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Results: 1 - 15 of 637
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
I would suggest we call the question.
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, I thank you for the opportunity once again to address what I addressed earlier in camera.
I am a former chair of this committee. Wayne and I have been on this committee off and on since 1993, so we're nearing 15 years around this table. Over the years we've had agreements and disagreements, and we've had very important decisions made. I think this committee has done great work over the last many years. I've been proud to serve on this committee because I was proud to serve the people who elected me, and they were farmers.
On this issue we're not only talking about farmers but about consumers; all of us as Canadians are involved in this. I have never seen this committee work better on an issue than on this particular issue. I was so looking forward to coming into a meeting today, or two weeks ago, whenever this was going to happen, and being able to sit down and think, with a bit of tweaking here and there, we were going to be able to follow the recommendations as outlined by our person from the department.
And here we are this morning. When I heard the announcement last week in the Prime Minister's own words, he was basically precluding the work of the committee. As referenced by my colleague, never did he mention the committee, the work they were doing. Going forward and having more consultations with the same people or the same kind of people we dealt with--obviously they'd necessarily be the same people--we could conclude we would never find the end number of people we should listen to.
I just felt as a member of Parliament, not myself only but all members on both sides of the table, that our privileges.... And you're going to tell me my privileges weren't violated, but my privilege was violated, in my estimation. Whether your good book tells you that or not isn't really important to me. The fact is that my attitude coming into this morning's meeting has changed as a result of what happened last week.
Mr. Miller speaks about not making this political. Well, it was nothing but political. That's what it was. I would like to think the work this committee does is important, that the recommendations we conclude when we're finished with this report will be reported, and that if guidelines are used in bringing forward these recommendations that they be done quickly and that there be due credit given to the people around this table. I'm not looking for credit for myself; this is for Canadians. Canadians have told all of us that we need to move forward on this file, and we've done that.
Mr. Chair, you have done a good job of leading this committee on this issue, and I commend you for it. I just feel the work we have done has been violated by what the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture did last week. As others have said, it was simply for political purposes. I feel that unless this changes, this committee cannot function with the same kind of cordiality we have enjoyed around this table. While we've had our differences, I think that's what this is all about. But again we were able to have good work done here, and that's what this committee is all about.
I would encourage you, Mr. Chair, that when this work is finished, if you think it's worthy of us going forward, that the Prime Minister and the minister be made aware that these recommendations had better be a big part of what goes forward in terms of the guidelines, regardless of what he hears in those consultations in the 21 days going forward. This is where the work was done. We were commissioned to do this work. We've done our work. I want to see the work conclude in such a way that Canadians recognize that government is working for them, not just the politicians.
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
I don't want to prolong this debate, but I think a number of things should be clear. I don't think anyone on this side believes that the Prime Minister or the Minister of Agriculture shouldn't be making announcements.
There are two things that caused me to raise this issue this morning. One is the very fact that there was no recognition of the committee's work and that there is ongoing work being done by the committee. The other is the fact that he suggested there be another 21 days of hearings. He could have said “The committee is going on with its work. I believe there's more work to be done, and I would advise them that they should go back and see a few more people and bring forward a full and comprehensive view of what hasn't been heard yet.”
Nothing was said to that effect. It's a fait accompli. If you read the transcripts of what he said, both in the main statement and in the following statement, it was a fait accompli. The deal was made over there. For us not to be invited to be there is not a problem. I mean, I go through that all the time. I had a phone call on Saturday evening that I wasn't being invited to a certain event that was taking place. People from the riding thought I should be, but they were told by the government that I'm not a government member and therefore I have no right to be there. This is my riding. This is the way this government operates.
So this is not new. We've become used to this. We don't like it, but that's the way you people operate. So this is just another way of expressing to us that really what we do over here is not very important.
Larry, you know what I'm talking about. I've had this discussion with a number of you people over there, and that's the way you people operate.
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm talking about my own experience. I'm not talking about anyone else's experience. I'm talking about Mr. Steckle's experience.
I'm saying this work this morning.... I need assurances before I move forward that this work is important. I'm not necessarily hearing that. I'm getting some vibes from you, Mr. Lauzon, that it's important, but it's hard for me to be convinced that it's important when you've given us all these reasons to believe that basically the work is done outside of this committee.
I think it's a disgrace. You have never heard me really become very partisan in this committee. In 15 years I've not become partisan, and I don't want to start now, because I'm leaving shortly. But it disturbs me greatly that my democratic role as a member of Parliament, my privilege as a member of Parliament to come to this table and to work on behalf of those people, farmers and consumers, has been violated by someone going out for what is said not to be political but is nothing but political, absolutely politics at its worst. I find that repulsive. I'm sorry if I offend anyone by saying that, but I think Canadians need to understand that this work has been going forward and I thought was going forward rather well.
We put aside the report for a week so we could deal with some other matters: estimates, meeting with the minister, meeting with Mr. White and these people. We put this work aside for that. But I have to wonder now whether this work was put aside so this announcement could be made before we came back to look at it. I hope not. I'll leave that for you to tell me.
These are the reasons I have raised this issue this morning. Normally I wouldn't. I would have looked past this and looked beyond, but I couldn't do that this morning in good conscience. So I do that out of the sincerity of what brought me to this place 15 years ago.
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
I wasn't aware of it.
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
My view is that the first priority is to get the report done, and if we have time—
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
--if not, let them slide.
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
Unfortunately we've lost our minister. I was going to ask him some questions, because there were statements made this morning...and I realize we're dealing with CFIA, but we'd still like the department here.
He made comments about peach orchards coming out and being replaced with grape vineyards. We recently had an announcement of a plant closure in the Niagara region, the last fruit processing plant in eastern Canada. Nothing east of the B.C. border is left in Canada. That same plant is also a sister plant of a plant that was closed in my riding.
The point I'm making is if government really has a commitment to sustainability in agriculture, and if we believe...because I met yesterday with a gentleman who is now, contrary to what the minister said this morning, pulling out his pear orchards and replacing them with peach orchards, early peaches so that he has a continuum of work for his helpers, his workers. They had come to the table and asked government, including province and fed, for help, but there was no help from anyone, yet we are there for other industries in this country when they need help.
I think it's a shame we have lost the last plant in southwestern and perhaps in all Ontario, certainly in eastern Canada. These people, this particular individual has lost $300,000. Even after the government assistance of $1,600 an acre is factored in, he's still losing $300,000. The peaches he's tearing out had just come to their fifth year, prime production life.
I'm just wondering, really, what commitment--and this is not a partisan statement, I think government has failed in these areas for many, many years. When will government come to the sense that Canada's food production is important, that we look after this as much as we look after any other industry in this country? Because people can't go on continuing to do this kind of thing.
A private operator, I'm told--I have no numbers, but people have told me this--came up with $15 million in private money to keep this plant alive, but no government was willing to step up. I think this is a disgrace and I think it needs to be known that this has happened.
What is the response of government to this kind of thing? Because the talk is everywhere that this has happened, and I think you're aware of it.
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think one of the lessons we should have learned, if we haven't, is that in Growing Forward, and in going forward, in the past we have not been able to accommodate all the issues that surround the whole agricultural community. Provinces are different, the issues surrounding each particular commodity are different, and even the commodities within provinces are different. There are communities of people in the farm area...and the CFA is putting forward the view of AgriFlex.
I guess your view was that accommodations can be sought for that, because I think AgriFlex is what it's all about, because we have to be flexible. In the province of Ontario we have the business risk management program, which the province is supporting. The feds have not yet come to the table. To make that work, the feds have to be there.
What do you see happening there? The minister has said he's not going to participate. Is that the final word on that, or what can farmers in Ontario expect?
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
But I want that on the table. I want it noted that I had raised that, because the minister is not here and I wasn't able to give it to him. If you care not to address that, that's okay. But I want him to know that I asked that question.
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you. Your time has expired.
Monsieur Bellavance.
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
When, Mr. Chair, are we looking at the report that we haven't seen yet in terms of the labelling?
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Mr. White, it's my first opportunity to meet you. I guess some of the members around the table met you previously, but this is my first opportunity.
I have been around this table for a long time, and have met various CEOs of the Wheat Board over my 15 years in attendance here. I look at your résumé and where you've come from, and you indicate in your résumé that you worked in Canada for a number of years some years ago. So you had some knowledge of the Wheat Board's purpose, the reason for it being there, and how it has served Canadian agriculture, particularly our wheat farmers and barley growers, over the last many years. You came here with some sort of background knowledge about the Wheat Board.
In coming here, obviously, you knew that some issues were going to face you. You came, I suppose, with some degree of trepidation, knowing that you were going to probably face some difficulties in some areas. Now that you have been in your job for six weeks and have heard some of the things mentioned this morning, which obviously were not new to you--you were expecting it, I'm sure--do you feel positive about the future of the Wheat Board? Because in the world, we have become known as the best marketers of the best product. Later this morning we're going to be talking about KVD. If we lose some of that identification and the ability to sell and guarantee that kind of quality, something goes with it, and that's our image.
If we lost the Wheat Board, could grain companies themselves do what the Wheat Board is doing today in terms of handling the large contracts? We have countries buying huge volumes of wheat. There's the financing of that and holding credit lines for those kinds of things. The Wheat Board changed its mandate about ten years ago. We now have farmer involvement. I would have to think that single-desk selling is still the best option. We have it in various other sectors in my province of Ontario--in the hog industry, in the white bean industry. We know it works. I was there when it wasn't done, and it didn't work very well.
How do you see yourself going forward with the challenges we've talked about this morning? And how do you work your way through this maze? What arguments can you come back with to assure us that the Wheat Board, going forward, unless there's government intervention or farmers decide to change course...? How do you see the Wheat Board functioning in the future?
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
I want to go along the lines of questioning and comments that have already been pursued this morning.
We have such a high level of confidence by the purchasers of Canadian wheat and other products, but particularly of Canadian wheat. This is what we're talking about this morning, the KVD. If we abandon something prematurely, even though there is probably good reason to do that--and I understand that--is that not sending a message to our buyers and the marketplace that somehow we're rushing something a bit?
Coming from the farm community as I do, and being very close to the dairy industry, I know that in the dairy industry there's a lot of trust placed in producers. We're talking about certificates, signing documents, and verifying. People can make mistakes; people can wilfully make mistakes, and it's when they're wilfully done....
We have the largest inland elevators in Canada in a community very close to my home. Farmers will place the wet beans in such a way that they can't be sampled and tested, so that the test that shows, and the test for which they're paid, shows a higher or a drier quality. Similarly, we're going to do the same thing.
In the dairy industry, if we in error milk a cow that shouldn't have her milk going to the milk tank, and that milk goes into the huge tank that comes and picks up our milk at the gate, there is liability. Here we're shifting all the liability back to the Wheat Board, when in fact the decision, as I see it, to some degree has been made by the Grain Commission.
I'm not sure that I quite understand if there were to be such a thing. The final test of the sampling, as I understand it, takes place at port. If you have a shipload of grain going someplace and there is a deficiency found in that grain, it doesn't mean just one farmer is affected; it affects a whole lot of farmers, and it affects the Wheat Board with a huge liability.
I have real difficulty in accepting that we're moving forward on something when we can't give full assurances. There is nothing foolproof, but to do that in that way of thinking somehow doesn't quite resonate in my way of thinking.
I want you to comment on that--and think about the liability, because sooner or later somebody is going to look for an opportunity. Let's not put ourselves into a vulnerable position.
View Paul Steckle Profile
Lib. (ON)
Well, it's wherever it fits.
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