be a federal-provincial conference in connection with this new national policy. I would also like him to take a few seconds to indicate the importance he attaches to it.

Hon. David M. Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the federal government has contributed to the construction of highways since the first world war.

As the hon. member knows, Canadian highways are a provincial responsibility. Discussions are going to be held with my provincial counterparts on a plan for continuation of funding. In May, a meeting will be held in Edmonton to discuss this.

Mr. André Harvey (Chicoutimi, PC): Mr. Speaker, in a speech last November 17 in Toronto, the minister stated that he was in favour of new major national toll-free highway projects and an examination of the potential for constructive collaboration between the federal, provincial and private sector.

I would like the minister to indicate to me if, for instance, he considers it important to upgrade the highway between the metropolitan Quebec and Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean regions, as a major pilot project, thus allowing us to link two large and important regions of this country? Unfortunately, the Government of Quebec is still turning a deaf ear to any new approach.

Hon. David M. Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am well aware of the very specific concerns the hon. member has about highway 175 in his riding.

Provinces have priorities, the province of Quebec in this case, but I am sure that partnerships in highway construction will be considered.

I believe it is a good idea to involve the private sector in their construction, and I am pleased that the hon. member supports the concept of partnering with the private sector to build highways.

*  *  *



Mr. Benoît Serré (Timiskaming—Cochrane, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources.

British Columbia's forest industry is in trouble. Logging levels and foreign exports are down. B.C. mills and workers are idle.

What is the federal government doing to address these issues facing this most important Canadian industry?

Hon. Ralph E. Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, forestry management practices per se are a provincial responsibility but there is an important federal role particularly with respect to science and technology and trade.

I am happy to say that typically the Government of Canada invests its natural resources research budget on a regional basis. With respect to science and technology, 16% in total flows to the province of British Columbia. Last year it was $34 million for important projects.

On trade, I am working with the industry, with union leadership, with the province and with foreign governments and buyers to secure the greatest amount of market access for British Columbia forest products, access that is not only stable for the present time but growing for the future.

*  *  *


Mr. Eric Lowther (Calgary Centre, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, studies show how important the parent-child bond is for the long term health of Canadian children. A national poll indicated that 94% of Canadians are concerned about the lack of time they have to spend with their offspring.

Many parents would like to stay home and raise their children if they could afford to do it, but this government overtaxes them if they do. Only third party child care expenses can be deducted and the last budget increased this by 35% while ignoring homemakers.

When will this government stop its discriminatory tax policies which undermine many Canadian families?

Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we understand that this is a priority of many members of this House.

We have to recognize that we have taken steps in past budgets in order to recognize the very real burden that homes bear, particularly those where one person is working and another is not. For example in our last budget we took 400,000 taxpayers right off the roles. We reduced the taxes for 14 million Canadians, or 90% of all taxpayers. Through the national child tax benefit we are putting funds directly into the area where we think they are most needed, to those families where—


. 1155 + -

The Speaker: The hon. member for Matapédia—Matane.

*  *  *



Mr. René Canuel (Matapédia—Matane, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has requested that the closing of the coast guard radio station in the Magdalen Islands scheduled for March 31 be postponed.

Given that no serious study has shown the closing to be justified, is the minister prepared to postpone this closing and take the time to consult with fishers and those who use the station?


Hon. David Anderson (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, before the decision was made some months ago we carried out extensive consultations with all stakeholders. We also did an extensive analysis of the technology involved. In this instance there is no loss of jobs. People will be moved as we consolidate at Rivière-au-Renard.

While I respect the committee's report, in essence it came too late to vary the decision that was made.

*  *  *


Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, at this very moment, 250 workers at AECL Pinawa are being handed this letter which says “It is with sincere regret that I inform you that your employment with AECL will terminate on March 31, 1998”. This is every worker's worst nightmare. The layoff freeze lifted on Wednesday. On Friday they get their pink slips. On Tuesday another 250 Canadians will be out on the street.

The sale of AECL has been delayed. What is the urgency to dump these workers with one day's notice? What happened to the election promises that Ottawa would take care of these workers? What is the minister doing to help these workers whose lives are being turned upside down by this government's downsizing frenzy?

Hon. Ralph E. Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it was less than a week ago that this very member asked me in this House to ensure that the workers who would be laid off at Pinawa would be protected under the government's early retirement incentive program. In order to make sure those workers were protected under that program it was a legal requirement that they be notified with respect to their layoff status no later than March 31.

The notices which have been served are for the very purpose of ensuring that the affected workers can benefit from the maximum amount of protection available under the programs of AECL and under the early retirement incentive program.

The Speaker: The hon. member for St. John's West.

*  *  *


Mr. Charlie Power (St. John's West, PC): Mr. Speaker, the recent fisheries committee report recommended that Canada “immediately adopt a position that there are no fish in excess of Canada's needs anywhere inside of our 200-mile zone on either coast”. Under present international agreements this government is still trading away Canadian fish and with them, Canadian jobs.

Will the minister of fisheries immediately accept this recommendation? Will he table a list of all international agreements that involve the trading away of Canadian fish?

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the policy of the government is to Canadianize to the greatest extent possible our eastern Canadian fisheries. As a result we have moved the foreign take within the 200-mile limit from over 380,000 tonnes down to approximately 2,000 tonnes in the most recent year. In other words it is now half to one per cent of what it previously was.

There is no fishing by any foreign vessel within our 200-mile limit unless Canadians have been offered those fish. Only when they refuse is that fishery opened up to foreign vessels under international agreements. They are the same international agreements that allow us—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle.

*  *  *



Mr. Robert Bertrand (Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence.

During the January ice storm, Canadians again saw the exemplary work of our soldiers. During its hearings, however, the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs was informed that their salaries were not high enough to meet their families' basic needs.

What is the Liberal government doing to ensure that members of the armed forces are adequately paid?


. 1200 + -


Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I applaud the hon. member and the committee for the fine work they are doing. The government is listening.

I am pleased to advise the House today that there will be two adjustments to pay made for our services personnel effective April 1. One deals with a catch-up with public service salary rates of 1.2% and the other is an economic increase of some 2%.

This means that over the past two years, accumulatively, the increases have been 9.3% for non-commissioned members and 9.4% for general service officers.

*  *  *


Mr. Lee Morrison (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I share the concerns of Canadian taxpayers who cannot help but wonder if the ministerial musings of the Minister of Transport about the need for public-private partnerships to revitalize the passenger rail system might be just another excuse to scratch the back of a Liberal friendly company.

I would like to know just what the plans on the table are for a sweetheart deal for that perpetual Liberal darling, Bombardier.

Hon. David M. Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's imagination is running away with itself.

He is a member of the Standing Committee on Transport which is looking at this very issue. The government does not have a fixed agenda.

What we want is to make sure that the passenger rail system in Canada is financed in such a way that we can continue the high standards we have had over recent years, while allowing the taxpayers to get off the hook in terms of the refinancing of capital projects such as rolling stock.

If the hon. member has any ideas, he should present them at the committee. I know there are lots of companies that would be interested in this change.

*  *  *



Mrs. Claudette Bradshaw (Moncton, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is Friday and we have a staff person upstairs, Big Bob, who is retiring today. I thought it would be nice for the Chamber to wish him good luck. He has been excellent to us and to the staff. I thought, since it is Friday, we might want to wish him all the best.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.




Mr. Peter Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to table in the House today, in both official languages, a number of Order in Council appointments which were made recently by the government.

Pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 110(1), these are deemed referred to the appropriate standing committees, a list of which is attached.

*  *  *


. 1205 + -


Mr. Peter Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 15 petitions.

*  *  *



Mr. John McKay (Scarborough East, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.


Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, November 4, 1997, your committee has considered Bill C-3, an act respecting DNA identification and to make consequential amendments to the Criminal Code and other acts. Your committee has agreed to report it with amendments.

May I add that this was an all-party committee and that all members of the House worked very hard on the report.

*  *  *



Mr. Bill Gilmour (Nanaimo—Alberni, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I am pleased to present two petitions from concerned citizens in my riding of Nanaimo—Alberni.

The first petition calls upon Parliament to support the immediate initiation and conclusion by the year 2000 of an international convention to set out a binding timetable for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.


Mr. Bill Gilmour (Nanaimo—Alberni, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, in the second petition the petitioners call upon Parliament to remove the GST from books, magazines and newspapers. They also ask the Prime Minister to carry out his party's repeated promise to remove the federal sales tax from reading materials.


Mr. John Cummins (Delta—South Richmond, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from people in my constituency who want to draw to the attention of Parliament the fact that one in eight men will suffer from prostate cancer and that one-third of those sufferers will die of the disease.

It is noted here that the cost of treating prostate cancer in men is approximately $250 billion annually and that some of the best research is being done in very inadequate circumstances.

It is noted, as well, that the opinion of several Vancouver researchers is that $1 per Canadian is not too much to ask for prostate cancer research. It would go a long way toward defeating the disease.

*  *  *



Mr. Peter Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, today we will be answering Question No. 5. .[Text] Mr. Chuck Strahl:

    With regard to the moment when chronometers in all federal Government information systems change from the year 1999 to the year 2000, (a) what is now being done and what will be done to prepare for this moment, (b) can the government assure the public that there will be no loss of data, no interruption in service or other systems malfunction, and (c) what is the estimated cost ensuring that computers will be able to cope effectively with the change of millennium?

Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): a) The federal government has defined the year 2000 compliance issue as a high government priority and is working aggressively on all fronts to monitor the level of year 2000 readiness within departments, implement common initiatives and encourage action.

In 1996, the chief information officer, CIO, project office was established within Treasury Board secretariat, TBS, to co-ordinate and monitor activity across all federal government departments and agencies. In September of 1997, a government industry task force was formed under the Minister of Industry to help Canadian industry address this unique challenge. The task force is chaired by Jean Monty, chief executive officer of Nortel, and includes representatives from a number of key economic sectors including banking, insurance, transportation, manufacturing, telecommunications, information technology, small and medium size business, agriculture, and the retail and service sectors.

The CIO year 2000 project office has completed two comprehensive, government-wide surveys and a third one is in progress. The results of the second survey indicate that all departments are aware of the issue and all departments with government-wide mission critical, GWMC, systems have active year 2000 plans in place. Additionally, the level of readiness within government is consistent with accepted industry standards, and many departments are even further advanced.

b) The CIO year 2000 project office is committed to ensuring that key federal government systems will continue the delivery of essential services to the Canadian public and its businesses, beyond the year 2000. Defined as government-wide mission critical, GWMC, these systems have a direct impact on the health, safety, security and economic well-being of Canadians, and are the government's first priority.

Departments are responsible for all year 2000 repair, testing and replacement work of their systems, but in order to ensure that there is no interruption of services, departments will be asked to provide full contingency plans for any systems that are deemed at possible risk by fall of 1998. At present, however, the focus and number one priority of the government is to ensure that departments complete the necessary repair and replacement work on GWMC systems.

c) The Government of Canada recognizes that not addressing the year 2000 challenge could result in significant costs to Canadian taxpayers. Treasury Board secretariat estimates that the price tag for federal government year 2000 compliance will be $1 billion. The total federal information tehcnology, IT, budget is $3 billion to $4 billion annually and it is anticipated that the majority of the $1 billion required for the year 2000 effort is being drawn from existing budgets during the conversion period.


Mr. Peter Adams: I suggest that the other questions be allowed to stand.


Mr. John Cummins (Delta—South Richmond, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have some answers which are long overdue. On October 28 Question No. 31 was asked, which was regarding the dropping of charges against the minister's friends in the Oak Bay Marine Group. That answer is still outstanding.

On December 2 Question No. 56 was asked, again concerning the Oak Bay Marine Group. I wonder when I can expect a response on those matters.

Mr. Peter Adams: Mr. Speaker, I have noted the numbers that the member mentioned and I will look into it as quickly as I can.

I would point out that we have received roughly 800 questions to this point. We have replied to well over half of them, but I understand the member's concern and I will look into it as soon as I can.

Mr. John Cummins: Mr. Speaker, there is a deadline for responding to questions.

I have another question, Question No. 51, which was asked on December 1, 1997. We asked for a list of aboriginal groups which received communal fishing licences or other authorization to fish, excluding commercial fishing licences of the same type issued to all Canadian commercial fleets in British Columbia and I have had no response to that one as well.


. 1210 + -

Mr. Peter Adams: Mr. Speaker, I have noted Questions Nos. 31, 56 and 51. I will do my best to see what is happening to them.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): Is it agreed that the remaining questions be allowed to stand?

Some hon. members: Agreed.





The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, an act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and to repeal the Grain Futures Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): When debate was suspended the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River had approximately 16 minutes remaining on his time.

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, when I was interrupted by question period I was relating to the House the potential magnitude of the Palliser Grain receivership disaster and I was trying to enlighten some members.

I know from the heckling that constantly comes every time I stand to speak in this Chamber that there are some members across the way who do not wish to be enlightened about what farmers are saying in Saskatchewan, Alberta or anywhere else for that matter. They have a problem with it.

I was relating the story about the Saskatchewan forum which was hosted by the eight Reform MPs from that province. I was approached in my role as the official opposition agriculture critic. I was approached by a number of farmers who had concerns about the Palliser Grain Company going into receivership.

Some of these farmers are facing very substantial losses if they are not covered by the existing bond or if they are not covered by a trust fund that has been set up for some deferred payments and which we have scanty details about.

I would like to explain the process for deferred payments. When farmers deliver their product—and this applies to special crops as well as other commodities—they can defer payment to sometime in the future. It helps them to regulate their cash flow and even it out in different parts of the year.

My understanding is that under the present regulations, in order to be covered, the maximum amount of time a farmer can have his product stored with a company is 90 days. Then they have up to 30 days to cash the cheque. They basically have 120 days in which to get paid. If they do not fall within that framework of 120 days, in other words, if their product has been in storage for longer than that period of time, when a company goes into receivership it is questionable whether they will receive remuneration for their stored products.

Furthermore, my understanding is that government changed the rules in or about August 1995. Prior to that farmers were covered up to one year if they had products stored with a company. That was changed and shortened to 120 days.

It brings to light this issue: Is the onus entirely on the farmer to ensure that when he sells his product to a company he is going to be covered in this type of situation? Or is there some responsibility on the part of government to ensure that the farmer is made aware that these types of changes have taken place or that there is some increased risk involved with deferring payment?

It brings to light the whole issue of the buyer beware type of scenario. In this case we have the situation of seller beware, where the farmer has to recognize the extent of the risk he is taking.


. 1215 + -

In fairness to the farmers in the Palliser Grain situation, it is quite likely a lot of them did not understand that the insurance bond which Palliser Grain was required under legislation to carry did not cover them past the 120 days. It is certainly my hope and I believe the hope of all members that the issue can be resolved favourably for the farmers and that the trust fund which was set up for deferred payments will be sufficient to cover all those farmers who had product on storage with Palliser.

The reason why I am relaying this story is directly linked to one of the major reasons for Bill C-26, the whole issue of grain buyers and grain buying companies carrying insurance against the disaster of having gone broke or having gone into receivership, and whether the responsibility should rest entirely with the farmers or if there is some inherent responsibility on the part of government to carry some of that risk.

One of the points I made during my speech is that under the present way that Bill C-26 is structured there will be no competition in providing that insurance. The farmers who have approached me are quite concerned about the future risk of premiums being increased. They are also concerned about the fact that it is a levy. Although the parliamentary secretary said that it is voluntary, there are hoops that the farmer has to jump through. He has to wait until the end of the year to opt out. He has to maintain his records to see exactly how much levy he has paid. He then has to total this up and request that money he paid into the levy fund from the governing body.

While it is technically true that it is a voluntary process, it is, as I said in my speech, really negative option billing. The farmer has no choice because it is deducted off his cheque when he actually sells his product to the special grains buying agent.

I would just like to sum up by saying that the official opposition is constantly in a bit of a quandary when it comes to supporting or opposing certain pieces of legislation. All Canadians recognize that most of the legislation that is placed before this House has certain good merits to it. However, we are constantly having to decide whether it is more than 50% good or more than 50% bad and what position we should take.

I do not have the exact numbers but I think in the last Parliament, which was the first Parliament for me as a member of Parliament, the Reform Party supported the government's legislation about half the time. It may be a little more or a little less, but I think it was half the time. I believe we ended up supporting about half the bills that came through this place.

In this case, as I relayed in my opening remarks on Bill C-26, we are caught in the middle of this at this point in time. We are not sure whether to support it right now. There are some good things in it. As the parliamentary secretary indicated in his remarks, farmers, grain buyers and other stakeholders in the industry have been requesting this for quite some time. Whether this is the exact approach to take we do not know at this point. We are certainly interested in getting a lot more feedback as we go through the process.

Some of these comments which I have quoted from the various organizations and farmers run exactly opposite to each other but I wanted to demonstrate to members of this House that we as parliamentarians have our work cut out for us with Bill C-26. The feedback represents only a fraction of the input that we can expect to receive on this legislation. Yet it is already obvious that there is a great deal of skilful legislative work required.

We will need to carefully listen, thoroughly examine, look for compromise and, in the end, be able to tell farmers that we have done our jobs and done our jobs well.


. 1220 + -

This is what I want to tell the farmers when Bill C-26 completes its journey through the parliamentary process. I hope this government does not make that effort a futile one.


Ms. Hélène Alarie (Louis-Hébert, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-26, an act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and to repeal the Grain Futures Act.

As the new agriculture and agri-food critic for my party, I want to assure you that I will certainly be separating the wheat from the chaff.

We are again debating a bill that concerns only part of Canada, the prairies. What, however, is at the heart of this bill? The summary of the text reads as follows, and I quote:

    This enactment establishes a licensing system and an insurance plan for the special crops industry in Western Canada. It provides for the licensing of all buyers of special crops and for the voluntary participation of producers in the insurance plan, which protects them against default of payment for special crops by licensees. Outstanding payments for standard crops will continue to be protected by security given by standard crops dealers to the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC).

After a summary examination of this highly technical and specialized bill, I will most certainly be a participant in the debate bearing in mind the best interests of farmers and farming and recognizing that this bill does not concern Quebec farmers. This is the reason my speech will be brief. I am not particularly concerned with a matter that is of interest only to western farmers. I feel quite outside this debate, particularly having heard the previous speeches, including that of my predecessor, the member for Prince George—Peace River.

The most important clause in this bill is clause 7. This clause provides for the establishment of an insurance plan, and I quote:

      —to insure producers of special crops who are holders of cash purchase tickets—

    —elevator receipts—

    —or grain receipts against the refusal or failure of licensees to meet their payment or delivery obligations under the receipt or ticket.

If such a regime were to become law, this would allow a licence holder with an elevator operator or grain dealer licence to receive statutory levies from producers delivering special crops.

He would then remit the levies to the agent, who would use them to pay any premiums owed to the insurer, any expenses related to the administration of the insurance plan and any remuneration or reimbursement of expenses to which a member of the Special Crops Advisory Committee may be entitled under subsection 49.02(4).

The difficulty lies in section 49.02, which consists of four subsections setting out how the advisory committee is to be formed. The first subsection allows the minister to establish an advisory committee by naming nine members for a renewable term not exceeding three years. Is this not a way of making political appointments?


. 1225 + -

Would it not be better for these positions to be elected ones, especially since the committee is mandated to present recommendations regarding the designation of special crops and the selection of a person or organization as agent or insurer, and to advise the minister on any other issues concerning special crops? This could easily become a conflict of interest.

Moreover, the majority of the members of the committee must be “special crops producers who are not special crops dealers, grain dealers or operators of primary elevators”. In other words, they cannot be traders. I add this comment because the wording of the bill in French is rather ambiguous on this.

In addition, members's remuneration is also fixed by the minister. The agent must also reimburse them for any reasonable travel and living expenses incurred by them in the course of their duties while absent from their ordinary places of residence.

It can be seen that a number of questions arise concerning clause 7, particularly subsection 49.02 and its paragraphs. Other clauses also require some clarification, and this will be forthcoming, I trust, before we vote on this bill.

I will, therefore, be on the lookout for the slightest comment from farmers on this bill, for they are the ones who must benefit from it first and foremost.


Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-26, legislation to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and to repeal the Grain Futures Act.

This legislation makes amendments to two acts and repeals a third. It is really a rather detailed and complex piece of legislation. In briefings from the minister of agriculture's staff we were told this bill is of a non-controversial and only housekeeping nature. But looking closely at it we found something very negative and unsavoury about the bill.

The bill will now go to committee and frankly if we do not see some changes at that stage our party will have no choice but to vote against the bill at third reading.

At the outset I seriously question whether this legislation is really what the special crops industry wants. The minister has provided us with some information that indicates a long period of consultation on this question, and in fact the consultations go way back to 1993 and straddled the last federal election.

One might well ask what has changed in the past five years, and we ask whether these old and dated assumptions are a true reflection of what farmers and the industry truly wants today.

Before I get to what we consider to be the major defects of Bill C-26 I will summarize the government's stated intent for the legislation. First, we were told these amendments to the Canada Grain Act are intended to set up a licensing system for those businesses that purchase special crops from farmers.

Second, the legislation would allow creation of an insurance plan for the special crops industry. Third, the bill would repeal the Grain Futures Act, allowing responsibility for regulating the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange to revert to the Manitoba Securities Commission. The exchange is now regulated by the Canadian Grain Commission.

Bill C-26 applies only to western Canada because it relates to the jurisdiction exercised by the Grain commission in administering the Canada Grain Act, which does not generally apply in eastern Canada. This legislation applies to special crops. These crops include beans, buckwheat, peas, corn, faba beans, lentils, mustard seed, safflower, soybeans and sunflower seed.

Special crops are of growing importance to farmers and to the economy of western Canada. The so-called grain wars of the 1980s are painful memories in the minds of many farmers. The United States and the European community used their immense treasuries to subsidize the production and sale of wheat and other major grains. This subsidization drove down world prices and drove thousands of western Canadian farmers off their land.


. 1230 + -

We believe that farmers responded very creatively to this situation. One way in which they did so was to diversify into peas, lentils, sunflower seeds and other special crops. We in the NDP caucus are most supportive of any measures that will enhance the ability of farmers to prosper from growing and marketing their special crops.

We also support measures that would put the entire special crops industry on a firmer financial footing. The government claims the legislation will do that but my caucus and I are not convinced that it will.

The questions that have to be asked are these. Does the legislation benefit farmers and the entire special crops industry? If there are benefits, what will they ultimately cost? The answers to these questions give us great cause for concern.

Bill C-26 is based on a number of premises. One of them is that the businesses which most often purchase special crops from farmers are small firms that are frequently not licensed. The reason posited for this is that the security required from special crops dealers in order to cover their payment obligation to producers has forced small companies to avoid taking out licences.

In turn, this puts the producers who sell to these companies at risk if a company goes bankrupt or cannot meet its payment. A further argument is that this uncertainty has limited the potential growth of the industry because it has prevented farmers from getting into special crop production in a bigger way. The larger elevator companies that buy grains like wheat and barley naturally are licensed by the Canadian Grain Commission. Of course this is important to Canada's reputation as a reliable supplier of high quality grain.

The grain commission has the power to ensure that these large companies are always in a position to meet their payments to farmers who sell to them. The commission also has the power to ask companies to secure bonds and can impose penalties on companies should they renege on these payments to farmers.

The argument is made that regulations which make sense for large grain companies are not appropriate for smaller companies that purchase special crops. For example, the government says that Bill C-26 would remove the onus on special crop dealers to post costly bonds against the possibility of their defaulting in payments to producers. It has been argued that this is difficult, if not impossible, for small companies to post large security bonds and that consequently many of them simply are not licensed.

Bill C-26 proposes a licensing system for these smaller companies. In return for their being licensed they would not have to post large security bonds. The legislation also allows the Canadian Grain Commission to impose penalties and fines on these smaller companies for violations of the Canada Grain Act.

The legislation allows the grain commission to be more flexible and less punitive in the way it treats smaller grain companies in the event that they contravene the Canada Grain Act.

The government says that a system of licensing developed specifically for the purchasers of special crops will encourage development of the industry. We in the NDP support the development of the industry but question whether the legislation will achieve that end.

A second and related component of the legislation is a program that will insure farmers against non-payment by the businesses buying their special crops. The government says that the program is voluntary but in actual fact it is not. It is here that we begin to have some serious problems and I would like to go into them in some detail.

In clause 7 of the bill the government decrees that all special crops producers must pay an insurance levy on all crops sold to licensed dealers. Farmers have to pay this levy. Whether or not they want to participate in the insurance program they have to pay this check off at source. They have no choice about this.

The government calls this a voluntary insurance program, but it is anything but voluntary if it is a mandatory contribution at the front end. In fact it amounts to sort of a negative option billing plan in actual fact, the same kind of plan that outraged Canadians when cable television companies tried to implement this a few years back.

Farmers will have to provide notice at the beginning of the crop year if they do not want to belong to this insurance plan. Even if they give that notice in writing farmers still have to pay the insurance levy at the front end. It is only at the end of the crop year and after doing a lot of paperwork and legal wrangling that farmers would get their money back.

As I understand it, they will not receive interest on the money being held by the government that they paid at the front end and have to wait to be refunded at the back end. This type of negative option billing is simply unacceptable to farmers.


. 1235 + -

Our agriculture critic is already getting calls of protest from farmers who are beginning to twig to how the plan is really unfolding. We are not satisfied that these measures are really what the industry wants or needs. Certainly it is not what the farmers who have been coming forward want or need.

Bill C-4 proposes a check-off on grain deliveries to pay for a wheat board contingency fund. The proposed fund is extremely unpopular with farmers. They cannot afford the check-off. They do not see the need for it. They do not want to pay for it. Now the same government is proposing yet another check-off, compounding and piggybacking the other check-offs farmers pay. This time it is for special crops.

All this is in addition to the millions of dollars being collected by government from farmers in the name of cost recovery. Farmers are paying twice for the increasing number of services they need: once through their taxes and again through cost recovery. These are some of the problems we see with these measures.

Our caucus urges the minister to scrap his plans for this negative option insurance plan in the special crops industry. I will read with great alarm some material from the minister's office dated November 7, 1997. Page 4 of that document reads “The insurance plan could serve as a model for standard crops in the future and could lead to a producer funded insurance system for all crops produced in western Canada”.

Rather than listening to the opposition to the plan, the minister seems to feel it is some kind of model or prototype he would like to expand from special crops to standard crops in the future. This is seriously alarming to our caucus.

We sincerely hope the minister is not planning to extend his special crops insurance plan to all grains in western Canada. Surely he cannot be so out of touch that he would propose an entirely producer funded and negative option insurance program on all grains. If the minister attempts to do this we suggest that he will face an out and out revolt by farmers.

Bill C-26 repeals the Grain Futures Act which clears the way for the Manitoba Securities Commission to assume responsibility for regulating the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange. The exchange wants to trade commodities other than grains and wants the regulatory system to reflect this reality.

This is a logical request. It is time for the province of Manitoba to be given power to regulate the exchange rather than have it done by the Canadian Grain Commission as the case has been. We support this part of the legislation but it is unfortunately bundled with a larger legislative package that we cannot accept in its present form.

When he introduced Bill C-26 last December the minister said that it would provide a boon to rural economic development. I do not believe that a negative option insurance program will create rural economic development. Nothing in the arguments put forward by the government to date has altered that point of view on our part.

Let us look beyond the bill and ask what the government is doing to promote rural Canada. We need to look no further than the budget that was introduced in the House on February 24. The budget speech was entirely silent on agriculture. It is significant to note that the minister spoke for 90 minutes and did not once utter the word agriculture. I find that very revealing. In a 275 page budget document which was tabled as he spoke there were a mere 16 lines about rural Canada. Most of that space was devoted to reminding us that the minister had provided additional money to the Farm Credit Corporation, not this year but last year.

The only current agricultural spending mentioned in the budget speech is $20 million spread over five years throughout several government departments. The federal government spending in support of the agriculture and agri-food sector has declined drastically throughout this decade. This year's budget confirms even further cuts.

The Liberals are dismantling rural Canada, closing post offices and allowing the railways to double freight rates on grain and to tear up their branchlines. They have forgotten rural Canadians.

One might ask what the minister of agriculture has been doing to represent the interests of rural Canadians at the cabinet table. The answer would appear to be not very much. Now he is promoting a negative option insurance plan as a project for rural development. Not only that. He is saying he might extend such a plan to cover all grains grown and marketed in western Canada.

In all of this the minister is trying to pass Bill C-26 off as a mere housekeeping bill. It is much more than that. Unless there are significant changes to the bill we will work against it and we will vote against it.


. 1240 + -

Mr. Bob Kilger (Stormont—Dundas, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions with representatives of all parties and I believe you would find consent for the following motion:  

    That, at the conclusion of today's debate on a motion for second reading of Bill C-26, the question shall be deemed put and adopted on division.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): The House has heard the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, before I go home for the weekend I want to correct the concept we heard from the government side regarding dynamic rural communities and dynamic agriculture and that somehow they were building rural communities. In the area in which I live nothing could be further from the truth.

I have seen villages disappear. Towns will soon disappear. Elevators are being bulldozed. Railroads are being torn up. Just to show how undynamic it is, seven farms were auctioned off the last weekend I was home. Four of them had young people in the same family that could take over the farm but because of the bleak agricultural outlook which has been brought on by the government opposite they are say no way. This is happening all over Saskatchewan.

The reason for Bill C-26 is that farmers are trying to make a living from the traditional wheat crop. They are trying their best. They are doing everything to make a penny out of it. The government, like the hon. member just said, never mentioned the word agriculture in the throne speech debate. The most dynamic and still the major industry, not only in Saskatchewan but in western Canada, never received one word of mention.

Now the government has come up with Bill C-26. Farmers in the west are disillusioned. They feel betrayed. They have been betrayed by the crow rate, by the railways and by their own grain companies. Farmers feel betrayed by the government. They could not care less right now about Bill C-26.

What they do care about is some way to pay their bills. Ranchers are asking for some way for them to pay for the increase of grazing land. Farmers are asking for a way to return to farms that have been in their families for three and four generations. There is no hope. The government has provided no hope.

In the town in which I live the elevators will be gone by the year 2000. The four curling rinks which surround the town have been closed. The government should realize that Bill C-26 does not address the problem of ongoing depopulation in much of rural Saskatchewan.

I can only compare it to another era in Saskatchewan, the dirty thirties when people simply gave up and moved out. Because of the policies of the government and because of lack of planning by the government, the same thing is taking place now. It is a disaster, but we have not hit the worst of it yet. The worst is yet to come.

In two years my daughter and her family will live over 80 miles away from the closest delivery point for grain. Over one-third of the cost of that ticket by the time they pay for the truck goes to freight.


. 1245 + -

Please, hon. parliamentary secretary, do not talk about Bill C-26 and its dynamics for rural Saskatchewan. Do not tell me about how this great energizing is taking place in agriculture. The parliamentary secretary needs to go out there and look. He will see for himself. Fifty-two towns had hospitals. RMs are closing. It is becoming a wasteland. Those people who have good agricultural wheat producing land are going to have to sell that land for grazing prices and get out.

We have a disaster. This government comes in with Bill C-26 which will do nothing to solve the real problem in Saskatchewan. I feel much better because I have said it. I hope the people in my province are listening.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): This is a question and comment period. The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre may comment if he wishes.

Mr. Pat Martin: Mr. Speaker, yes. I did not hear a question as such, but I would like to maybe echo some of the sentiments I heard.

Rural Manitoba, the province I am from is suffering from the depopulation, the flight of capital, the flight of families, the flight of people, industry, et cetera.

The previous speaker spoke very eloquently about this obviously from personal experience. Nothing we see in this piece of legislation is going to stem that tide nor is it going to take any steps to address the issues that are really facing rural Canada.

It is significant to note that the budget did not talk about agriculture. Also it has been very odd that in the eight or nine months I have been a rookie member of Parliament agriculture has been raised very, very few times. I understand a number of pressing issues from all across Canada compete for our interest but surely, in previous Parliaments, agriculture stood more front and centre than we see now in the House of Commons.

Mr. John Harvard (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have to address in my comments some of the concerns raised by the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain.

First of all, I would suggest that the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain talk to his party's agriculture critic. I heard the Reform Party agriculture critic clearly say in his opening remarks that the Reform Party was prepared to offer “tentative support” for Bill C-26. Yes, the Reform Party agriculture critic had some concerns and some questions but he did say clearly at the beginning of the debate that his party was prepared to offer tentative support.

The hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain had better have a chat with his party's agriculture critic.

It is important that Canadians, especially those who live in rural Canada, have the facts straight. The hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain—

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe that the hon. parliamentary secretary is supposed to be directing his comments or his question toward the hon. member from the NDP who spoke and not to my colleague.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): The hon. member for Prince George—Peace River is correct. It is the debate of the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre on which we are on questions and comments. However, the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain had a demi presentation should we say. I felt it was very much in order for the parliamentary secretary to address that. The hon. parliamentary secretary can have 30 seconds to sum up. Then we will give the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre a minute in response.

Mr. John Harvard: Mr. Speaker, let me just say that the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain was concerned about the rural economy. All of us are concerned about the rural economy.

Bill C-26 which is before us now is intended to address one concern. The special crops industry on the prairies needs stimulation. It needs space. It needs an opportunity to enter into innovation. That is exactly what Bill C-26 is designed to do. It will support the dealers. And it will support the producers who want to do business with the special crops dealers. Let us get the facts straight.


. 1250 + -

Mr. Pat Martin: Mr. Speaker, there is nothing in the comments from the hon. parliamentary secretary that I would disagree with. I concur 100% with his sentiments concerning rural Canada, however we do not believe that Bill C-26 actually addresses those concerns nor will it take us one step closer to those lofty principles.

Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-26. Our critic for this area, the hon. member for Brandon—Souris, could not be here today so I am taking his place.

I will begin with a little background on the bill. We have divided it into three parts.

On December 4, 1997 the minister of agriculture tabled Bill C-26 in the House of Commons. The bill is composed of three parts.

First it would repeal the Grain Futures Act. In essence it allows for the province of Manitoba through the Manitoba Securities Commission to regulate the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange instead of the federal government through the Canadian Grain Commission. This is related to the Manitoba Commodities Futures Act which was enacted by the Manitoba government.

This was an idea that was suggested by the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange itself. The WCE wants to access the hog industry so instead of working with two separate regulators, the WCE will conduct all its business through the Manitoba Securities Commission.

This is a positive change for the agricultural industry. The PC Party will support this aspect of the bill.

Second it would amend the Canada Grain Act to allow speciality crops such as soybeans to fall under crop insurance plans. This would also permit the separation of licensing and security provisions for special crops dealers.

This government believes that the inability to separate these two activities has been the primary problem in developing an insurance plan for the special crops industry of western Canada. By forcing such a separation in law and by putting the administration of a voluntary insurance plan under the Canadian Grain Commission, Bill C-26 would remove the onus on special crops dealers to post costly security against the possibility of their default in payment to special crops producers. The Canadian Export Development Corporation, CEDC, would be the insurer.

Although the government may feel that this aspect of the bill is positive, there are many people in the farming community who will differ. I will comment on the insurance program later.

Third, the bill will also incorporate the Canada Grain Act within the agriculture and agrifood industry, thereby allowing the Canadian Grain Commission to impose fines for most violations of the Canada Grain Act and its regulations. This aspect of the bill also needs a closer look when the bill is sent to committee.

There are a number of aspects of this bill that must be looked at closer for the House's consideration. Before I do so I must mention to the government that there has been little discussion on this bill thus far in particular in the farming communities out west. There are people in the farming communities who do not know anything about this bill.

It is the responsibility of this government to properly inform Canadians about this legislation, especially when it comes from the House of Commons of Canada. It is the government's responsibility to effectively communicate to Canadians what is about to become law and what is going to affect their livelihood.

That being said, I will comment on some of the aspects of the bill before this legislation goes before committee. I will comment on some of the thoughts expressed by the farming organizations out west.

A resolution was passed at the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association annual meeting. Similar motions were also passed at the Western Canadian Wheat Growers convention, the Western Barley Growers convention and the Saskatchewan Pulse Development Board. The motion reads as follows:

    Whereas the majority of Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association members also are growers of specialty crops; and

    Whereas the proposed Special Crops Rural Initiative Program would appear to favour the Canadian Grain Commission and not necessarily special crop growers; and

    Whereas the Special Crops Rural Initiative Program is promoted as being voluntary, it is in reality a form of negative billing which all consumers reject (i.e. cable TV companies); and

    Whereas the scheme has questionable support at the farm level; and

    Whereas the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association rejects the compulsory nature of the Special Crops Rural Initiative Program; and

    Whereas the special crops industry has flourished without such a program;

    Therefore be it resolved that the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association inform the federal and western provincial ministers of agriculture of their concerns and at the very least that the Special Crops Rural Initiative Program be truly voluntary for both the growers and the special crops dealers.


. 1255 + -

This resolution aptly describes what Bill C-26 fails to do. It fails to give farmers choice, not unlike what the government did with Bill C-4 which failed to give farmers choice in how they sell their wheat.

The compulsory nature of the special crops insurance plan is a form of negative option billing. Today's producers run large operations and should not have to apply to opt out and then receive their money back if they do not wish to participate. Farming businesses should have the right to decide themselves if they want to be bonded or licensed and if so, pay the bill themselves.

Bill C-26 only adds more red tape and paperwork for farmers to be subjected to while placing extra costs on farm businesses already operating on small budgets. Producers should have the choice to decide for themselves if there is too much risk selling to an unlicensed buyer. Special crops producers would be better off having the choice between selling to large licensed grain dealers and small unlicensed grain dealers. That would make sense. I hope the government considers giving farmers this choice.

There are a number of elements of this bill which need to be looked at closer. I expect that the committee will look into the bill in great detail when it does the clause by clause analysis.

In principle the PC Party supports this legislation. However, there are a number of changes that will have to be adopted at the committee stage with respect to choice before this bill is acceptable in full to the PC Party of Canada and to the farmers of western Canada.

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I want to make a couple of comments.

Earlier the parliamentary secretary in referring to some comments made by my hon. colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain tried to leave the impression with the viewing audience that perhaps there was some division or contradiction in the position that I took versus that of my colleague the Reform member for Souris—Moose Mountain. I can assure the House and those viewing this debate at home today that is not the case.

While we have given this bill some very tentative support at this point, my hon. colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain was merely, as I and others in the opposition have done today, pointing out some very serious concerns our parties have with this legislation. We all have the hope that the government will respond, unlike with C-4, and actually give this bill a good hearing in committee and possibly make some amendments to it.

I note the PC member who just spoke also referred to the need for some amendments and changes before his party will support it any further than the position the bill is at right now, which is to refer the bill after second reading to committee.

The member referred to the compulsory nature of the check-off, the levy that is inherent in Bill C-26. This reminds me of the compulsory nature in the way the Canadian Wheat Board operates where farmers do not have the freedom to choose how they are going to market their wheat and export barley. It is the same case in C-26. Farmers are not going to have the choice of whether or not to have this check-off come off their cheques. The levy will be deducted and then they have to jump through a bunch of hoops before they can get the money back at the end of the year.

It almost reminds one of the inclusion clause in Bill C-4 whereby the new board of directors for the Canadian Wheat Board is going to have the option of expanding the compulsory and mandatory nature of the Canadian Wheat Board to encompass and include other commodities.


. 1300 + -

I have a question for the hon. member from the Progressive Conservative Party. He may have heard as well as I that there is some concern among farmers about comments made by the Canadian Grain Commission. There is concern that it may expand this levy not only to those designated special crops, but at some point in time to include wheat, barley, canola and flax which are all major commodities, thereby removing the government's responsibility for ensuring bonds and insurance coverage by the grain companies and putting added financial burden on to the farmers.

Mr. Gerald Keddy: Mr. Speaker, those are some excellent questions from the member for Prince George—Peace River.

There have been a number of sticky points in this piece of legislation. Bill C-26 offers some promise, but as the hon. member already mentioned, the inclusion clause, as it exists in Bill C-4, the fear of such a clause being utilized in this act and the fear of other grain commodities coming under this legislation are all very important issues for the Progressive Conservative Party.

This has tentative support. The bill has merit. If we go through it clause by clause it has a perfect chance of becoming a good law of the Government of Canada. However, several serious changes need to be made to the bill before it gets to that point.

Mr. John Harvard (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to make two very short comments. We have made a very good start today, an excellent start. We have tentative support from the official opposition. We have support in principle from the Progressive Conservative Party. That is a pretty good start. This would be a very good juncture to move the bill to committee.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): Pursuant to order made earlier today the question on the motion is deemed to have been put and adopted on division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): For our friends in the visitors gallery and those who are watching on television, I am about to ask the House for permission to see the clock at 2.30 p.m. which is our normal time of adjournment. What we are doing is allowing the House to adjourn at its normal time. This is because Private Members' Business has been deferred.

Do we have unanimous consent to see the clock as reading 2.30 p.m.?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): It being 2.30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1.02 p.m.)