MASSE IN THE HOUSE: On C-18, Canadian Wheat Board

   MASSE ON C-18 – Wheat Board

October 25, 2011

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill C-18 and this motion from the member for Churchill, discussing a central principle of democracy which is people having their rights, especially having their rights respected. It is bound from a tradition of legislation that has been duped by the government and usurped by the people who have the vehicle of the Canadian Wheat Board as part of their conditions of doing business and their investments, not only in terms of their businesses but their families.

    It is important to note that Canada's current challenges stem from a lot of different issues related to our massive geography, our disperse population and a very diverse group of individuals and people across this country with different interests. In the 1920s, the farming community felt enough need to band together to create a collective to be able to compete in the open markets with the wheat product they were providing. It is important because there was motivation at that time to do so, which came about from their personal experiences and their understanding that if they could come together as a collective, at times it would be to their advantage.

    We do that even to this day in many respects, and we have in this country in many other fora. The credit unions are an example. When it became impossible for the farming community or others to get access to credit that was reasonable and fair, people got together and still to this day, in cities we have collectives of financing and accounting and services in the banking industry because the profits then go back to the people and they understand that together they do much better than they do alone.

    We also do this when we form cities, municipalities and towns. Instead of having independent police or fire, everybody understands that if we work as a collective and pay a fee for this, then we are going to get that service and that insurance. This is about respecting a tradition that was set up in the 1920s.

     In 1943, they went to the single-desk marketing and the legislation that was created for the current Canadian Wheat Board calls for them to vote if they want to dissolve or change the concept that they have now. To be clear, this is a board that does not bring in a profit for itself. It has democratically elected its members, ten of whom come from the farming community and four of whom are appointed by the government, and it chooses a chair. That is critically important because in the legislation from the government, it will not allow the democratically elected farmers to remain on the Canadian Wheat Board. It would appoint its own people to dismantle it and it would not allow the elected farmers to make those difficult choices, even if they did not want to and are forced to have this legislation.

    The member for Churchill should be commended for this motion because it really goes to an important piece, not only behind the Wheat Board, but understanding that legislation that was a protectiveness chamber, that was here and there are expectations toward it, would be dismantled and that could set a pattern for other legislation. The government is saying that it says that but it is going to disregard that altogether.

    The member also needs to be commended because there has been a plebiscite with 63% of farmers saying they would like to keep the Canadian Wheat Board. So the farmers had their vote and they were very clear on that mandate. The Conservatives often talk about having a clear mandate from the Canadian people when they only had 38% of the vote. That is unacceptable. Their 38%, which we hear daily in the House of Commons at question period, to nausea, seems to make some type of a mandate for an absolute majority of everything from legislation to discourse that happens not only in this chamber but also in our committees. However, the reality is that Canadian farmers were far louder when they said they did not want to dismantle the Wheat Board.

    When we look at some of the economics of this, we have an economy that is fragile right now, world markets that are in a turmoil and a great deal of uncertainty coming up and the government would actually do this without an action plan. There has been no study or analysis. We do this as a regular business. Cities and towns do this before making multi-million-dollar contracts, awards and services. However, meanwhile, we have billions of dollars that would be tied up here in the future and we are not even seeing an economic analysis presented before us.

    That is unfortunate because it shows the reckless abandon of ideology that the Conservatives have and the reckless nature of their intent to ram this through as fast as they can. I believe they want to do so because of electoral timing. They want to tear down the Wheat Board and bring in the different changes that will take place before the next election. That is unfortunate.

    Once again, farmers have been out there saying that they would have preferred to keep this as the particular option right now. There could be a further debate amongst farmers about what they want to do. I know in Ontario they had that debate, and they had that choice. They had that debate first. It was much more effective than what is taking place here.

    All the member for Churchill is doing is defending the rights of those individuals who have the system in place that they have invested in. They have invested their families, their money and their lifelong interest into their farms, and to have that thrown to the wind without an economic analysis, without the due diligence necessary is completely unacceptable.

    I think it is important to go back to the 63% of people who responded. There has been debate about the type of plebiscite that took place and the different types of problems that they faced. Let us go to the suggestion of the member for Churchill to have that educated, earnest attempt to let farmers understand the consequences of what is going to take place, to know them and to face them in a very strategic way.

    I will conclude, as I know question period is going to get the attention at the moment. However, we need to do so in a responsible way before we undermine ourselves, our country and our farmers, especially when they have the right to make the destiny for themselves, not have it imposed on them by others.