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Results: 1 - 15 of 15
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-02 17:15 [p.16241]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Burlington.
It is very interesting. I have listened to the debates this afternoon and opposition members have been arguing about the rationale as to why they cannot support Bill C-60, our economic action plan.
I would like to give them a few examples of reasons why they should support it. It is rather important legislation that continues a growth pattern that we have started on as a government.
We have come out of the recession as number one in the world, which is really rare for Canada as it has never been there before. It is exciting to see the numbers of jobs that have been created and the opportunity that we have as far as growth as we move forward.
Maybe I will close with some of the optimistic things that we can talk about within our country, but this legislation builds on that. Just for one reason alone, if the opposition is looking at something it could support, it certainly could support our veterans. This legislation would give a very nice benefit to our vets. For that reason alone, the opposition should support it.
Then again, it should also be supporting what the legislation does with regards to going after tax evaders, something that has not happened for many years. Just in fairness, as Canadians, and for no other reason, the opposition should support it to ensure everyone pays their fair share of taxes and to deal with those who cheat.
When it comes to the indexing of the gas tax, I heard the opposition say that the number one problem in municipalities was housing. I would beg to differ. The number one problem in municipalities, as we have heard right across the country from coast to coast to coast, is infrastructure. The legislation deals with $53 billion of infrastructure over a 10-year period, the most aggressive infrastructure plan that we have ever laid out as a country. For that reason alone, the opposition should support the legislation.
We would be lowering taxes and providing flow-through shares for mining and keeping that industry going. The accelerated capital cost allowance creates a tremendous amount of opportunity in manufacturing and opportunity for job growth and industry growth for many years to come. This is a great benefit in the legislation. The opposition should be supporting it because of that, or because of the hiring tax credit that has been continued for small businesses, which is a real benefit that it should be supporting. Even the capital gains exemption has gone up for lifetime capital gains for individuals. This is should be supported.
For those reasons alone, and I could go on about many other reasons, the opposition should support the bill. Instead, we hear a lot of negativity and some things that are negative have nothing to do with the legislation as far as arguments go. I guess I should not be alarmed about that, because when the opposition runs out of manufactured reasons for not supporting it, it comes up with reasons that are not even in the bill.
I would like to spend my time on the number one issue in my riding, which is the lack of labour. It is different from what I heard from the hon. member from Toronto, who suggested the number one problem was unemployment.
I have the opposite problem in my riding, which is a good thing in some ways, but in other ways it is not. The temporary foreign worker program was there to address it in the last election. When the people of my riding discerned whether I was the right person to vote for, the number one issue they came forward with was a lack of labour. The importance of the temporary foreign worker program was to deal with the kinds of reduction and the ability for corporations and industries to grow and create the kinds of opportunity for our region and our country.
However, the temporary foreign worker program was something we said we would take a look at, to see if we could find ways to make that program work even more effectively. Guess what? We did. We made the program work even more effectively and efficiently. However, there is a bit of a problem with the temporary foreign worker program and this legislation addresses that.
In my riding, unemployment is zero. The real objective of the temporary foreign worker program is that it does not take away jobs from Canadians, but helps complement the workforce where there are no Canadians to fill those jobs.
Even where unemployment is virtually zero or very close to it, there are people in the system who have abused the program, even in my riding. This needs to be addressed. In this piece of legislation, we are going after those individuals, tweaking the program and will be consulting on this program in the future to make it better so that it actually deals with what it was intended to do, which was complement and not replace Canadian workers.
There are seven ways that this piece of legislation lays out how it is going to be changed. The first one would come into effect immediately and it is with respect to the pay differential, which was brought in about a year or a year and a half ago and was not being used. Only about 5% of those using the program even bothered with it. Let us get rid of the compromised price of 15% for skilled workers or 5% for lower-skilled workers on the differential of what those individuals are being paid. That we got rid of in this piece of legislation.
We are going to temporarily suspend in this piece of legislation the accelerated labour market opinion process, which was something they were asking for. In my riding, people needed it. We are not going to cancel it in this legislation, just suspend it while we take a breather, do some consultation and look at how we build on this program to make it even better.
The third thing in this piece of legislation on the program is to make sure it has the power to deal with those who abuse the process in the sense of being able to take away, revoke or suspend the labour market opinion process, the work permit as well as the LMO. This is something we need if we are going to be able to deal with those who refuse to see it as a program to complement Canadian workers and use it to replace Canadian workers, which we are seeing even in an area such as ours.
The fourth change to the temporary foreign worker program in this piece of legislation is to make sure we stop outsourcing. The program was never intended to replace the Canadian workforce and to have people work outside our country is a total abuse. This piece of legislation deals with that as well. That is another reason for certain that the opposition should be supporting it.
The fifth reason is that we want to make certain there is a plan in place for corporations that get LMOs and use temporary foreign workers to replace them long term with the Canadian workforce. That may be the most difficult one in my riding to comply with, so we are going to go through a process of consultation on that.
The sixth thing is to make sure that the fund is self-funded. There is no way that the taxpayer should be supporting this fund. The employer should be doing that.
The seventh thing is to make sure that English and French are the only mandatory languages necessary for foreign workers.
Those are the seven changes. The agricultural community and the agriculture workforce are exempt from most of these, except that if people abuse the system, the work permits will be revoked.
These are wonderful changes to the program, but it is in a process of consultation. It is one of the most important pieces in this bill that will impact all of Canada, but particularly my riding.
We have a wonderful experience in Canada. When we were coming through the recession, my colleagues in America went green with envy. They call Canada the miracle to the north because of the jobs created, the lower taxes, how we are freeing up the private sector to grow, capitalizing on international markets and moving to balanced books. For that, we should be very excited as Canadians. We have a great story to tell. We are doing some wonderful things not only in this budget, but in past budgets. This complements past ones. All members should think soberly about that and support this piece of legislation.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-02 17:26 [p.16243]
Mr. Speaker, it is an absolutely wonderful story that we have with regard to investments in Canada, and for those who come to this country to invest and create opportunities for employment in manufacturing, as well as the opportunity in the long run for Canadians on investments. This is one of the first times in the history of our country that we actually have the floodgates wide open because it is all about confidence. People are going to invest in this country because of the confidence that is here that they would actually be making money.
In fact, I was talking to a group this morning from chemical corporations in this country that are dealing with investments. They are looking at infrastructure builds of $5 billion over the next five years. They are saying that they have corporations all over the world, but the corporations that are making the most money are really Canadian corporations. Why? It is because of the competitive advantage that we are giving them. We are working to make certain that we have the opportunities for Canadians to be able to develop manufacturing jobs and good jobs in the long run. These are one small example of the kinds of investments that are coming into this country.
When it comes to Canada Post, CBC and other crown corporations, they are arm's-length from government, but we want to make sure that they are sustainable in the long run. We have to work and be responsible to Canadians and to the public we represent by making sure that these crown corporations move in that direction. That is where I believe this piece of legislation will take us.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-02 17:28 [p.16243]
Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ with my hon. colleague: it is absolutely new. It is indexed gas tax funds, which is brand new, plus $14 billion in larger projects. I do not have the numbers in front of me, but collectively it is $53 billion in 10-year, long-term, stable funding.
This is exactly what the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been asking for across Canada. This is what it is getting in this piece of legislation. It is the most excited. When I talk to mayors and reeves in municipalities across my riding, they are absolutely ecstatic about this bill. They want it passed because they then can make some long-term plans for solid infrastructure that will build this country a long way into the future.
My hon. colleague should support this piece of legislation if for no other reason than the infrastructure alone.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and a pleasure for me to stand and speak to this important piece of legislation.
I just came from chairing the international trade committee. It is a pleasure for me to serve in that capacity. When it comes to trade, it is absolutely imperative that I explain to Canadians just how important trade is to Canada.
One out of every five jobs is created because of trade. Sixty-three per cent of our GDP is represented by trade, and we have accomplished that because of trade agreements.
The trade file started with NAFTA. NAFTA has been in existence for almost 17 years. What has happened in that time period? Jobs have gone up by 23%, meaning there are 40 million net new jobs in North America because of NAFTA. Trade has tripled, and has quadrupled with one of our partners.
Opposition members argue against free trade agreements. It really puzzles me that they let the Jordan free trade agreement go through on a voice vote; it was as if their union people were not watching. It is absolutely amazing to me that they could agree with the Jordan free trade agreement and then stand in the House and give some of the arguments that I have heard recently against the Panama free trade agreement. I will talk about that in a few minutes.
I want to give one quick example about NAFTA. We heard arguments that when NAFTA came in, the wine industry in Canada would be absolutely destroyed. It would cease to exist. All those arguments were presented on the floor of the House, and they were argued vigorously.
Can members guess what happened? Canada's wine exports amounted to $1.8 billion. From all the various countries—Argentina, Australia, France, Italy, Spain—we imported $800 million in wine, so our exports doubled our imports. What a great success story, and all because of international trade. That is something my hon. colleagues should keep in mind.
What have we been doing as a country? We have signed nine different free trade agreements: Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, Peru, the European Free Trade Association members, and Panama, the one we are dealing with today.
What are we pursuing? We are pursuing an economic free trade agreement with Europe. We just heard testimony less than an hour ago in committee from our chief negotiator, who indicated how well that is going. We expect to have the final draft by the end of the year.
Why is that important? It is important because it is the most comprehensive free trade agreement between any two nations anywhere in the world. It will supposedly be at end of text by the end of the year. It is exciting to see how well that is going, and I compliment the negotiators on that free trade agreement.
What does that agreement mean to Canada? It means $1,000 per family per year. That is a fair amount. That is $12 billion coming into Canada every year because of the economic free trade agreement with Europe.
We are also working aggressively on another free trade agreement, in this case with Japan. The benefits to Canada would be $9 billion. As well, there is India, Brazil, Thailand.
Just a few minutes ago we heard that we are in the TPP, which, as of yesterday, is a group of 10 countries on the Pacific rim that will work on a comprehensive free trade agreement in that group.
What about China? Last year we imported $44.5 billion from China. It imported $13.2 billion from us. To equalize the trade benefit from China and to balance the trade would be a $30 billion benefit. It could be just an act of goodwill by China.
We are very excited about accelerating trade and about our opportunities with these growing countries that are in need of the products we produce and the resources, industries and intelligence we have here in Canada to offer them.
What are the elements of the Canada-Panama agreement? We trade cross-border services, telecommunications, investment, financial services, government procurement and so on.
It is important to sign this agreement and get on with it. The bill reached third reading in the last Parliament. It is important because the United States, Chile, Taiwan and Singapore already have an agreement with Panama.
What would bilateral trade with Panama mean? In 2011, trade was $235 million. We imported about $144 million in products such as metals, gold, fruit, machinery, fish and seafood products. We exported about $111 million in products such as machinery, meat, aerospace products, vegetables and so. Signing this kind of agreement would provide a great opportunity for our corporations and our country.
It is very important to understand the opportunities that lay themselves before us under this agreement on the procurement side. In Panama it is projected there will be $28.9 billion U.S. worth of infrastructure projects over the coming years. One of the largest is the Panama Canal, which is a $5.3 billion expansion and a great opportunity for Canadian corporations with regard to not only that but also ports, roads, bridges and airports, with respect to procurement.
It is important to understand that the tariffs on our agricultural products are rather intense. They go from 13.4% right up to 260% for some of our agricultural products. Imagine what the elimination of those could do with respect to exporting frozen potatoes, pulses, pork, malt barley and other products such as beef, hogs and so on. When it comes to the non-agricultural goods, the tariffs are anywhere from 6.2% right up to 81% on many of those, such as materials, equipment, industrial and electrical machinery, paper products, vehicles and so on. We can see that the potential for this is great.
The resistance I hear from the opposition members is rather interesting because they have talked about labour problems, human rights problems and environmental concerns. There is a corporate social responsibility that has been agreed to by Canadian corporations when we get into this piece of legislation. It very much encompasses environmental protection, human rights, labour relations, corporate governance, transparency, community relations, peace and security, and anti-corruption measures. Therefore, the opposition members are really blowing smoke when they say that the legislation does not include any of this. It is very important that it is there and that we sign this agreement so that Canadian companies would be able to capitalize on these kinds of opportunities.
The corporate social responsibility part of this agreement is very important. It is something that has not been talked about an awful lot here but is something that is very important. With respect to the side agreements on labour and the environment, I have heard opposition members ask why they are not encompassed within the body of the agreement. It is no different than with Jordan, for which they had no problem with standing in this House. Well, actually they did not stand; they just sat there on a voice vote and let it go unanimously at third reading. It is off to the Senate and will be passed very soon we hope. There is no difference here with respect to that, so I do not know how, in their own thinking, they can support one and not the other.
In testimony at committee we heard the most outrageous circumstances on human rights happening in some of the factories in Jordan. The members of the opposition who are on the committee heard the same testimony. There are two approaches that can be taken when we look at a free trade agreement. We can either say that unless that country comes up to Canadian standards we will disengage or just check out because there is no point, which will send a message that we would not do business with anyone who does not come up to our standards. The other approach is to engage that country as much as possible, improve its standard of living and give Canadian businesses as well as the corporations in those other countries opportunities that would help them along, so that we both win. That is the approach this government is using.
The most hypocritical position I have ever seen in this House on the trade file is the opposition members supporting Jordan but not supporting Panama, Colombia and others. It is really beyond anything I have seen. Clearly, it is something that has to be addressed when we challenge the opposition members to come on side and sign the agreement. If they say they are pro-trade then they should do it. The excuses I have heard are absolutely not excuses but rather blind ideology that hurts Canadian businesses and Canada as a country.
Canada is a wonderful country. It is the greatest country in the world, according to the IMF, the OECD and Forbes magazine. We have created 760,000 net new jobs since the bottom of the recession. We have done that by lowering taxes and giving Canadian corporations the opportunity to actually develop and move their goods and services into international trade opportunities around the world. As a government, we will continue to do that. Why? That is what Canadians expect us to do.
The NDP would like to raise taxes to get out of this recession. We believe we should grow our country. That is the way to win, and we will continue to do that.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I addressed that question in my deliberations, but nonetheless I would like to repeat it.
It is absolutely no different from the agreement with Jordan that the opposition sat in this House and agreed with 100%. The most horrendous testimony we have heard in our committee came from the factories in Jordan, of the misuse of human rights, yet the side agreements on human rights and on the environment are the very same.
I am saying to my hon. colleague that it is ridiculous to say that the side agreements on human rights and environment say we are going to go soft on it. We are going to go as hard as we possibly can and make sure we do what we can, in this agreement and other agreements, to be able to respect human rights wherever we can. We understand very well that in Jordan and in Panama there may be problems.
I would say the opportunity to have more intense problems, when it comes to human rights, is in Jordan rather than in Panama.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting comment. Maybe the member is rather new here, but when the Liberals were in power for 13 long years, they signed zero agreements.
We signed nine and are heading to ten free trade agreements. It is very important that we not allow other countries to eat our lunch when it comes to trade. That is exactly what I said: when it comes to Panama, we have the United States, Singapore and other countries ahead of us with free trade agreements. The first one in usually has an opportunity ahead of the others. That is why we are pursuing, aggressively, free trade agreements with Japan and others. There is an advantage to making sure we do that.
It is very interesting, coming from the Liberal Party that agrees with free trade, because they did absolutely nothing. We have seen that as a trend by the Liberal Party for many years, so we are not really surprised.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, the member is not opposed to trade; she is opposed to time allocation. This bill got to third reading with the last government. How much more debate does the member want on this thing?
Now we have started from scratch. This government has brought it up through committee and into the House, into third reading. That is a fairly extensive look at it. If the opposition has not made up its mind by now, it is never going to.
When it comes to tax havens, this is something that has been brought up before. In 2002 Panama committed to implementing the OECD's standards when it comes to exchange of tax information. In 2011, the OECD took another look at it and formally listed Panama as having substantial implementation and as having achieved international standards on exchange of information.
I believe Panama has come a long way. This is the right thing to do, and I encourage all members to consider that and vote for this piece of legislation.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2012-02-14 13:50 [p.5259]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to Bill S-5, the financial system review act.
The bill has cleared the Senate and is now in the House. Some of my colleagues on the other side are asking why now and why so fast. It is not really fast. The consultation process started in September. We had to use that process to be able to get it to this place. Then we need to get it to committee and move it through so that it can actually be implemented by April of this year. That is very simple to understand.
We have a very strong and stable financial system in Canada. In fact, we came through the financial crisis with flying colours as a country, as did our financial institutions. Why? It is because we do these regular reviews. We ensured we made changes as we moved along and that nothing would be left on the back burner. We are actually moving forward and doing something with it to accommodate Canadians and their interests in the changing world in which we live.
Bill S-5 would make a number of improvements to key areas in the Canadian economy. The financial sector is very stable, and there are reasons for that. It is stable because of these mandatory reviews we are doing. It is also very big. We must realize that 750,000 people work in the system, all in well-paying jobs. It makes up about 7% of the GDP of this country. A lot is made up of the oil sands in my province, being 6% of the GDP in this country, and yet the financial institutions are larger than that and is doing very well.
The bill is not only big but also good. Why would it not be good when we have the number one Minister of Finance in all of the world? That is something that has never happened before to Canada. In fact, we are rated number one in the world in many different areas, especially in the field of financial management. In fact, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada as having the soundest banking system in the world. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada number one in its annual review as the best country to do business with as we move forward. Bloomberg has recently listed our five big banking institutions in Canada as the world's strongest banks, more so than in any other country in the world.
There is a competitive environment in this place and opposition members do what opposition members do, they oppose.
I have a quote here from a past Liberal finance minister, the now president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, John Manley, who said:
Our financial system and institutions were tested during the financial crisis and have proved sound. Canada’s banking system is now widely viewed as the most stable and efficient in the world.
That is high praise from a former opposition individual who knows the financial system very well.
Last month, an independent financial stability board appeal review praised the government's swift and effective response to the global financial crisis. We did come through it quite well. In its review, it highlighted the resilience of the financial system that we have as a model for other countries to follow. As Canadians, we should be proud of that.
We must realize that as we went through the financial crisis in Europe there were many problems with a lot of the banks there, as well as south of the border in the United States. If we compare ourselves to our number one trading partner, there was a meltdown of the financial systems. Not one of the financial institutions in Canada failed. Not one failed or required direct government support in the form of cash injections or debt guarantees during the global financial crisis. That is something that did not and does not happen by accident. It happened because there was good management of the Canadian financial systems and it is directly related to what we are doing here today with this legislation.
In fact, the report stated:
This resilience, which was achieved in spite of Canada’s relatively complex regulatory structure, highlights a number of key lessons for other jurisdictions.
What are those lessons that Canada can teach other jurisdictions? The first is to be proactive with targeted macroeconomic policies supported by adequate fiscal space and flexible exchange rates that will help absorb the external shocks.
The second is a prudent banking system management so that we do not become over-leveraged, as has happened in Europe, the United States and other banking systems and sectors. This is particularly important if we are to go through a crisis, such as what is happening around the world. We hope that we are through it now and that we will not revisit it, although what is happening around the world should make us a bit cautious, particularly the debt crisis in Europe and perhaps some overspending in the United States that could impact us in years to come.
The third thing is the comprehensive regulatory supervisory framework that effectively addresses the domestic prudent concerns including, when necessary, adopting regulatory policies that go beyond the international minimum standards.
Those are three lessons that other jurisdictions can learn from.
As the board noted, since 2008, the Conservative government has taken significant steps to make our financial system more stable and to reduce systematic risk to Canadians and to the system. In fact, the first thing we did in the 2008 budget was to modernize the authorities of the Bank of Canada to support the stability of the financial system.
We came through it in glowing fashion, as far as our financial institutions, but in budget 2009 we suggested other changes. Just in case we were to run into problems with our banking system, we wanted to ensure we were able to capitalize our banks so that they would not go into receivership. This is very important. What it really allowed for was, if there was an injection needed into our banking system to sustain it, the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation would have the flexibility to do that. That is actually a very wise thing. We did not need it, thankfully, and, hopefully, we never will. A bridging institution was what we needed. In banking terms it is called a bridged bank. Bill S-5 includes a number of technical refinements to ensure that the efficient implementation of those bridged bank tools are there.
Budget 2011 also announced our government's intention to establish a legislative framework for covered bonds, which are debt instruments secured by high quality assets, such as residential mortgages. This bill would make it easier for Canadian financial institutions to assess the low cost sources of funding and help to create a robust market for covered bonds in Canada.
Let us look ahead. We have this five year review. It is very important that we do this review, mainly adding to some of the changes that we have made over the last number of years, chiefly technical. One of the changes that would actually make it a little stronger goes back to one of the changes that was made by Liberals in 2001. It would back that off so that any bank that invests in more than 10%--
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2012-02-14 15:06 [p.5273]
Mr. Speaker, this is important legislation that we have before us. As I only have a minute and a half, I will reiterate some of what I have said. I mentioned how important the financial system is to Canada, how well we are actually doing compared to other countries and that some of the changes are a tweaking and of a technical nature of the Financial Systems Act.
One of the issues I was talking about before the question period break was that no financial institution can invest more than 10% of its assets in another international jurisdiction. That is to make certain that the system is protected and Canadians are not overly exposed. In fact, the Canadian Bankers Association, which we would think would be a bit concerned about this kind of imposition, said that it fully supports it.
We do have a great system in Canada. It is the best in the world. We have the greatest finance minister in the world. We have been recognized by international agencies in countries around the world as having done our job and done our job well. We have low taxes, stable finances and great opportunities. I believe that our best years are yet to be realized in this country if we just continue the course.
This legislation should meet with the approval of all members of the House as we move forward. I encourage everyone to consider this bill for what it is worth and the importance of it so that it can be completed in time for the April 20 deadline.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2011-10-20 13:54 [p.2274]
Mr. Speaker, I could not agree with my colleague more when it comes to the Wheat Board.
At home we farm about 3,000 acres. I have a son who is looking after it at the present time. He is still combining and trying to get the crop off, but he asks me why he is getting a world price for canola outside the board but not getting a world price for wheat, which is in the board.
I would like to know what my colleague would say to my son and I would like to ask that question to the opposition. Obviously none of those members actually farms wheat or canola and understands exactly what is happening at the farm gate. The real question should be how much the Wheat Board is costing at the farm gate today, because it is very significant.
Could my colleague come up with an answer that would satisfy my son?
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2011-10-20 15:44 [p.2293]
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague intently. In response to the kind of issues he put forward with regard to the Wheat Board I would use a term that he has used many times in the House, “total horse feathers”.
As a farmer I understand full well exactly what he is talking about. I was the minister in charge of railways and I am aware of the issues regarding rail and the rail service review. It has been announced that legislation is coming with regard to the protection of railways. However, that is not the gist of my question.
My hon. colleague said that the Wheat Board is actually capitalizing on a better price for wheat for farmers in western Canada. If there was a shred of evidence of that being true, then farmers in Saskatchewan and Alberta would not be loading their grain cars and trying to run the border to get across to the other side to get a better price for their product, especially when they will be thrown in jail by that government for that act. The opposite would be happening. Americans would be loading their grain cars trying to rush the northern border to capitalize on a better rate through the Wheat Board. That is just the logic of it.
The real question is how much it is costing farmers in western Canada at the farm gate to support and subsidize the Wheat Board because that is what is happening.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2011-10-20 15:54 [p.2295]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with the hon. member for Medicine Hat.
This is an important issue that is near and dear to my heart, and the comments I am going to make this afternoon are biased, I admit. I am going to fess up right off the bat that I am a farmer. My son is actually the fourth generation on our farm so agriculture goes back a long way in our family. I have produced wheat and barley every year for the last 30 to 40 years, and my comments are biased because I will do and say anything I possibly can to support the farm family and agriculture in western Canada.
When my son wanted to take over the family farm, I tried to discourage him because I knew how difficult agriculture is. It is a very demanding occupation. So I told him to go and get a business education and I would teach him how to farm. So he got a business education and now he is teaching me how to farm. It is amazing what our young entrepreneurs in agriculture are doing and can accomplish. It is phenomenal to see how the industry has developed and is unbelievably engaging.
It is interesting to look at the trumped-up survey from this summer that the opposition members refer to so often. Believe me, farmers have been voting loud and clear and not just because of the 52 out of 56 seats that were won in the May election. They were voting with their seed drills and they have been doing it for a decade or more every spring when they grow products such as canola that are outside the Wheat Board.
Canola has outstripped wheat as the number one commodity in Canada and that is not an accident but it is because the farmers are getting the world price for their canola. They are not getting the world price for their wheat. Because of canola being outside the Wheat Board, farmers have the flexibility to manage and market and get those dollars into their pocket to handle the farm income in a way that enables them to handle the risks of their business. This is important.
The other thing about the survey and why I say it is trumped up is I have been farming for 40-plus years, all my life, growing barley or wheat every year and I never got a survey. I never had a chance to vote in this trumped-up survey. If farmers are missed like me in this survey and then those numbers are used to wail about what farmers really think, then the opposition has to soberly consider what it is doing and who it is representing.
It is not by accident that in the May election only four out of the fifty six seats in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, provinces controlled by the Wheat Board, did not go to the Conservative government. Where were those four seats? Two of them were in downtown Winnipeg, one in downtown Regina and one in downtown Edmonton. I have not seen a combine or a kernel of wheat or barley in any one of those ridings ever.
So when members look at this piece of legislation, they should put aside ideology and do the right thing for agriculture and for farmers. Let us just for a second assume that the monopoly of the Wheat Board, if it is dual-marketed, is going to compromise the value at the farm gate. Then they would never have to worry about it because every farmer is astute enough to market their grain where they will get the best value for it. If that is the Wheat Board, that is where they will go. If that happens, nothing will change.
However, all this bill would do is allow farmers the opportunity to market their grain where they feel they can get better value for that dollar. If they can get a better value for the bushel of wheat or barley in an independent way by another avenue, then the question has to be asked how that can possibly be when the Wheat Board has a monopoly and has the inside track on getting the best value for farmers.
As I said a few minutes ago, if it were true that farmers were getting the best value for their wheat and barley, American farmers would be bringing their wheat here to capitalize on that marketing opportunity. That is not the case. The opposite is the case and there is a reason for it and it is that farmers are astute enough to understand their business plan and understand what is in their best interests as they move forward.
It is very important to say that this has to happen in conjunction with what was announced by our government on rail freight and transportation. The success of our country is really going to depend upon how well we can access international markets, how well and how fast we can get our canolas, wheats and barleys, our products and commodities to markets overseas. That is really where the growth lies.
As a government we put $3.6 billion-plus into the Asia-Pacific gateway so that we can streamline that transportation system. We have seen in our a government a change in the way that railways have actually treated agriculture. Their on-car deliveries this last year was up to over 90% compared to the year before, where it was down to about 50%.
Why is that changing? It is because of the rail freight service review. We have actually forced the railways to have a service agreement with those industries and farmers who have producer cars and so on, and who are shipping their products.
It has to go hand in glove because the railways win when shippers win, and when shippers and railways both win then Canada wins. It is very important that we make certain to streamline that system, so that the system will be able to handle the kinds of demands and opportunities that are there.
It is interesting, when we look at agriculture, just how big it is. It has changed so much. Since the 1950s it has gone up 300%, the productivity level in agriculture. That is what we are actually doing on the farm.
Seventy six per cent of those young farmers, in this survey that is being referred to, said that they wanted to break the monopoly. They wanted to have the opportunity to capitalize on markets other than the monopoly of the Wheat Board. Even using this survey, when we start looking into the future of where we are going to go, that is really the question, where do we go from here? What is it going to look like after we have dual marketing?
We have lost productivity or opportunity for our world share in wheat. It has fallen 42% in the last 50 years. We have lost 42% in the ability to capture those markets. When it comes to barley, the numbers are even worse. It is two-thirds, 66% since the 1980s that we have lost in the ability to capitalize on those international markets.
Where does the future lie? The population of the world right now is about 6.9 billion, 7 billion. What is it going to be in 2020? It is expected to be 7.6 billion. That is 68 million more people to feed, every year in this world. Where is agriculture going to be? It is not the same today as it was in the 1930s, when the Wheat Board was first brought in by a Conservative government, and it was voluntary, not forced, not a monopoly.
We are saying we should break the monopoly and allow the opportunity to see if the Wheat Board actually can do the job for the farmers or not.
We are saying that we have grown in opportunity for agricultural exports, but not because of the Wheat Board. It is in spite of the Wheat Board. It was $39 billion that was traded in 2010. We are in the top five agricultural exporters in the world. That is something to be proud of. It is because of the quality of the product that it is in such demand around the world.
The price is not realized. We are not getting world prices for wheat. We are here to protect our farmers. We have to actually ensure we have the farmers' interests in mind as we stand and speak on this piece of legislation. This is a very important piece of legislation that we are committed to for our electorate.
Speaking of that, I get this all the time. The opposition is saying that farmers think this and farmers think that. Well, I happen to be one of those farmers. So I have to ask, is it just me or do I represent my riding? I have yet to have a piece of mail or a phone call from anyone in my riding, although I am sure there are some people out there, that supports the monopoly.
I have yet to have one of those people call my office and say, “Can you phone me back and explain why you are doing what you are doing?” All of them are saying, “We want freedom. We want choice”.
That is where we need to go with this piece of legislation. It is an unbelievable opportunity that we have before us for agriculture in this country, for the family farm in this country, but more than that as we grow this country and capitalize on those international markets that are ripe for the taking.
We look forward to this bill passing. We encourage everyone in this House to consider their support as we come down to the vote on this.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2011-10-20 16:05 [p.2296]
Mr. Speaker, I would love to answer that one.
We have had a number. We had one in May, which was an election for 56 potential seats. There was a platform before them to breaking the monopoly and 52 of the 56 voted expected the government to follow through on the obligation in that platform. From one perspective, that is a very strong mandate to ensure that we do the right thing for agriculture and for the prairie farmer.
More than that, just look at what the farmers themselves have been doing. Every spring they go out and decide what to grow, whether it be wheat, canola, lentils or peas. That is what those who are outside the board are growing. Why are they growing this? Because the opportunities to capitalize on world prices is there. If they were getting the best price in the world, they would be growing more wheat and barley, but they are not.
It is unfortunate that we do not have the same opportunity in the prairies that they do in the rest of the country. All we are saying is that there should be an opportunity for a fair and open system. We look forward to that opportunity for western farmers, the same as Ontario farmers and east of Ontario.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2011-10-20 16:07 [p.2297]
Mr. Speaker, what we want to do is respect the farmer in western Canada. When it comes to that independent survey, as a farmer for 40 years who did not even get an opportunity to vote or take part in it, that tells us a bit about the credibility of that survey.
Nonetheless, it is absolutely critical that we move forward on this. Farmers are speaking loud and clear with their seed drills and voting patterns to make certain that happens.
To answer the member's question in a more direct way, right now it is absolutely imperative that we get this legislation through as fast as we can to have certainty for farmers so they can determine what kind of chemicals and fertilizers to use this fall based on the kind of products they will grow come spring seeding.
This is all about planning and being an entrepreneur on the farm. There is no way the House should hold that up for anything more than what we already know is in the best interests of farmers. We look forward to the legislation passing very soon.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, Canada Post is actually a great corporation and the employees great people.
It is unfortunate to see the kind of debate that has been going on over the last number of days. We have to ask the question, why is the NDP adamantly opposed to even putting the issue before an arbitrator?
When one side or the other is so opposed to going to arbitration like the NDP, which would just involve someone coming in to make a ruling that would be just for both sides, maybe they are on the wrong side of this issue.
Would my hon. colleague agree with that?
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