I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that on our side of the issue, our supporters are much more mature than we see from some of the other supporters on the other side. If the member from the NDP had wanted to give this lecture, perhaps he could have given it to his young colleague from last week when she signed in someone who did disrupt the House.
The folks who have come here today are here to celebrate the bill and we are very happy to have them. In fact, over 60 farmers have come here from western Canada at their own expense. They are excited to be here today because they believe in freedom. I am sure they will be in the gallery and will spend the day with us. They are as excited as we are that we are finally at third reading on Bill .
A lot of these folks are my heroes. I get very disappointed when I hear the member for and my colleague from Winnipeg denigrate them. He called them goons and stooges. I actually call them friends, and I am proud they are my friends. They are people I have looked up to for many years because they have been willing to stand with the courage of their convictions. This is a very important issue to them and we look forward to moving ahead with them.
I should point out as well, we have two agricultural ministers, the ministers from Alberta and Saskatchewan, who are here this morning. They felt it was important enough to let Canadians know that this issue needed to move ahead. Members probably saw them at the press conference in which they talked about how this showed that democracy did work. One of the ministers said that 10 farmers were jailed and because of that, this was a good day and they needed to be here.
It is time to move ahead with the bill. It is time it move to the Senate and be passed so that by January 1, western Canadian farmers can have the same rights as every other producer across the country.
A number of my colleagues will speak later. I know they will talk about some of history of this, but I want to review it for a few minutes because I know some of the folks opposite either do not know, or do not want to know, the history behind the Canadian Wheat Board and why it was established.
People need to understand that the prairie pools were established in the 1920s and worked very well. Through the 1920s, they were voluntary pools and by 1927 they handled over 50% of the grain deliveries on the prairies. That was all voluntary. The other 50% of the grain was delivered by producers. They were free to market it as they chose. That system worked very well. It is interesting that when the pools started off, farmers did not have grain handling facilities and within a couple of years, they constructed some of their own facilities. Then by 1927 they had about 15% of the facilities on the prairies, but handled over 50% of the grain. Therefore, a lot of the arguments we hear from the opposition today are not anymore valid today than they were in the 1920s.
From 1923 to 1931, the open market served as an alternative channel. Competition was allowed and people were comfortable with that. In the 1930s the depression hit and the pools had some financial troubles. They were trying to buy grain when they should have been selling it and they went broke. That is when the government stepped in.
In 1943, in the middle of the war, a decision was made. A couple of things happened. There had been some small crops, the price of grain was skyrocketing and there was need for cheap grain in Europe, so the Government of Canada stepped in. The order-in-council said that there were two reasons that the board was made mandatory in 1943. One was to stop inflation and the other was to supply cheap grain to Europe. Both of those things cost farmers money.
Therefore, right from the very beginning of the imposition of the monopoly farmers paid the price for it. There are farmers in western Canada who recognize that even in those days, in the 1940s and 1950s, they were paying the bill for other people. That continued through the 1960s and 1970s and as it did, more and more opposition built up toward the bill. In the 1990s farmers finally had enough. A group of farmers, “Farmers for Justice”, was formed to stand up for the rights of farmers.
We know the story. The Liberals were in power. The farmers tried to export their grain, some of them as little as a few pounds of grain. They took it to the United States and when they came back, they were arrested and charged. It was not good enough for the Liberal government to charge them, but then insisted they go to jail as well. We have a number of people with us today who had the courage of their convictions, who went as far as being willing to go to jail in order to try to get freedom for the rest of us.
It is a pretty remarkable thing to go from the situation in the 1940s, when the voluntary situation was made involuntary and was imposed on people. Then we get to the 1990s and early 2000s and people want a change. Why would that happen? What kinds of things would happen that would make western Canadian farmers demand these kinds of freedoms?
First, they saw that other farmers had those freedoms and they wanted the same freedom. Even more basic than that, there has been a huge change in what happens on the farm. In the old days, when we talked about transportation, we talked about horse wagons and eventually one tonne and two tonne trucks that people would use to haul their grain to town. They could only haul it a few miles to the local elevators, with 30 or 40 bushels at a time. It gradually evolved to three tonnes and then to tandems and now today we have huge semis, B-trains that haul 1,500 bushels at a time and people can haul hundreds of miles if they need to.
Short lines have now been established, which were not in place in the old days when there were only two railways with which people had to deal. Short lines give them options for transportation. On the farm, things have gone from steel wheels to GPS. They have gone from one bottom plows to autosteer sprayers. They have gone from standing sheaves in the field to 450 horsepower combines.
Communications have changed almost as much as the technology. There was hardly any in the old days. People had their information locally and most of them did not even have phones. They would haul their grain to the local elevator, find out what the price was and that was the best they could do. Maybe they had a weekly newspaper or radio that they listened to once in a while, but they were dependent on the local elevator agent for their help. That has changed, and we all know that.
When farmers get up in the morning, the first thing they check is their BlackBerrys and prices. They are ahead of the grain companies. They know at the beginning of the day what they need. They are on the Internet, on Twitter, on Facebook. The daily pricing is available instantaneously to them. They rely on that.
I can give a couple of examples of how the Wheat Board does not and did not react in the old days and why we need change today. I have told this story before. My area in the early 1990s had some frozen grain. The Wheat Board told us it really did not want to market it, so we looked for another market and found one in Montana. We told Wheat Board we would sell our grain in Montana. Then we had a call back from the grain company telling us not to bother, that it was able to buy grain. It turned out it was buying our grain for quite a bit less money than we had arranged with the company. We followed the trucks from of our elevators in Frontier, Climax and Shawnavon, Saskatchewan, across the border and to Montana. We watched them dump that same grain into the pit. We had done a better job of marketing it than the Wheat Board had. It took the grain away from us and sold it at the price it wanted to.
Last fall we had an issue with grading of lentils. In the past these issues would take weeks and weeks to generate even with the frozen grain issue. It took several weeks for us to find out what we would do with it and how we would react. With the grading of lentils, within two or three days people were calling us and telling us there was an issue. Things were pretty much resolved within a week. How things changed with the communication, when farmers were unable to find out what was going on. Now they know ahead of everyone else what needs to be done.
Times have changed. There is a new era that has finally arrived and it is providing the same opportunities for western Canada that farmers across the country have had for such a long time.
I was thinking about this the other day and a question came to my mind. Can those of us in western Canada even understand what freedom will really be all about when we have been locked in this structure for so long? I want to talk about a few of those possible potential opportunities.
First, there are growing and specific variety opportunities. We watched the Swift Current research station develop grain varieties over the years. Many of these varieties because of our grading system have ended up being grown in Montana, not in western Canada. We have had to watch other people grow the grains that we have paid to develop and that should have been available to us.
We are moving into a new era with things like bioproducts and nutraceuticals. What a good time for western Canadian farmers to be able to participate in those kinds of things. We are moving into a time where there are niche strains, where people around the world are asking for small lots of specific grains. Farmers in western Canada have asked for years if it is possible for them to export just a small amount of a particular type of barley or a particular type of durum. The answer has always been no, that the Canadian Wheat Board is not interested in those small lots.
There will be marketing opportunities. There will be opportunities to market through the new Canadian Wheat Board or marketing oneself. People will have a real choice in their marketing.
There will be business opportunities. We have already heard of some of the companies that want to do the value added. They want to spend money in western Canada. That is a different story from what we have heard over the years.
Companies are already committing to new spending. They are talking about investing and new companies are talking about coming into western Canada for the first time. How exciting is that for those of us who live there?
There are personal business opportunities as well. There are at least two examples in the past where those things have been stifled. A young couple I was baking bread and taking it the local farmers' market. The couple's business started to grow and grow and it was making more and more bread. One of the supermarkets wanted to put the couple's bread on its shelf. It was at that point the Wheat Board stepped in and told the young couple that it did not need to do this, that it would market the couple's grain and it did not need to worry about this. Therefore, the couple was not able to continue with it.
Another example was somebody who wanted to grind flour. The Wheat Board interfered with him at every level it possibly could over the years. I know he will be one of those folks who has been waiting a long time for the freedom he will finally have.
On a bigger scale, farmers who wanted to start durum processing plants and pasta plants in western Canada were not even allowed to deliver their own grain to their own companies. The Wheat Board stepped in and disallowed that, so we watched those plants being built in North Dakota.
Entrepreneurs will have all kinds of opportunities. It will be homegrown products, businesses that want to export specialty flours and pastas. There are all kinds of opportunities.
This morning provincial ministers said that they believed there would be provincial opportunities to diversify the economy of the provinces as well. We have always been hewers of wood, drawers of water and growers of grain. This gives us a chance to do so much more.
I want to take a few minutes to talk about innovation, because an open market will attract investment, encourage innovation and create value-added jobs. We will be building a stronger Canadian economy, not just a stronger western Canadian economy.
The wheat and barley business in Saskatchewan alone is a major driver of our economy, bringing almost $2 billion per year to the farm gate. I am confident we can grow that business under marketing choice. Stephen Vandervalk, president of the Grain Growers of Canada, said, “We hope that with an open market we will see far more milling, malting capacity, and we will not need to ship our grain across the mountains”. I think that is the wish of every western Canadian farmers.
We are sensing a new excitement about value added. I already mentioned that we have commitment. For example, Alliance Grain Traders recently announced a $50 million multi-purpose durum and pulp milling facility in Regina. It is great news for durum growers, especially when we hear that Italy is set to increase its imports, due to a supply shortfall in the EU.
Marketing freedom is fundamentally about innovation and about freeing our farmers so they can innovate as well. Innovation has always driven growth in agriculture. I talked a little about that earlier. That is one of the main reasons why our government is working right now to bring marketing freedom to wheat and barley growers in western Canada.
The other day I talked about how value-added processing has taken place in so many of the other crops, the open market crops like canola, oats and flax. We need to have this opportunity for grains as well. We need to tap into the new niche markets for wheat and barley. We can do that through specialty pools, through value-added investment and through all kinds of other innovative strategies.
This will work for the entire value chain, attract new investments to the prairies, create new jobs and revitalize rural communities. It will grow wealth in western Canada. That is why we need to move ahead with this.
I mentioned the other day about canola and flax, but I do not think the opposition understands how big those crops are in western Canada. They have grown from virtually nothing to where canola is now the major crop in western Canada in terms of value. It brings almost $5.5 billion to the farm gate each year. It is driving 70% of world canola exports. It has become a flagship product of our agricultural industry. It demonstrates world-class innovation. It demonstrates the Canadian reputation for food quality. These are the kind of things we can carry over to grain as well, once the bill passes.
Flax is another one of those Canadian success stories. It is used in a host of products, animal feed, flooring, all different kinds of things. We are one of the largest suppliers of flax in the world, accounting for almost half of the world's supply.
Those are just two examples of areas where western Canadians have been able to do their own thing, go to market and grow their own product. They have been extremely successful at that.
I want to talk a little about our agricultural scientists. Over a century ago they tested a new variety of wheat that opened up the west and made Canada into a global grain powerhouse. Today I feel we are standing on the edge of another new era such as that. It is one that will breathe new life into our grain industry and open up a world of possibility for farmers.
I think that one of those developments that scientists are doing for us is kind of a neat thing. We put $4 million into the wheat genome project in order to get new varieties to farmers faster. Just recently, a new exciting durum variety was developed by our scientists in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. It has come onto the market and it offers growers strong yield advantage and improved disease resistance. I do not think that it is a coincidence that its name is AC Enterprise. What better way to usher in marketing freedom than to bring a new spirit of enterprise to our durum producers across the Prairies.
There is a record to be broken in the number of investments our government has made to support Canadian farmers. We have been committed to farmers. We stand with them and we have their backs. We will continue to make those investments that will help bring the sector forward. We want them to have long-term prosperity.
Farmers do not want to be held back by antiquated systems that restrict their ability to run their businesses as they see fit. I am proud that our government is willing and able to bring marketing freedom to western Canadians farmers.
I am very disappointed with the board of directors at the Canadian Wheat Board and their reaction to this bill. They had the option to stand up for farmers and it is time that they did because we are moving ahead here.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: They did.
Mr. David Anderson: I am getting a little heckling from someone across the way. He does not like the fact that we are moving ahead and giving farmers choice. He would like to keep them, as I said earlier, in an antiquated system that allows them no choice. Somehow he thinks that would bring them prosperity and we know that is not true.
The board of directors actually had an opportunity to step forward and say, “We're going to work with the government. We realize you've had a long-time promise, a long-time commitment to bring marketing freedom to western Canadian farmers. We understand that you're going to do that and so we're going to join with you. We're going to stand alongside you so that western Canadian farmers can get the best deal out of these changes that they possibly can”.
What did they do? Instead they took the position and said, “We're going to fight at every turn to stop this. We're going to make sure that it doesn't go ahead”.
They went so far as to come down here to meet with the opposition and say them, “We want you to disrupt this bill permanently. We want you to drag this out so that by the time the government is able to implement, it destroys the markets for western Canadian farmers”.
What kind of responsibility is that? These are folks who were supposed to be marketing western Canadian grain. However, they come down here and tell my colleague from that he should be trying to disrupt things for as long as possible, so that when I go to deliver my grain, and the farmers who are so much a part of what we are doing here today go to deliver their grain, the markets would be destroyed for them. We do not need that. This is why we have made the changes that we are making in the act.
We are going to bring forward a voluntary Canadian Wheat Board. We are going to set it up so that it has the opportunity to be successful for farmers. It is going to have government backing in terms of its payments and borrowing. We believe that other companies are going to come to the board and say, “This looks like a very useful way for us to participate with you in the pooling of grain”.
We believe that passage of the bill would give farmers the certainty they need to plan their businesses for the coming year. We need this passed quickly so that beginning in January they can do that.
This bill would give customers here at home and around the world the assurance that they can continue to count on a supply of high quality Canadian wheat and barley. The legislation delivers on our long-time commitment to western Canadian farmers to give them the marketing freedom that they deserve.
I encourage members opposite to join with us to ensure the swift passage of the legislation both here in the House and in the Senate, so that we can give western Canadian farmers the freedom and stability that they so richly deserve.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to Bill at third reading.
I will simply restate what I said in my comments to the parliamentary secretary. This is one of those debates in the House of Commons where reasonable people can reasonably disagree. There are two sides to this debate. When the issue was put to a vote of prairie farmers, the result was split. Some say that it was 60:40, some say that it was 40:60 and some say that, if the right information had been distributed to them so they could have the legitimate facts, the vote would have been higher.
Now he's taking Elizabeth's position.
Mr. Pat Martin: I do not want to be heckled by the parliamentary secretary through my whole speech, Mr. Speaker. If I have to put up with that guy for my 20 minutes, I hope there will be some intervention from the Chair.
In the absence of any documentary evidence or business case from the parliamentary secretary, all the Conservatives have left are their dilatory actions to ram the bill through the House of Commons without even the courtesy or the respect for Parliament to give it the attention and the debate that it deserves.
Anybody watching this debate should know that this monumental change to the economy of the prairie region has been handled in a cavalier fashion and rammed through at every stage of debate. The parliamentary secretary tried to give us a little history lesson about the background of the Wheat Board. The history of the Conservatives' treatment of this bill is a story of deceit, misinformation, dirty tricks, treachery and now of denying ordinary parliamentary procedure and respect for democracy. I will itemize and defend everything that I have just said.
When the Conservatives were first elected in their minority government, they began to make unilateral changes to the Wheat Board. The courts ruled them out of order and indicated that they could not do it. They were frustrated. They imposed a gag order on the Wheat Board, something that is unworthy of any western democracy and more in keeping with a tin pot dictator in a banana republic. The Conservatives imposed a legislative edict, a gag order, on the directors of the Wheat Board. They were not allowed to say anything in defence of the Wheat Board's operations.
At the same time, they carpet bombed the prairie region with taxpayer funded propaganda containing untruths and half-truths or, at best, to be generous, anecdotal information about spot prices that occurred somewhere in Montana that the parliamentary secretary could not get his trucks to. Twenty million tonnes of wheat cannot be moved to foreign markets based on anecdotal spot pricing somewhere in Montana. That is why the Canadian Wheat Board is one of the largest and most successful grain marketing companies in the world.
It is reckless and irresponsible for the government to unilaterally dismantle this great Canadian institution without even having the respect and the courtesy to table a business case that it knows for a fact that farmers would be better off without. That is all we are asking for, that and the vote that the minister promised prairie farmers.
I have had many calls from farmers in all three of the main Wheat Board provinces. I have had none from B.C., frankly. These farmers told me that they voted Conservative, for whatever reason, but that they voted that way with the confidence that they would still get a vote on the future of the Wheat Board. They might have voted Conservative but they were pro-Wheat Board. The parliamentary secretary cannot deny that there is a significant number of farmers in that situation. The May 2 general election was not a referendum on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. It was a general election on any number of other issues.
The government then gerrymandered the voters' list. This also is unworthy of any progressive western democracy.
The government provided misinformation, a falsehood, that the minister would allow a vote. On April 11, In the middle of the general election, the minister is on record as saying that he would allow a vote. He assured farmers that they would get a vote on the future of the Wheat Board. He told them that they could safely vote Conservative because he respected democracy and he would consult with farmers on the future of the Wheat Board. That never came about. I do not know what to call it without being ruled unparliamentary, but when someone deliberately tells someone else a falsehood we all know what that is called.
Perhaps the greatest insult of all is the fact that the Conservatives are ramming the bill through with what we call time allocation or closure. That means we will not be able to give this issue the oversight, the scrutiny and the due diligence that is our very job as opposition members of Parliament. We are supposed to, again, in a spirit of generosity where reasonable people can reasonably disagree, both sides, put forward our arguments and defend our arguments with robust and thorough examination and, hopefully, the best ideas gravitate to the surface and that becomes law.
In the absence of any of that information, we cannot do that job. We were hoping, at the committee stage, perhaps, we would be able to call witnesses, we would be able to call prairie farmers who are for the Wheat Board, we would be able to call prairie farmers who are against it, we would be able to call economists and we would be able to call experts in grain marketing around the world. We were denied any of that. They did not send it to a committee. They created a special legislative committee to study the bill in which we are not allowed to call any witnesses other than technical advisors to clauses in the language.
We would not have been allowed to call any one of the anti-Wheat Board farmers who are witnessing this debate in the galleries today. I wanted to hear their point of view. I wanted to--
A valid point, Mr. Speaker. I will not do that.
We should have been able to hear from pro-Wheat Board and anti-Wheat Board farmers but we heard from none of them. We had two evening meetings of four hours each. The witnesses were mostly technical witnesses to explain what effect clause (a), subclause (b) would have in terms of the administration of the Wheat Board. However, there was no broad consultation.
Surely it is reckless and irresponsible to turn the Prairie economy upside down on its head without at least that basic level of due diligence. It is crazy. It is the act of an ideological zealot, frankly, to ignore all of those things that we should be able to do. It is infuriating to me.
The parliamentary secretary tried to walk us through some kind of a history lesson of the Wheat Board. I have a chart here, a convenient graphic illustration that we made up. I know I cannot show that to the House as a prop. However, in those periods of time when there was no single desk, the price of wheat went down. In those periods of time when there was a single desk, the price of wheat went up. During the time when it was a voluntary dual marketing Wheat Board, the price of grains went down. The time when it was a single desk, the price of grains went up.
That is the accurate history of the experience of the Wheat Board from the 1920s. It is disingenuous to try to imply otherwise. Those are the kinds of facts that we could have benefited from in our deliberation of this bill. We are just trying to do our job here but those guys are so overwhelmed by their passion to destroy the Wheat Board, by their irrational hatred of the Wheat Board, that reason, logic, economics, science, due diligence, oversight and scrutiny are foreign concepts to the Conservatives. They rely on the anecdotal information of their personal experience.
I can sympathize with the parliamentary secretary. If he had some disagreement with the Wheat Board, maybe he should get involved in the Wheat Board elections and change the Wheat Board from within or allow a plebiscite vote, a fair question and a fairly conducted vote. If that vote were 50% plus 1 for abolishing the Wheat Board, members would not hear a word from us. There would not be this push-back because we would have consulted farmers, they would have spoken and their voices would have been heard and respected.
However, the government will not put it to a vote because, I believe, it is afraid of the outcome. Whenever we do consult farmers, it is split, admittedly, but the majority has ruled and that has been the magic of the Wheat Board. Its universality has been its greatest strength and its success.
Having a voluntary Wheat Board, we know from actual experience, is chimera. It is a myth. It is some notion that the government is trying to project on its way to the full abolition of the Wheat Board.
It is funny how the Americans recognize the advantage of having the Wheat Board. In fact, there is evidence of that. I try to back up my comments with actual documentation as opposed to the ideological notions, the whims, the flights of fancy of the minister and his parliamentary secretary. The Americans recognize that it is a huge advantage to Canadian farmers, so much so that they have filed 13 separate complaints to the GATT and the WTO claiming that the Wheat Board is such an advantage to prairie farmers that is constitutes an unfair trade practice and should be abolished as such. They lost 13 times because the WTO ruled that there was nothing unfair about producers acting collectively to get the best price for their product and to reduce their transportation costs and to share the risk by pooling the risk, sharing the profits and operating on a non-profit basis.
That might be contrary to the best interests of Cargill and the for-profit grain companies, but it is certainly not a violation of any kind of trade agreements that Canada has stipulated to. It is just good business sense. They realize that in unity there is strength, that collectively they could get the best prices and reduce their costs. One of the main complaints that the parliamentary secretary has is that they bought some ships. They bought some ships in order to provide the best possible transportation costs to their clients, the prairie producer. It is a non-profit operation.
I heard one of the members, I cannot remember his name, the long gun registry guy, calling it “lifting the iron curtain from grain marketing”, as if it were communism. Perhaps we have gotten to the root of the Conservatives' hatred here, their ideological zeal against the Wheat Board. They view it as communism for prairie farmers to act collectively in their own best interests. Therefore, they think it must be stamped out. That is how goofy it is. They are laughing about it now, but we know behind closed doors that is how they view it.
In fact, the experience has been one of the largest and most successful grain marketing companies in the world, the guarantor of the best premium quality grains in the world. The Wheat Board has given Canada a branding and reputation that add value to our product. I guarantee, and this is one of the things that I can also back up with documentation, we will lose that top quality branding if American grain companies start mixing Canadian product with batches of American product in their marketing operations. We will not have the oversight of the grain commission. We will not have the intensity of the research that comes from the grain institute, that complements the grain production, that gives the Wheat Board the number one premium brand in the world and our reputation.
The grain industry is vital to the area that I represent, the prairie region. Grain is our oil, the backbone of our economy. This is going to constitute a transfer of wealth, the likes of which we have not seen since the big pharma drug giveaway by the Liberal government when it gave 20-year patent guarantees to pharmaceutical companies.
This is a transfer of wealth of a magnitude that we have never seen on the Prairies. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be taken out of the pockets of prairie producers and will be put into the pockets of the shareholders of the big grain companies that have been salivating over this market share ever since the Wheat Board was created. They never gave up. Just like the enemies of public health care have never really given up, they have just been waiting in the wings for somebody to come along and finally do their dirty work for them so that they can get that market share back.
Just this weekend, I drove down Wellington Crescent, the richest street in Winnipeg, and was reflecting on this change that is going to take place. Every mansion on Wellington Crescent was built by the robber barons in the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s, who gouged prairie farmers so mercilessly that they were forced into some collective action to protect themselves.
Those robber barons put on a nice disguise now. Villainy wears many masks, but none so treacherous as the mask of virtue. We will hear virtuous statements from the agents of treachery in this debate. We will hear the parliamentary secretary. Let us guess what his next career will be. He will be a member of the board of directors of Cargill. He probably has job offers already with any kind of luck. If he is smart, he is negotiating that on the phone as we speak. “Guess what? The day has arrived. We finally stamped out the Wheat Board”. Villainy and treachery. J'accuse.
We already know the experience of Brian Mulroney. Where did he end up? On the board of directors of one of the big three. Guess what his billings were from 2009 to 2011. His billings as a director of Archer Daniels Midland were $650,000. Normally, a member of a board of directors is not compensated $650,000 just for attending one meeting a year to vote on the compensation of fellow directors. He is delivering something. He is delivering the Canadian Wheat Board back into the hands of the robber barons who have been drooling over this market share ever since this important change took place.
It is a sad day for democracy when such an important and transformative change to the rural prairie economy takes place without even the scrutiny, the oversight and the due diligence of Canadian members of Parliament.
This is the tragedy here. Perhaps we should be sounding the alarm.
I was accused of using an obscenity on Twitter recently, while I sat here lamenting closure. The real obscenity is the calculated abuse of Parliament, disrespect for Parliament and even disrespect for the courtesy of presenting a reasonable case. The real obscenity is not asking a single farmer, or ordinary producer, to come as a witness before a parliamentary committee to speak for or against a bill that would change things forever. And let us have no illusions about this, this change is irreversible. We will not get a Canadian wheat board back if we do not like, in the next five years, what is going to happen to this one. Some people will be happy about that; maybe those who are lucky enough to have a large acreage right on the American border and who could drive their product down to some mill in Montana.
However, let us deal with some of the myths that the parliamentary secretary and his minister, in some free market flight of fancy, are sharing. They say that as soon as they get rid of the Wheat Board, all kinds of value added and secondary industry will spring out of the ground like mushrooms all over the prairie region.
First, there is the untruth associated with this. In the last 10 years, milling capacity has increased 50% in the rural prairie region and four new institutions have popped up for value added. It is not as though it is impossible.
At the same time, south of the border, the milling capacity increased 9% and there were no new installations.
They would have us believe that it will be nirvana, that for a nominal fee they could reach nirvana tonight, that old myth. They are trying to promise all kinds of changes that would occur overnight because there is one guy who is waiting to open his doors as soon as they get rid of the Wheat Board. Do members know why? Because he would be able to buy grain cheaper. The Wheat Board did not offer a premium to producers, because their mandate was to get the best price for farmers. The only way to get grain cheaper is to give farmers less for it. Is that in the best interests of the prairie producers?
That is only one of the inconsistencies in their argument. If we were given the luxury of time at a parliamentary committee, we could study many others. I guarantee that their own members would have serious questions about why they are ramming through this ideological crusade in the absence of reason, logic, a business case, or even an economic case of why it might be a good idea.
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to comment on the parliamentary secretary's statement about spending by the board. The board has a fiduciary duty to protect the board and the interests of wheat farmers. That is why that money was spent.
I am pleased to rise today in the debate at third reading on the Conservative government's bill that would effectively kill the Canadian Wheat Board. It is an honour because I truly believe that when putting forward legislation such as this, legislation that would not only touch the lives and livelihoods of farmers across the western provinces but would profoundly change the face of agriculture in this country, there should be fulsome debate. Sadly, the Conservative government decided in May that it would not listen to any voices but its own for the next four years. Not only do Canadian farmers who voted to keep the Canadian Wheat Board deserve better, so do Canadians across this country who understand that their bread does not come from the bakery or the grocery store but from the hard work and dedication of Canadian farmers.
Having walked away from the election with only 39% of the vote, meaning that 61% of Canadians do not support the government's measures, the Conservatives have treated their majority as an excuse to walk all over farmers who do not share their ideological beliefs. I remind the House that according to the existing Canadian Wheat Board Act, an affirmative vote of wheat farmers is required under section 47.1 before a change as significant as this is made.
Regardless of pre-election promises by the in Minnedosa in March of this year to have a farmer vote and not act arbitrarily, the government shut out the voices of farmers by refusing to hold a farmers vote and smearing anyone who dared stand up to its ideological steamroller. In August the Canadian Wheat Board held its own farmers vote, wherein a majority of western Canadian grain producers voted to maintain the single desk under the Canadian Wheat Board. What did the government do? It is no surprise. It smeared the results. How can a government maintain that Canadian farmers know best on the one hand while refusing to actually listen to a single one?
The Conservatives limited debate, giving the House only three shortened days to speak to a bill that would fundamentally alter the face of farming and would change rural life in the prairie provinces forever. Then the government referred the bill to a special legislative committee, not the regular agriculture committee, limiting its review to only the technical elements of the bill, not to the impact on small farms and the effect that attacking the family farm will have on small town rural economies.
The legislative committee did not even travel out west to hear from farmers, despite my seeking consent in the House to do so. To add insult to injury, the committee was restricted to only two evenings of hearing witnesses, only two nights for people to testify to the detrimental impact this bill will have before the committee was restricted to one short night of clause-by-clause examination of the bill, refusing all amendments designed to put control of even the new Canadian Wheat Board into the hands of farmers. Fearing the truth, Conservatives held farmers back and silenced tens of thousands of farmers' voices, pretending to Canadians that no opposition to this bill ever existed, an all too familiar deception that characterizes the government.
What the Conservative government does not want to hear is that farmers are profoundly concerned about the clout and strength they will lose once they are no longer able to negotiate, sell or market their wheat, durum and barley through the single desk. Where is the who said only hours after winning his majority that he would govern for all Canadians? I do not recall him explaining that there is an exception for western grain farmers who tried to speak through their Conservative MPs but could not even get a return call or email response on the issue. They were completely ignored. What of the farmers in Ottawa right now who cannot get a meeting with Conservative senators? It is shameful.
Post-election democracy no longer exists with the government. This is more severe than the back and forth of debate in the House. It is much more than every question that the minister or his parliamentary secretary have deflected. These are farmers who have worked their whole lives on their farms, who support the Canadian Wheat Board, who are being ignored because the government does not want to hear what they have to say.
With the removal of the single desk, a great piece of armour is being removed from the farmers' arsenal. Vital infrastructure that links the marketing, sales and transportation needs of western Canadian farmers is being destroyed. In the absence of any meaningful action on the rail service review for nine months now, farmers are concerned that they will no longer have the hammer that they need to deal with the overwhelming strength and appetite for profit of big grain companies and the railway.
Western grain farmers have shared their tragic stories of the abuse they suffer at the hands of the railways. The railway companies have such a callous disregard for farmers that they will often send railway cars with holes in them without any consideration for what grain will be lost along the way. Farmers individually are up against a behemoth where their collective clout enables them recourse in the face of such poor treatment. That clout will now be gone.
Many farmers have approached me because our Competition Act is not nearly effective enough in dealing with anti-competitive behaviour. In this infrastructural vacuum, farmers will be left to struggle and die. Not only will farmers be left to fend for themselves, but even the farmers who stay with an interim wheat board will lose their voice in the organization.
This bill does not allow for any elected directors upon the coming into effect of the new law, and leaves five government-appointed directors. These directors, unaccountable to grain producers, are no more than puppets of the minister with the new sweeping powers set in place by the bill that require the board to be operated by whom? The 's office.
My colleague on the government side, the member for , once wrote the following to his constituents:
Canada is a democracy and one of the underlying tenets of a democracy is that fact that citizens vote to elect their representatives, be it an MP, a mayor or a Director of the Canadian Wheat Board.
I am saddened that my friend has abandoned his commitment to democratic institutions. There is a very important truth in that statement. Members on both sides of this House have argued that farmers know what is in their own best interests. Therefore, when the western Canadian farmers elect their directors to the Wheat Board and 80% of the directors elected consistently support the single desk, one can only assume that the democratic process has been respected and the wishes of the electorate have been satisfied.
Many of the same farmers who may have helped to elect my friend the member for or any number of members opposite from the government party also voted to elect representatives to their Wheat Board and support the single desk.
A number of members opposite have questioned my position on behalf of prairie wheat and barley farmers in the past because I am from Ontario. Well, I will say to those members that people from Ontario and everywhere else in this country know that their food comes from farmers and not the grocery store. The Conservatives have make the false link between the single desk and western Canadian provinces and the Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing Board. I will clear up some of the errors in their argument before they rise during the period for questions and comments.
We are entirely committed to giving western Canadian farmers the same choice as Ontario farmers. In the late 1990s, the Ontario farmer-elected board of the single desk began a transition, supported by producers, to move to an open market. Farmer-elected directors supported by Ontario farmers made this choice, not a government talking down to producers, the majority of whom voted to sustain the single desk.
There is no question that Canada produces the best grain in the world. However, there are different grades of grain, and the members opposite need to keep that in mind when they are considering this bill. Ontario production is one-tenth that of the western provinces, and produces a soft wheat, one used primarily for pastry, cookies and doughnuts. The western provinces' hard red spring wheat is used in making bread, and their durum for making pasta. Ontario mills rely on prairie wheat for flour.
Most of Ontario's wheat is sold within Canada or the northern United States, while the majority of western wheat is shipped around the world. The transportation costs for western wheat and its markets are not at all comparable, nor is the clout required to sustain the western wheat industry.
What is the bottom line? If the members opposite would like to continue making the comparison between Ontario and the western provinces, they should first allow western farmers a vote to determine their own future.
Any way we look at it, the will of western Canadian wheat, durum and barley farmers is being ignored by the government. A majority of farmers elected the farmer directors. A majority of farmers supported maintaining the single desk and a majority of farmers are furious that their Conservative MPs are muzzled by the 's office, will not listen to their wishes or their needs and are now endangering their livelihoods.
When asked about why there will be no farmer-elected directors on the interim Canada wheat board, members at committee were informed that it was necessary for such oversight given the expenditure of taxpayer money. This, of course, raises a new concern. How much taxpayer money will be spent killing the Canadian Wheat Board? With the single desk, the Canadian Wheat Board is an organization with annual revenue of $5 billion to $8 billion, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year for all farmers.
Presently, there is no cost to the Canadian taxpayers and yet the government has not released a single estimate of how much this is anticipated to cost, nor has it released a business plan for a new Canadian wheat board. What business starts without a business plan? I thought perhaps the government was considering funding its failed enterprise on the back of farmers.
A week and a half ago, it was discovered that the government had raised the cap on the Canadian Wheat Board's contingency fund, originally developed to allow the Canadian Wheat Board to pursue more innovative marketing, as well as to gradually build a buffer to protect farmers. The reserve was capped at $60 million for the last 13 years. Everything above that went to farmers through the wheat pool of funds. At the 11th hour, just in the past week or so, the Conservative government suddenly raised the cap to $200 million. I could only imagine that even the farmers who support the government's position are furious to learn that their hard-earned money now provides for a Conservative government's slush fund, a fund designed to pay for the minister's new farming folly and the further liabilities of dismantling the Wheat Board.
Farmers could use this money. With the fragile state of the world economy, the Canada Wheat Board is more important than ever to grain exporting prairie provinces. This money is the financial backstop for their clout. These farmers have heard the prognostications of big grain companies like Viterra, Cargill, Richardson and even Bunge, most of whom have seen share prices spike with the news that the Conservatives would be killing the Wheat Board. Even today, Cargill announced that it will create their own wheat pool for farmers. What chance does an interim Canada wheat board have to survive? Almost nil.
Just weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal welcomed the demise of the Wheat Board, noting that under the present single desk system, “More money goes back to farmers than under an open market system”. It went on to say, “Grain handlers such as Cargill Inc., Viterra Inc., and Bunge Limited, could see their roles and returns in Canadian grain markets grow”.
Where will this growth come from? It will come from profit that would have been in the pockets of western farmers and small town economies, thanks to the Canadian Wheat Board. Do we need more proof? Alliance Grain Traders are just now opening a pasta processing plant in Regina, one that would not have been feasible before, unless it knew it could get the lowest possible price for farmers' wheat and durum, noting that the best way now to combat their market erosion is, “by negotiating lower prices from growers”.
Once the protection of the single desk is gone, these businesses will begin to divide and conquer farmers, negotiating them down to the lowest possible price, making farmers price takers instead of price setters, until inevitably, as was the case in Australia, there is only one large agribusiness left.
Western Canadian farmers on both sides of this debate should take a much closer look at the Australian model. Its example leaves so many questions unanswered but has demonstrated that deregulation has led to major agribusiness controlling the logistic chain, leaving farmers out in the cold.
Jock Munro, a grain farmer from New South Wales, Australia, in an article in Grain Matters, lamented:
We estimate we have lost $4 billion as growers since the wheat industry was deregulated three years ago.
The math just does not add up, unless the government is deliberately ensuring that Canadian farmers are the losers at the end of this deal.
Not contained in the bill is any contingency for 10 to 15 years down the road. We know that small farms and small town economies will now be in danger of failure, even The Economist magazine agrees. In an editorial at the outset of this debate it wrote:
Smaller producers, faced with mounting marketing costs, will inevitably have to sell their farms to bigger rivals or agribusiness companies...devastating small prairie towns, whose economies depend on individual farmers with disposable income.
We already know that the government will not intervene unless it is to pull the strings of the board of directors, so farmers are left at the mercy of the grain and rail companies. We know that any extra money that might have been returned to farmers this year is being held hostage by the minister and his government.
What of food sovereignty? I am concerned, as are farmers across the western provinces, and Canadians across this country, that once small farms start failing on the Conservative government watch they will be bought up by large agribusiness or even foreign countries that are more concerned with their own profits and internal interests than our food sovereignty.
Recently, the government has made a number of moves that are less than encouraging for Canadian agricultural industries. Having bowed to most of the United States' protectionist measures, the government has now placed supply management of eggs, milk and poultry on the table to negotiate away. First it was the Wheat Board and now it is supply management.
The precedent set by killing the Canadian Wheat Board is causing a great deal of concern among supply managed farmers. Farmers remember the telling the members of the trans-Pacific partnership that supply management was on the table, just as clearly as they remember him telling our European partners that it was on the table, just as clearly as they remember this quote from the same man, their esteemed , who said, “Take for example, ‘supply management’, our government-sponsored price-fixing cartels”. The and the have always been clear that they favour the free market regardless of the cost to our Canadian farmers, Canada's food sovereignty and food security.
The bill is not about fairness or freedom. We have said from the very start to let farmers decide. The Conservative government, from the very start, has cut off any expression that opposes its ideological obsession with killing the single desk.
With that, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following:
This House declines to give third reading to Bill C-18, An Act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related amendments to certain acts, because members of the committee were unable to hear testimony from the primary producers affected by and concerned with the future commercialization of the Canadian Wheat Board.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to get up to speak today as the member for the riding of Prince Albert. When I look at the things we would like to accomplish as a members of Parliament and what our constituents want us to accomplish, I can see that this bill is one that does both. The change to the Canadian Wheat Board is one that both I and my constituents want to see happen.
We have heard a lot of talk today about the Canadian Wheat Board and what is going on. The Liberal members would have us believe that the Canadian Wheat Board would be totally disbanded, everyone would be thrown out of work, and the Wheat Board would not exist. That is not true.
What is happening is that the Wheat Board is being transitioned to a functioning entity that farmers want. Farmers who want to participate in it will be able to and will have the option to participate in it; farmers who do not want to will have that option also. It is the same right and privilege that farmers right across Canada have, and farmers in the designated area will now also have the same right and privilege.
This has been a very divisive debate for the last 40 years. There have not been any new arguments brought to the table in the last three weeks or six months or year that would change a member's mind or change a constituent's or farmer's mind on where they sit on this debate. Everyone has their ideology when it comes to this debate. Everyone has their reason for believing what they believe.
It is interesting that when we look back at the history of this file, we see a report from the Canadian Wheat Board, paid for by the Canadian Wheat Board, saying that it extracts premium. Then we can also go back and see a report by the George Morris Centre saying that there is no premium. Those types of arguments have been going on and on in the Prairies for probably the last 40 years.
However, one argument that cannot be fought against is freedom. We cannot fight against the right to our property. We cannot tell people that we are going to take what is theirs and make it ours. That is improper. That is not right.
People can argue all sorts of reasons on why they want collective marketing. They can argue all sorts of reasons on why they want the CWB. Those options are there, but it is farmers' hard work that creates that crop. It is their hard work that will make that wheat and barley grow, and they should be able to receive the rewards for their hard work.
I do not want to forget to mention, Mr. Speaker, that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Through this last summer, the CWB knew exactly what was going on. It knew the transition was going to happen. It had all the tools in front of it to go forward and it decided not to. The board, instead of working with farmers, the government, accredited exporters, and their customers, decided to do the opposite: to become a bunch of political agents and work for the NDP and the Liberal Party. It decided to do that with farmers' money. It took farmers' money without asking and started a campaign. It was not so much for what it believed in--it is just its own ideology that it believes in--and it did not represent farmers.
The CWB could have gone out this summer and sold wheat and barley over the next four or five years, but instead it did a plebiscite. It identified voters, people who would support the CWB. Why did it not go and ask those farmers to sign up acres? Why did it not go to them to say that if they supported the single desk and the concept of pooling their product with the Canadian Wheat Board, it was still able to do that. It could actually have moved forward, taken the farmers' acres and marketed them on their behalf at pooled prices. The Canadian Wheat Board could have set up a program to do that, but it did not.
It is interesting that when I talk to different accredited exporters who have been through the House of Commons, there is concern on their side too. They are looking for an entity to work with to source grain on the Prairies. Again, they are familiar with the Canadian Wheat Board and familiar with the staff there. The directors just had to give the staff the green light to go ahead. Did they do that? No, they engaged in a political debate. They engaged in their own self-preservation, their own ideology.
Actually, that is why they needed to be removed and a transition board needed to come forward. It was not only to protect the employees of the Canadian Wheat Board, who are good, hard-working people, but also to protect the farmers who wanted to use this chance of pooling and wanted to use this entity to market their wheat.
It is going to be interesting as we look forward to this new CWB and what it can become. There are no shackles on it. It can actually do what it wants to do. The farmers who support it can actually lead that organization to where they want it to go. If they want to handle pulses and can find a market where they can tie pulses into some wheat and barley, they can do that. If they want to handle canola, they can do that. If they want to handle oats, or wheat and barley out of Ontario or Quebec, they can do that. They have the ability to take the organization where they feel it needs to go.
That is something that farmers have never had with the Canadian Wheat Board. That is something that has never been represented in the way the CWB operates and runs.
Many times in the Prairies we have seen value-added entities come up. A good example was the Weyburn Inland Terminal's pasta plant. Here was a group of farmers who wanted to build a pasta plant. They got together, raised the funds and found the market for the pasta. They had everything to rock and roll and were ready to go, but the CWB stepped in and said no.
The CWB is not there for itself; it is there for farmers. That is its main goal. It is a tool to be used by farmers. However, in this situation the CWB refused to adapt their tool to allow farmers to use it properly. Instead of farmers being able to appreciate the CWB, work with the board and figure out a way around it so that the pasta plant could go forward, the CWB said no.
That has been a problem in how the CWB has operated in past history. It was never there necessarily to work for farmers, but to protect its own single desk ideology. It never worked with guys who wanted to proceed with niche markets or other opportunities. The CWB would say that would do buy-back options and would look at other options for farmers to buy back the product, but it always made it either a hurdle or impossible.
There is another interesting thing about the buy-backs. A few farmers who went through the process talked to me about it. They found their own market and did the buy-back. On the buy-back form they actually had to name who they were selling their wheat to. They would put, in good faith, the name of the company they were selling their wheat to across the line or overseas; the next week, they would get a phone call from their customers telling them that the CWB had gone in and undercut them.
One wonders how hard the organization was actively searching for markets for farmers' grain, or whether the CWB was just a little comfortable in how it went about doing it.
The changes in the legislation that I think would be positive for the Prairies and for farmers as a whole are that they would have a variety of options in marketing a product.
We heard people complain a lot on the level of railway service. If we want competition for the railways, the best competition is value-added. The best competition is not to use the railways, but to process the grain there and then and create a product that does not necessarily have to go in a hopper car. That is the best way to get competition for the railways, and that would happen on the Prairies. That was not allowed to happen, and could not happen, on the Prairies in the past. However, now we can look across the line at the malt plant or at the Alix malt plant in Alberta that is going through an expansion.
I look forward to those types of opportunities coming forward to our producers, as well as the opportunity for the barley growers who want to ship four or five containers of barley to Indonesia. In today's day and age, it is not a big deal. It is not the 1940s or 1930s, when we had telecommunication and travel issues. People hop on planes daily now. They talk across the waters all the time. People watch the Chicago grain markets daily. It is not the big issue that it was in the past.
I will sum up with some of the things that I have seen happen around here.
I am very optimistic for the future of wheat and barley farmers. I am very optimistic for farmers in general, and for their future. I am more optimistic now, I have to say, then I have ever been in my farming or political career.
We would not have got here without the help of a lot of great individuals. A lot of people fought in the trenches on this file. A lot of farmers put their own blood, sweat and tears into this file. There are farmers who went to jail to have the right to sell their own product. My hat goes off to those farmers, and I thank them. They kept the torch alive and they did not do it for themselves, but for their kids and the whole industry. They actually had the ambition and drive to think that they could do better.
Again, I take my hat off to these guys and thank them for being there and doing that job. The guys who went to jail made an ultimate sacrifice in giving up their time with their wives and families and going through the court system. I remember driving down to Lethbridge to watch one of the court proceedings and talking to a few of the guys. My buddy, Rick Strankman, took me down there. He said: “Hoback, you've got to see these guys. They're pure, and pure through”.
They were not doing it because they were greedy. They were not doing it for any reason other than they thought it was the best thing for the market, for farmers and for their families, and they should have the right to market their grain as they see fit.
That is what we are going to do here today. We are going to create a new entity, and how this entity moves forward will be decided by farmers. It will go through a transition board and then a transition period to rediscover itself. At the end of the day, the whole farm sector will be the stronger for it, and at the end of the day, a lot of constituents will say that this debate on whether to have a single desk is finally over.
Again, I would like to thank the minister and my colleagues. I encourage the members of the opposition to work with us as we move forward in agriculture in western Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to represent the riding of Portage—Lisgar, an amazing riding in rural Manitoba, full of producers, agriculture, manufacturers, small business, individuals and families that have built lives and communities on agriculture and the importance that agriculture brings to our country. I appreciate being able to support and represent farmers as their member of Parliament.
I want to thank my colleague, the member for and others who have worked so hard on this issue. Many of them are farmers. I want to give my colleagues the due respect they should have for the hard work they have done, as well as opposition members, who we disagree with on what we should do to help farmers. However, I believe the intent of the majority of opposition members is honourable in supporting farmers. I hope at the end of this debate we will be able to put aside all of the angst and division and we will truly see a viable and successful Canadian Wheat Board as well as choice for Canadian farmers.
First, I very strongly support Bill . I will begin with the premise of freedom, freedom that all of us enjoy in the great country of Canada. We enjoy freedom as individuals, of faith and free speech. Business people enjoy the freedom of being able to market their goods and services. As long as the goods or services they market are legal, they should be able to market them within the regulations and laws of Canada. This is a freedom that so many western Canadian farmers who grow wheat and durum have been unable to experience. If all Canadians listening today begin with the thought of freedom for western Canadian farmers to market their wheat and durum just like farmers across the rest of Canada are able to do, that is a good foundation to build on the strength and validity of Bill .
The legislation delivers on our government's long-standing commitment to give western farmers the marketing freedom they deserve. Just like there is a lot of excitement around the Jets coming back to Winnipeg, Manitoba, there is a lot of excitement among farmers and producers around the opportunity to have freedom in marketing their wheat.
I am proud of the role that agriculture plays in keeping our economy strong and stable. In 2009 the agricultural and food industry brought $4.8 billion to the farm gate in Manitoba in total farm cash receipts. It generated just over $4 billion in exports and the agricultural industry directly employed 30,000 Manitobans. The agricultural industry is booming in Manitoba. Some of the best crops are grown in that province. Right across our great country, the agriculture and agrifood industry accounted for over $100 billion in economic activity and over 2.1 million jobs.
I want to speak for a moment about some of the industries in my riding.
Can-Oat, which is an oat processing facility, has done remarkably well since it has been given the freedom to market oats. I visited the facility in Portage la Prairie. I am very proud and I know the people who work there are very proud of the work they do.
Keystone Grain, another business located in Winkler, Manitoba, is able to process all kinds of grains, market and sell them around the world.
Bunge, which is located in Altona in my riding, also processes canola and does a fantastic job. It has just expanded its facilities. We have contributed with Canada's economic action plan. We helped the town of Altona support Bunge and we have another value-added industry in my riding.
Quaker Farms grows and markets vegetables.
What is not in my riding is a pasta plant. There are no value-added industries for wheat or durum. No matter what side of the issue one is on, we want value-added industries to grow and I want them to grow in my riding.
These businesses are tremendous and show what our hard-working farmers and food processors can do when they have the liberty to run their businesses in a free and open market. For too long, Manitoba wheat and barley growers have had that field tilted against them.
On October 18, the hon. introduced legislation that aimed to level that field by giving farmers the right to choose how to market their wheat, durum and barley independently or through a voluntary Canadian wheat board. The marketing freedom for grain farmers act will give every farmer in western Canada the freedom to choose how to market their grain, whether that is to a buyer who pays the full price on delivery or through a pool offered by the Canadian Wheat Board. As has already been indicated, it is our intention to have this marketing choice system in place for August 1, 2012.
Western Canadian farmers want the same freedom and opportunity as other farmers in Canada and around the world and they want to be able to market their grain based on what is best for their own business. Again, just like any other business person in Canada, they want the same freedoms to market their wheat.
I just want to quote a couple of individuals from my riding, people who are producers and who are contributing to our economy.
Lyndon Thiessen a farmer in Winkler, Manitoba, wrote to me and said, “We market all our other crops and are looking forward to doing our wheat completely on our own”.
Mark Elias, from Morden, Manitoba, which is my home town, wrote:
I am writing to encourage you to keep working at removing the Board. Please remove the board. It is costing us all very dearly. I know of businesses in your home town who cannot process wheat and sell products because of the Board. As a local producer I also do not have the option of selling my wheat directly into the US market thereby reducing my profits and the productive potential of Manitoba.