Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 36
Thursday, December 1, 2011
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Thursday, December 1, 2011
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, Saturday, December 3,
marks the third anniversary since Canada joined countries from around the world
in Oslo, Norway, for the official signing of the UN Convention on Cluster
Munitions. The culmination of 18 months' work between civil society groups and
participating states, the convention prohibits the use, transfer and production
of cluster munitions, requires the destruction of existing stockpiles, and seeks
to provide adequate resources to assist survivors and clear contaminated areas.
There are 111 countries that have now signed the convention, and 66 of these
countries have ratified it. Although one of the first countries to sign, Canada
has still not ratified the convention, which came into force on August 1, 2010.
Cluster munitions are an especially cruel, inhumane and indiscriminate form
of weaponry as they are designed to inflict maximum damage over a wide area by
dispersing a large number of sub-bombs. In addition to the immediate devastation
they cause on impact, cluster munitions pose an ongoing threat to the local
population in the form of unexploded components. As I reflect on the third
anniversary of the signing of this important document, it is my hope that Canada
will soon bring the required legislation before Parliament to officially ratify
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I rise today to call your
attention to some interesting comments made by the Deputy Secretary-General of
the United Nations, Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro at the United Nations in New York City
on Monday. She was addressing delegates attending the two hundred and eleventh
parliamentary hearings at the United Nations organized by the
Inter-Parliamentary Union, of which I am the Canadian chair.
The IPU is the largest assembly of parliamentarians in the globe, with more
than 160 member countries. The IPU also has observer status at the United
Dr. Migiro told the gathering that she and the Secretary-General placed great
importance on strengthening the ties between the UN and parliaments in the IPU.
She said that parliamentarians, through the IPU, play an influential role on the
decisions of the UN Security Council. She highlighted the importance of
parliamentary diplomacy. Indeed, parliamentarians are key to fostering
diplomatic relations with other nations. To quote our Speaker, Senator Kinsella:
Canadian parliamentary diplomacy must be an important complement to the
diplomatic initiatives undertaken by the government in our federal political
In her opening remarks, Dr. Migiro also stressed the importance of
accountability. She said:
Political accountability and democratic governance are inseparable. Both
are essential to peace, development and human rights. As parliamentarians,
you embody political accountability.
Dr. Migiro enumerated ways parliaments can promote democratic governance. She
called upon parliamentarians to encourage youth to participate in day-to-day
public affairs and to ensure that our populations are equally represented in
Parliament. She pointed out that women account for fewer than 20 per cent of
parliamentarians globally. This is 10 per cent short of the 30 per cent target
set out by the UN many years ago.
She also said that "we have to do more to ensure that minority groups have
seats in Parliament." This can be achieved by nurturing citizens from those
groups and giving them the skills and opportunities to embark on a life of
Honourable senators, Dr. Migiro stressed the importance for parliaments to
confront corruption and organized crime. The Conservative government agrees. It
is committed to putting the safety and security of Canadians first by adopting a
number of measures to fight organized crime, such as Bill C-10.
In keeping with Dr. Migiro's recommendations, the Government of Canada also
enacted new regulations last year to strengthen the ability of law enforcement
to fight organized crime.
Honourable senators, in conclusion, this year's IPU-sponsored Parliamentary
Hearing at the UN allowed parliamentarians from around the globe an opportunity
to reaffirm their commitment to global accountability and to participate in
parliamentary diplomacy. I was honoured to represent Canada at this important
conference and to contribute to the UN's parliamentary dimension.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: I rise before you today to speak, once
again, about the violation of the rights of Baha'is in Iran. Since I last
addressed the Senate on this issue, the Iranian government has taken yet another
unprecedented step in its systemic oppression against the Baha'i minority. Its
courts have sentenced seven Baha'i educators for their involvement in the Baha'i
Institute for Higher Education.
This institute was founded by Baha'is in 1987 to educate the young people,
who continue to be denied access to Iranian universities by official state
policy. The institute operated in the open, and many of its classes were held in
living rooms and around kitchen tables. Former professors, fired from their jobs
because of their faith, taught young people such subjects as engineering and
In May of this year, Iranian authorities launched coordinated raids on some
39 homes and arrested 19 Baha'is. On October 18, we learned that seven Baha'i
educators received jail sentences totaling 30 years.
Among those sentenced to four years in prison was Nooshin Khadem, a permanent
resident of Canada and an MBA graduate of Carleton University. Nooshin came to
Canada because Carleton University recognized her Baha'i Institute studies as
the equivalent of an undergraduate education. She then transported her education
back to Iran to teach others.
Now she is in jail for committing the "crime" of transporting her
education. Two other Baha'is are still awaiting their hearings for similar
Kamran Rahimian and Faran Hesami completed their graduate studies in
psychology counselling at the University of Ottawa. Upon returning to Iran, they
married and had a son. They have reportedly been charged with holding
"illegal" degrees, degrees they obtained in Canada.
Their two-year-old son now lives with relatives while his parents await their
trial date in prison. What cruelty is this, that a government would imprison its
citizens for educating others and make the process of learning a crime?
Heiner Bielefeldt, the United Nations Special Raporteur on freedom of
religion or belief, said last month, in New York, that Iran's persecution of
Baha'is is among the most "extreme manifestations of religious intolerance and
persecution" in the world today. He went on to say, "The Iranian government has
a policy of systematic persecution . . . with the view of even destroying that
Earlier this month, the United Nations General Assembly condemned Iran for
its serious, ongoing human rights violations. The Canadian-led resolution
catalogued the wide range of abuses in Iran, and it passed by its largest margin
ever this year.
Honourable senators, as a nation that upholds human rights and values
religious pluralism, we must continue to stand up and directly face the threat
presented by Iran to its own people. Iran may not listen today, but the Iranian
people are listening. They must know that Canada stands with them and will
continue to speak up for their fundamental rights and freedoms.
Honourable senators, in our government's Speech from the Throne it was stated
that, in an effort to promote human rights, our government will create a new
office of religious freedom that would help protect religious minorities and
promote pluralism. I ask that when our government establishes this office, we
prioritize the challenges facing the Baha'is in Iran.
Hon. Nancy Ruth: Honourable senators, the International Day for the
Elimination of Violence Against Women is soon upon us. The elimination of
violence against women is our responsibility, both collectively and
individually, both in our professional work and in our personal lives.
Did you know that violence costs the taxpayer over $6 billion annually,
according to a recent study from UBC? Think of the policing costs, the hospital
costs, the social services, the shelters and the economic opportunities
Here are some statistics: Fifty-one per cent of Canadian women have
experienced one or more incidents of physical or sexual violence since the age
of 16; 23 per cent of female victims reported being beaten, choked, or
threatened by having a gun or a knife used against them. Indigenous women are
five times more likely than other women to die as a result of violence.
Some 58,500 women seek refuge in shelters across Canada every year.
Violence against women affects the ability of women to achieve equality. It
is not only the physical violence against women that limits women's lives, but
also the fear of violence itself. It affects women's daily lives, from how they
dress, to where they go and with whom they associate.
In her most recent report, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against
women stated that inequality and discrimination were the leading causes of
violence against women. Women experience economic and systemic discrimination
that makes them more vulnerable to assault and less able to seek justice when
Violence against women continues to be a major and persistent social and
economic problem in Canada. Violence prevents women from enjoying their
fundamental rights. It devastates entire families and communities and impacts
our health, justice and social services systems.
The Canadian government, through the Throne Speech, has reiterated its
commitment to ending violence against women.
The work carried out under the Family Violence Initiative is an example of
this promise. It coordinates 12 departments and agencies, with the goal to
reduce violence in the family and in society generally.
I also commend the work carried out by the National Clearinghouse on Family
Violence. It is a resource for all Canadians seeking information about, and
solutions to, violence within the family.
I applaud the work carried out by the women's organizations across the
country in defending women's rights. In this respect, Status of Women Canada
provides these organizations with some of the support they need to end violence
against women. This week, Status of Women Canada called for proposals for work
in universities and colleges on violence against women.
As always, much work remains to be done. The latest public testimonies made
by several women RCMP across Canada regarding the discrimination and harassment
they suffered and the impact it had on their personal and work lives continue to
be a reminder to us all.
Honourable senators, women are our mothers, sisters, wives, family and
relatives. They cement our society, and I call upon all of us in the Senate and
beyond, in all segments of society, to do our best in eliminating violence
against women and ensuring a better future for all Canadians.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, as the last of the
Canadian troops are pulling out of the Kandahar combat zone today, and with the
odour of demobilization or, certainly, budgetary cuts coming forward, I thought
I would speak on the subject of the military, particularly security,
international security and our engagement.
Central to Canada's security agenda are military forces capable of defending
our country and supporting our foreign policy abroad. For many years, Canada's
national defence policy has identified three core objectives: to defend Canada,
to work with the United States in defending North America, and to contribute to
international peace and security. Recently, Canadian troops have participated in
international operations, including, of course, the coalition in Afghanistan,
and peacekeeping missions as far back as the Balkans, East Timor, Ethiopia,
Eritrea, Kosovo, the Congo, Darfur, Cambodia and Rwanda.
Canada now faces difficult choices about its military commitments. Since a
nation's ability to influence international security decisions depends, in part,
on its capacity to shoulder responsibilities, the kinds and levels of military
capacity that Canada has will affect our future role in the world as one of the
leading middle powers.
Increasingly, international forces are being called upon for a wide range of
commitments, such as engaging in combat, restoring order, enforcing peace
agreements, and protecting civilians.
The coming years are likely to see a high demand for military forces with
varied capabilities. Canadians need to consider how our military can best
support our foreign policy within a structured format.
Canada has long believed that military capability is only one part of a
broader approach to security at home and abroad. Our human security approach — a
term that is less and less used — to foreign policy recognizes that the security
of states is essential but not sufficient to ensure the safety of their
citizens. It is also vital to address non-military sources of conflict that fuel
social instability and create environments in which political and religious
extremism can flourish.
In view of the dangers posed by fragile and poorly governed states, the
international community must work with such states to strengthen their governing
institutions and judicial systems, to hold their leaders accountable and to
support the rule of law. Stabilizing fragile states also requires conflict
prevention and a sustained commitment to the reconstruction of states emerging
These tasks can be assumed only if Canada acts in partnership with other
governments, multilateral institutions, private sector actors and civilian
societies, and in so doing reconstitutes its capabilities through a
whole-of-government concept that it actually applies, funds and implements. It
is time to relook at our commitments to the UN and also — if I may put a plug in
— for members to rejoin the genocide prevention group that is looking
specifically at the commitments of Canada in the prevention of mass atrocities
by other means than purely military.
Hon. Noël Kinsella: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table,
in both official languages, a revised version of a report entitled "Visit of the
Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate, and a Delegation, Slovakia,
Holy See, Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Italy, October 14 to 20, 2010."
Honourable senators, is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology, presented the following report:
Thursday, December 1, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology
has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill S-201, An Act respecting a
National Philanthropy Day, has, in obedience to the order of reference of
Thursday, October 6, 2011, examined the said bill and now reports the same
KELVIN K. OGILVIE
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the third time?
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and
notwithstanding rule 58(1)(b), I move that the bill be placed on Orders of the
Day for third reading later this day.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(On motion of Senator Mercer, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third
reading later this day.)
Hon. John. D. Wallace, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal
and Constitutional Affairs, presented the following report:
Thursday, December 1, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has the
honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill S-1002, An Act to authorize
the Industrial Alliance Pacific General Insurance Corporation to apply to be
continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec, has, in obedience to
the order of reference of Tuesday, November 29, 2011, examined the said Bill
and now reports the same without amendment.
JOHN D. WALLACE
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the third time?
Hon. Michael A. Meighen: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate
and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(b), I move that the bill be read the third time
later this day.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(On motion of Senator Meighen, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third
reading later this day.)
Hon. Irving Gerstein: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the
next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, until December 31, 2011, for the purposes of its study of Bill
C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget, as updated
on June 6, 2011 and other measures, the Standing Senate Committee on
National Finance have the power to sit even though the Senate may then be
sitting, with the application of rule 95(4) being suspended in relation
Hon. Fabian Manning: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the
next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans have the power
to sit at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 and at 5 p.m. on Tuesday,
December 13, 2011, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that Rule
95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.
Hon. Nicole Eaton moved third reading of Bill S-4, An Act to amend the
Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada
Transportation Act, as amended.
She said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to present to you for third
reading Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make
consequential amendments to the Canada Transportation Act.
As you may recall, I introduced this bill on November 2 with a great deal of
hope and a significant amount of confidence that members of this chamber would
readily recognize the national importance of these Railway Safety Act
Our railway system has been the backbone of our economy since the days of
Confederation. It is timely and forward looking legislative amendments such as
these that will ensure our rail industry remains a safe, secure and dependable
component of our national infrastructure for many years to come.
Bill S-4 is clearly a step forward for Canada. It is a step forward for the
safety of our citizens, a step forward for the well-being of our communities, a
step forward for the protection of our natural environment, and a step forward
for the strength of both the rail industry and our economy.
These are all things that I personally care about very strongly, and I am
very happy to say that my hope and confidence of last month has been richly
rewarded by the tremendous support these amendments have recently received from
the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications,
and from the many stakeholders who appeared before the committee to respond to
questions and provide their views. All of them have expressed their support for
a safer Canada and for this important bill.
Bill S-4 is clearly a good bill, a strong bill. It has a broad reach and a
focused vision. It reflects many years of consultation and it addresses the
safety challenges of the railway industry with innovative and pragmatic
solutions that build on the successes of the past and open the door for ongoing
successes in the future.
The safer railways bill is about the strength of our economy and the safety
of our people; and it is clearly a bill we can all support regardless of our
political stripes or personal persuasions. There is nothing more important than
our safety, our communities and our prosperity in this beautiful green and
fertile, but fragile, land of ours.
Before going further, I would like to remind honourable senators briefly of
the origins of this bill and detail a few of the more important amendments that
will help improve safety throughout our railway industry. Perhaps some
honourable senators remember names like Wabamun, in Alberta, and Cheakamus and
Lillooet, in British Columbia. Just five years ago in 2006 and 2007, these names
were all over our national newspapers because they were the scenes of horrific
railway accidents that resulted in lost lives and catastrophic destruction of
our environment. In Wabamun, more than one million litres of heavy Bunker C oil
spilled into a recreational waterfront paradise. In Cheakamus, 40,000 litres of
caustic soda entered the river, killing nearly a million fish from 10 different
species, including chinook, coho and pink salmon, and rainbow trout, both
freshwater and ocean dwelling. In Lillooet, a locomotive and flatcars plunged
300 metres off the track into the Fraser Canyon, killing two crew members and
seriously injuring the engineer.
It was these tragic accidents and several others that highlighted the
pressing need for a study of safety issues throughout the Canadian rail
industry. In 2007, the minister appointed a four-member panel to conduct a
thorough review of the Railway Safety Act and identify gaps in the legislation.
The panel subsequently ordered a variety of independent research and conducted
extensive consultations across the country so that railway companies, unions,
provincial governments, municipalities, shippers, associations and individuals
could all present their views on railway safety issues. The result of those
broad-based consultations was the panel's final report called Stronger Ties:
A Shared Commitment to Railway Safety, which was tabled in Parliament in
March 2008. The report was very detailed and comprehensive, and contained 56
recommendations to improve railway safety in Canada.
Honourable senators, I would like to note, if I may, that the panel's final
report on rail safety is highly regarded and has been much praised by both
government and industry.
During the hearings of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and
Communications on Bill S-4 last week, Cliff Mackay, President and Chief
Executive Officer of the Railway Association of Canada, said that he thought the
leadership of the review panel was exceptional and that the final report with
its recommendations was one of the best he had ever seen. That is high praise
coming from the leader of an organization that represents about 99 per cent of
all railways in Canada.
I personally agree with Mr. Mackay, and the members of the House of Commons'
Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities apparently
agreed too. After conducting their own in-depth study on rail safety in Canada
in 2008, the standing committee accepted all 56 of the Railway Safety Act review
recommendations and wrote 14 recommendations of its own to improve railway
safety even further. It is the recommendations from these two national safety
reviews that the legislative amendments of Bill S-4 address. The reviews
identified the problems; Bill S-4 provides the solutions.
In short, Bill S-4 is a blueprint for the long-term safety of one of our more
vital industries. It will significantly modernize the current Railway Safety Act
to reflect changes in the industry and will provide for higher levels of
oversight and enforcement to ensure that safety requirements are met. The key
elements and advantages of the bill are clear.
First and foremost, Bill S-4 will provide a stronger oversight and
enforcement capacity for Transport Canada through the introduction of
safety-based railway operating certificates and monetary fines for safety
violations, as well as an increase in existing judicial penalties to reflect the
levels found in other modes of transportation. The proposed safety-based railway
operating certificates will ensure that all federally regulated railways will
have an effective safety management system in place. Administrative monetary
penalties and higher fines will also provide Transport Canada with a more
effective toolkit of options for managing companies that persist in safety
This bill also provides for a significantly stronger focus on the importance
of railway accountabilities and safety management systems, which both industry
and labour applaud and support. With these amendments, railway companies will be
required to appoint a designated executive responsible for all safety matters.
They will also be required to provide whistle-blower protection for employees
who raise safety concerns. Besides increasing our level of protection from
accidents and oversights, these amendments will help to ensure the growth of a
strong and lasting safety culture in the railway industry.
On the administrative side, Bill S-4 closes gaps in the existing act by
clarifying the minister's authority on matters of railway safety. The bill also
expands regulation-making authorities which, of particular importance, will
enable Transport Canada to require annual environmental management plans from
the railways, as well as a requirement for railways to provide emissions
labeling on equipment and emissions data for review.
In a nutshell, that is what the safer railways bill is all about — better
oversight, improved enforcement tools, enhanced safety management systems, and
better environmental protection. These are things we need. These are things we
applaud. I think honourable senators will agree that these are things we can all
As honourable senators know, the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and
Communications has been listening to railway stakeholders and pursuing
clause-by-clause study of this bill over the last few weeks. It pleases me
greatly to share with colleagues that Bill S-4 was adopted unanimously by the
committee but with one small amendment related to employee reporting.
Although Bill S-4 originally included a clause that would enable employees to
report safety violations to the Transportation Safety Board, a number of
witnesses, including from the Teamsters Canada, the railways and Transport
Canada, pointed out that the Transportation Safety Board had not been consulted
on this issue and that a process for the direct reporting of safety violations
to Transport Canada already existed.
No one has a problem with the existing reporting mechanism, and no one
objects to its continuing. Teamsters Canada wholehearted support for this
particular amendment reflects the importance that rail workers place on
confidential reporting by employees. It is encouraging to see the confidence
they have in Transport Canada to help them address their concerns about on-the-job safety.
As I mentioned, the committee heard from a number of witnesses, including the
teamsters, the railways, the City of Ottawa and Transport Action Canada, all of
whom support the bill. The railway industry, which on numerous occasions has
expressed its approval of the bill, proposed several addition changes to Bill
S-4 that were considered by the committee. While we understand and even share
industry's concern, I would like to highlight briefly why the committee has not
pursued or adopted their proposals.
The railway companies are very concerned about the issue of new developments
near railway tracks and the impact on safety. This is an important concern that
we all share. However, land use planning is a matter of provincial and municipal
jurisdiction, and the minister has limited authority to follow through and
enforce requirements regarding either consultations or notification of land use
planning on provincial or municipal land.
There is legislative exception in the Railway Safety Act that provides for
the federal government to regulate activities, construction, maintenance,
restricting access and removal of things on land where that land is located
directly adjacent to a railway right-of-way. We maintain that land use planning
in any broader context is a provincial/municipal responsibility. We encourage
the railways to pursue this with the appropriate provincial authority.
Crossing safety is also a pressing issue for the railways. While we agree
with their concerns with respect to crossings, the Railway Safety Act review did
not recommend any legislative changes in that area.
It did, however, recommend that Transport Canada, with the railways and other
relevant stakeholders, develop a program that would identify where crossings
could be closed, to limit the number of new crossings and to improve safety at
existing crossings. We note that work is under way in this area and that
Transport Canada and the Canadian Transportation Agency have signed a memorandum
of understanding to clarify their respective roles, seek improvement in the
system and align the respective processes and activities to support crossing
safety and promote closure where expedient.
In addition, the Proximity and Operations Working Group, which includes
representatives of industry, unions and Transport Canada, is currently
developing strategies and targets for a robust crossing closure program.
Ultimately, the opening of new crossings is a subject exclusively dealt with by
the Canadian Transportation Agency under the Canada Transportation Act.
Proposing changes to the Canada Transportation Act is not the purview of this
railway safety bill, and we suggest the industry pursue this matter more
appropriately when amendments to the Canada Transportation Act are being
The third item industry proposed to the standing committee was to amend the
definition of highest level of safety. Bill S-4 defines the highest level of
safety as the lowest acceptable level of risk as demonstrated by a risk
management analysis. This is a clear definition in keeping with the principles
and practices of safety management systems.
The industry is suggesting that the highest practicable level of safety is
more appropriate. I respectfully disagree. It is understood that we want
railways to do their best; that is a given. However, the definition provided in
Bill S-4 also makes them accountable to demonstrate how they did their best.
That is where the strength of the existing amendment lies. The standing
committee also had the pleasure of hearing from the City of Ottawa on that bill.
The City of Ottawa has requested that Transport Canada enter into an
authorization agreement so the city can regulate the safety and security of its
proposed light rail transit system. This agreement will mean that Ottawa LRT
will no longer be considered a federally regulated railway. Therefore, Ottawa
LRT will not be able to take advantage of federal legislation to have the
government expropriate federal land for the city's LRT. We ask ourselves: Given
that the City of Ottawa will have access to provincial expropriation
legislation, why does it also need to have access to federal expropriation
legislation? Did the city not consider, when it was requesting to regulate its
LRT, that there were benefits to the federal regime which are unavailable to a
non-federally regulated railway? It appears that the city wants to be federally
regulated only when it is convenient.
Honourable senators, we have before us one of the most progressive and widely
consulted upon bills I have ever encountered. A similar bill was dissected in
detail and approved unanimously by the standing committee of the other house
before the election was called in the spring. It has been similarly passed and
unanimously approved by our own standing committee with the one minor amendment
Bill S-4 is without doubt a good bill for Canadians, a good bill for
communities and a good bill for the railways. It is an important bill for Canada
and it is worthy of your approval.
I would like to conclude by saying that without the railway safety amendments
proposed in this bill, the government's ability to effectively regulate railway
companies in an environment of continued growth and increasing complexity would
be sorely diminished. Improvements to Transport Canada's regulatory oversight
and enforcement programs would be limited. The pursuit of the new safety
initiatives with respect to safety management systems and environmental
management would also be badly constrained.
The legislative framework for railways would remain inconsistent with other
transportation modes, which have a broader range of enforcement tools.
Regulation-making authorities could not be expanded to allow for the creation of
safety-based operating certificates and increased environmental protection.
Without the support of honourable senators for this bill, the ultimate result
would be greater long-term costs for the government, for Canadians and for the
railways due to continuing fatalities, serious injuries and damage to both
property and the environment. Honourable senators, we should not let this
First, I would like to thank Senator Mercer for his role in moving this bill
through the Senate and through committee. I would also like to thank my
colleagues on the standing committee for their hard work in bringing this bill
forward as quickly as possible.
I believe that the one small amendment they have endorsed makes the bill
stronger, and I encourage all honourable senators to vote in favour of this
bill. With your agreement, we can take a significant step forward to improve the
safety of our railways and further protect Canadians and the Canadian
(On motion of Senator Mercer, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Nancy Ruth moved third reading of Bill S-2, An Act respecting
family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or
rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves, as amended.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise here today to
speak to Bill S-2, An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation
reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands
situated on those reserves.
In May and June 2010, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights examined
Bill S-4, An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and
matrimonial interests or rights. Bill S-4 was identical to other, previous
bills, including Bill C-8, introduced during the second session of the 40th
Parliament, and Bill C-47, introduced during the second session of the 39th
The committee reported Bill S-4 back to the Senate with amendments and the
amended bill passed the Senate on July 6, 2010. Bill S-2, a revised version of
that bill, was introduced on September 28, 2011, and the committee examined the
issue of matrimonial real property once again.
The committee's pledge to correct something described as a legislative gap on
reserves dates back to 2003, when it examined the issue for the first time and
published an interim report entitled A Hard Bed to Lie In: Matrimonial Real
Property on Reserve. The committee understood the urgency of the situation
facing women in some First Nations communities when their spousal relationship
breaks down. The committee therefore called for a legislative solution to
resolve the injustices that exist.
Honourable senators, for most Canadian individuals who are facing a breakdown
of their conjugal relationship or who are suffering the loss of a spouse or
common-law partner, legal protection is in place to help ensure that matrimonial
real property assets are distributed in an equitable fashion. Unfortunately,
this is not the case for those living on reserves governed by the Indian Act.
For men and women living on reserve, death or the breakdown of their
relationship often leads to homelessness, financial woes and insecurity. This is
because the Indian Act is silent on issues of matrimonial real property rights,
and there is no legislation in place to fill this gap.
Bill S-2 is the fourth attempt by our governments to fill the current legal
gap and provide First Nations people with the same protection that we often take
Honourable senators, after thoroughly studying this bill in committee, I
would like to say that this legislative measure has brought hope to many First
In June 2010, when the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights was studying
matrimonial real property on reserve legislation in the form of Bill S-4, we
heard from the Member of Parliament, John Duncan, who is presently the Minister
of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
In his remarks, he stated:
Enacting this proposed legislation is the right thing to do for three
reasons. First, Bill S-4 affords residents of First Nation communities a
level of protection similar to that enjoyed by other Canadians. Second, it
enables First Nation communities to design and implement matrimonial real
property laws tailored to their own cultures and traditions. Third, the
immediate and concrete solution articulated in Bill S-4 is informed by
considerable research and consultation conducted by independent groups,
including national Aboriginal organizations.
Although in principle this bill aims to provide safeguards to Aboriginal
people, it is my fear that it will be unable to achieve its intended effects.
This is because Bill S-2 is not accompanied by the necessary resources that will
be required for this to be the case.
Honourable senators, in a speech I delivered at second reading on this bill,
I stated that a right without resources is not a right. When attempting to
provide Aboriginal people with rights similar to those enjoyed by the rest of
Canadians, we must remain mindful of the fact that Aboriginal people are often
subject to extremely different circumstances.
During our study of Bill S-2, our committee heard from several witnesses who
explained how Aboriginal women in particular were often placed in positions
where they had to sacrifice their own personal rights and freedoms so that their
families could have access to the most basic necessities.
We heard from a woman named Danalyn MacKinnon who explained this when
One is the hierarchy of needs. People are spending their time trying to
have housing. When I met my husband on reserve, there were 27 people living
in his house. Housing, food, caring for your children, water — these are all
essentials that we all take for granted. Women in particular have to make
sure those things are there for their children.
In our region, the communities have been devastated by the impact of
residential schools. This has resulted in a lot of community and family
dysfunction. The result is a lot of violence in communities, sexual and
physical abuse; these are the results that people are dealing with.
Honourable senators, I have been on many reserves while I was the Chair of
the British Columbia Task Force on Family Violence, as a member of Mr.
Mulroney's panel on violence against women and as a lawyer. It is my view that
there is a lot of work to do on the reserves. We do need to have legislation to
assist those we can and eventually, hopefully, the legislation will assist more
people in the communities to stay on reserves. However, these other issues of
resources and the communities' needs are overwhelming for everyone who lives
Honourable senators, after hearing Ms. MacKinnon speak, I learned we cannot
look at issues facing Aboriginal people in silos. We must look at the bigger
picture. We must ask ourselves if those who require this legislation to be in
place will be able to access the necessary resources for it to be effective. For
example, Bill S-2 relies heavily on provincial courts, which are not meeting
current needs, let alone future ones created by this bill.
During our study, our committee had the opportunity to hear from Ms. Mary
Eberts, who is the Ariel F. Sallows Chair in Human Rights at the College of Law,
University of Saskatchewan. When I asked Ms. Eberts if she felt Aboriginal women
would experience difficulty accessing justice, she responded by stating:
. . . in all of the provinces and territories of Canada, whether or not
you are living on an Indian reserve, there are substantial problems for all
women getting access to justice in family law situations. There have been
radical scale backs in legal aid and the provision of legal aid for family
law matters. There are increasing numbers of self-represented people
appearing in family courts on their own.
That kind of problem is multiplied manifold when one considers the
position of women living on reserve. They do not have legal aid for family
law, and their access is further limited because near many of the remote
reserves, there are not any lawyers. Even when criminal courts go into the
remote reserves, they fly in and everyone comes on the same plane as the
I know of this challenge firsthand, as yesterday my son, Azool Jaffer-Jeraj,
who is President of the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia, organized
an awareness session for provincial courts as duty counsels are withdrawing
their services in British Columbia from January onwards.
Accessing legal aid is difficult for all Canadians, and it is even worse for
Aboriginal people. Where are these people going to get lawyers? Even if they
live near a town where there may be practising lawyers, how will everyone get a
lawyer? In many of these communities, even if the money was there, it would be
difficult to muster enough nearby lawyers who are skilled in family law to take
Ms. MacKinnon, to whom I addressed a similar question, stated:
In terms of access to lawyers, we live in an area probably the size of
France. There might be, optimistically, maybe 15 or 20 lawyers who do any
family law. Out of that, probably only half would take Legal Aid.
It is distances, time, and the resources of the individuals in the
community. People just do not have money to ever privately retain a lawyer.
It is very difficult, but without a law, there is no other recourse. If
you have a law, at least you can go to court on it if you can get those
other things in place, but without those resources, then it is just a law on
Honourable senators, while studying Bill S-2, our committee heard a number of
women explain how Bill S-2 would change their lives. Although it does seem to
provide protection, we must ensure that these women will have the resources
needed to exercise their rights. We must not raise the expectations of
Aboriginal peoples and then disappoint them.
Another concern is housing shortages on reserve. While working on this issue
for many years, I have heard a number of heartbreaking stories told by women who
were displaced from homes with no place to go. When a marriage breaks down, the
lack of housing is one of the main reasons forcing people to leave the reserve.
This needs to be appropriately acknowledged and addressed as part of a broader,
more comprehensive approach to the subject.
During our committee's study of Bill S-2, we heard from a brave woman named
Rolanda Manitowabi, who shared with our committee her personal challenges and
experiences. During her testimony, she stated that she stayed in a relationship
that was stressful and strained because she had no place to go. In fact, even
after ending her relationship, Ms. Manitowabi continued to live with her
ex-partner for six months before she came home one day to find he had changed
the locks, thus leaving her and her son homeless and with no place to go.
Honourable senators, this is the unfortunate reality for many Aboriginal
people living on reserves. What is perhaps even more unfortunate, however, is
the fact that our government has cut funding to Aboriginal housing by $127
million since 2008, before the Economic Action Plan. Although it is commendable
that our government is prioritizing matrimonial real property issues on
reserves, the fact that at the same time we are cutting funding to housing on
First Nations reserves is extremely troubling.
Honourable senators, we must ask ourselves, where will these displaced
During our committee's study of Bill S-2, we received a written submission
from Grand Chief Denise Stonefish from the Association of Iroquois and Allied
Indians. In this submission, Grand Chief Stonefish highlighted several concerns,
many of which pertained to the authority First Nation governments have to create
and implement their own matrimonial rights and interest laws.
Under Bill S-2, section 7(1) enables First Nations to develop and enact
their own laws for the breakdown of a conjugal relationship or death of a
spouse. This provision, however, ignores the existing jurisdiction of
Association of Iroquois and Allied Indian member Nations to enact their own
laws related to matrimonial rights or interests. . .
She then proceeded to state:
With little to no funding available for First Nations to enact
matrimonial rights and interest laws both within and outside the scope of
S-2, many First Nation governments will be forced to use the federal
provisional codes outlined in Sections 13-52.
Honourable senators, it is clear that many First Nations communities will
need support if they are to develop their own laws relating to matrimonial
interest and rights. The minister has twice indicated to our committee that a
centre of excellence will be established as a source of information and support
for First Nations communities.
During our study, the minister made the following statement about the
proposed centre of excellence:
What is envisioned is a centre of excellence. A non-political, national
First Nation organization would provide non-binding guidance on the
direction of the centre, in such areas as research and implementation
related activities. The plan is for the advisory committee to be comprised
of key stakeholders that would include Aboriginal organizations, NGOs,
centre of excellence staff and the Government of Canada.
There would be a targeted, 50 per cent female representation on staff, in
an advisory capacity, to address the concerns of women.
I applaud the concept of such a centre. However, I remain concerned that the
required Treasury Board approval may cause a delay in establishing the centre,
as we were advised that the minister would speak to the Treasury Board about the
centre of excellence only once the bill has passed.
Not only is the proposed centre of excellence without a budget, during our
committee meeting when I asked the minister more about this centre of excellence
I learned that there would be only one centre in the entire country, and the
location of that one centre has yet to be determined.
Honourable senators, it is clear that this proposed centre of excellence will
be faced with a number of delays, as it currently lacks both a budget and
location. Therefore, First Nations communities that may be anxiously seeking out
tools to facilitate their law-making process may also face delays.
That is why, during the clause-by-clause consideration of this bill at our
committee meeting, I moved to amend article 56(2) and extend the transition
period that is currently included in the legislation from one year to two years.
This would allow time for both the centre of excellence to be established and
for the First Nation communities to develop their own laws pertaining to
matrimonial rights and interests. Although I was unsuccessful, I hope that when
this bill is in the other place this one-year transition period is examined more
Honourable senators, during our committee study we heard the concerns of a
number of Aboriginal people, and we sympathize with their challenges. Although
this bill may appear to be a remedy and a safety net, we must remember that this
bill will only be implemented if the proper resources are in place for this to
be the case.
It is clear to me that we have indeed raised the expectations of several
Aboriginal people. However, it is now our duty to ensure that we do not let them
Honourable senators, throughout our committee's study we gave Aboriginal
individuals and organizations a voice. Now we must listen.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: On division.
The Hon. the Speaker: Carried, on division.
(Motion agreed to and bill, as amended, read third time and passed, on
Hon. Donald Neil Plett moved second reading of Bill C-18, An Act to
reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related
amendments to certain Acts.
He said: Honourable senators, Western Canada has waited for this day since
September 27, 1943, when the mandatory Canadian Wheat Board came into being. It
is indeed an honour for me to be the sponsoring senator for this legislation,
which will usher in a new era of jobs and growth for Western Canada. Our
government has made a commitment to Western Canadian farmers that we will stand
up for them, and we will ensure that they will not be treated as second-class
farmers any longer.
We have made a further commitment that this legislation will be passed in
time for them to be able to ensure certainty and clarity as they are preparing
for this fall and sowing their crops in the spring so they will have the
assurance that their crops will be theirs to sell as they see fit.
Western farmers know that markets will be adjusted and they need to be able
to have ample time to prepare for those adjustments. As well, the new Canadian
Wheat Board will require time to forward hedge and contract to be the major
player that we know it can and will be. I, for one, look forward to that day.
Canadian farmers are entrepreneurial and innovative. Over the past half
century Canadian farmers have increased their productivity by 300 per cent; that
is an incredible growth rate that would be the envy of any other industry. Where
our grandparents or great-grandparents could produce enough food for 10 people,
today's farmer can feed well over 120. Today the Canadian agriculture industry
drives 8 per cent of Canada's GDP, one in eight jobs and almost $40 billion of
Agriculture continues to be a driving force in Canada's economic recovery by
creating jobs and growth. However, as successful as we have been over the past
century, Canadian agriculture continues to face significant challenges. We heard
recently about the 7 billionth person being born on our planet. By 2020, the
world's population is expected to reach 7.6 billion, up from the 7 billion
today. Based on these projections, the world agriculture and agri-food system
will have an additional 68 million people to feed each year. That is an
incredible challenge for any sector, and even more so when you consider that
farmers will have to do all of this with limited land and water resources.
Honourable senators, now is not the time to be burdening our farmers with
rules, regulations and red tape. We need to free our farmers to feed the world,
and that is what Bill C-18 is all about.
Grain growers in Western Canada are like any other business people. They want
to make the right decisions for their farms. They already decide what to plant
and when to harvest. They make marketing decisions on their canola and pulse
crops, their peas, lentils, beans, oats and many other crops. They want the same
marketing freedom for their wheat and barley.
Honourable senators, for the past six decades Western Canadian farmers have
been denied, by law, the right to run their businesses where it matters the
most: at the point of sale. In a free and democratic society, what do we do when
Western Canadian farmers try to sell their wheat on the open market? We throw
them in jail.
I told honourable senators the following story a few days ago but it bears
repeating. A young farmer in my province of Manitoba grew wheat for sale on his
farm, but due to poor growing conditions this particular season, and some
unfavourable weather, his crop ended up with a fungus. This caused the wheat
that he had produced to have black kernels and be of lower quality. The Canadian
Wheat Board refused to sell it. Forced with the stark reality that he was not
going to make any money this season, out of sheer desperation this farmer found
a buyer in the United States. He loaded the wheat and began the trip to his
buyer in the U.S. At the border he was stopped, where he explained his
situation. If he did not sell his wheat, wheat that the Canadian Wheat Board
refused to take, he would go broke and lose his farm. He was told by Canadian
authorities — not U.S. authorities but Canadian authorities — that he could not
sell his wheat privately. As a result of this, trying to sell his own wheat,
wheat that the Wheat Board refused to take, he was sent to prison. A farmer,
honourable senators, trying to sell his wheat was sent to prison.
Honourable senators, on Monday evening we saw over 60 farmers from Western
Canada come to Ottawa, at their own expense, to celebrate the passage of Bill
C-18 in the other place. Later that evening, one of the farmers, Mr. Kenton
Possberg, from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, a farmer who farms approximately 15,000
acres, told me a short story about his two sons, seven-year-old Spencer and
As the story goes, Spencer was playing with a toy truck and trailer, and his
brother was playing with a toy police car. When the father asked his boys,
"What are you boys playing?" Spencer said, "Dad, I am driving to the United
States to sell my wheat, and Taylor is chasing after me with his police car and
telling me the Wheat Board is going to put me in jail."
How telling is this story, that a seven-year-old can recognize the injustice
that Western Canadian farmers have had to endure for the last 70-odd years.
There are no less than 13 stories similar to the Manitoba one that I just
told you, where Western Canadian farmers were charged with criminal offences and
jailed for trying to sell their wheat and barley. This, senators, is similar to
the gun registry, where the Liberal government before us and Liberals today wish
to make criminals out of farmers and duck hunters.
Honourable senators, some of you may know that I grew up in a little town
southeast of Winnipeg called Landmark. Landmark is not a household word by any
means, but we have the unique distinction of being the exact geographical centre
of Canada. Why the geography lesson? Well, since 1943, the playing field across
this country has not been level. Farmers to the west of my hometown have been
forced to sell their wheat and barley through a mandatory monopoly called the
Canadian Wheat Board, whether they wanted to or not. Meanwhile, farmers to the
east, in Ontario, enjoy the choice of marketing their wheat through a voluntary
pool or independently. This just makes no business sense and it is an inequity
that needs to be corrected. That is why, honourable senators, we can correctly
refer to this bill before us as "Landmark legislation."
Certain members opposite have been unwarranted in their defeatist and
pessimistic attitude, stating that the new Canadian Wheat Board has no chance of
surviving and will die. Let me quote Senator Mitchell from his speech on the
inquiry he opened on the Canadian Wheat Board just a few weeks ago:
I know that there are those over on that side who say, "No, no, no, it
will not die." The fact of the matter is that this legislation will kill
the Canadian Wheat Board.
Senators on this side of the chamber have confidence in the abilities of
Western Canadian farmers to not only market their own grain profitably; we also
have the confidence to know that pooling is both viable and popular in many
parts of Western Canada and, as such, the new Canadian Wheat Board can and will
In 2003, the Ontario wheat industry moved from a single-desk to an open
market, the same as we are proposing for Western farmers through the marketing
freedom for the grain farmers bill. Since then, the wheat industry in Ontario
has grown significantly. Today, it is a 2-million-tonne crop that brings more
than $300 million to the farm gate, and it has become one of the province's
major crop exports, driving over $280 million of our exports.
In Ontario, a strong and innovative value-added sector purchases about half
the Ontario wheat crop to manufacture high-quality food products on Ontario
grocery store shelves. Since moving to an open market, Ontario wheat growers
have developed a number of exciting value-added opportunities over the past
For example, Grain Farmers of Ontario are supplying Ontario wheat to an
Ontario-based company that has become Canada's largest pita manufacturer. This
is contrary to the propaganda and fear-mongering of the Liberals, stating that
the end of dual marketing will see all our money and investments disappearing to
the United States. Projects like this have been so successful that GFO is
looking for more opportunities in corn and soy.
The Ontario wheat industry shows what can be done when the entire value chain
works together to grow market potential. In Western Canada, however, the story
has not been the same. Over the past 25 years, the share of area seeded by
Canadian Wheat Board grains in Western Canada decreased from about three
quarters to about one half. Meanwhile, the share of area seeded to canola almost
tripled. Canada's market share in world barley export markets has declined by 65
per cent since the 1980s, while the pulse industry grew to $2 billion in export
sales in 2010.
Honourable senators, I have no doubt that Bill C-18 will usher in a new
springtime for our Western Canadian wheat and barley industry. Marketing freedom
will unlock new value-added investment, new jobs and new growth for Western
For over 50 years, our family has run a successful plumbing, heating and
ventilation business in Landmark. We have done our part to provide jobs and
economic growth for our region. My sons are no different from any other business
people, be it plumbers, barbers or farmers. They want and need the ability to
make critical business decisions. That control of your own destiny is why you
like running your own business and not punching a clock nine-to-five.
In my home province alone, the wheat and barley business is a major driver of
our provincial economy, generating almost $800 million in farm cash receipts and
over $900 million in exports last year. The federal Minister of Agriculture
continues to work hard with industry to grow these sales even more. Together,
they have opened up some new and exciting opportunities around the world for
beef, pork, pulse and canola sales, to name just a few. Earlier this month,
Minister Ritz announced that the World Trade Organization has ruled in Canada's
favour on U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labelling. This will certainly level
the playing field for our livestock producers in Manitoba and across Canada.
We need to level the playing field for our wheat and barley producers as
well. The fact is that today's entrepreneurial farmers are proving over and over
that they can, and will, help drive our economy if they have control over their
own farm and their own bottom line.
Under marketing freedom, we can look forward to increased innovation and new
value-added industries. The removal of the monopoly will allow Manitoba farmers
to sell their grains directly to a processor, whether it be a pasta
manufacturer, a flour mill, a brewery, or any other processing plant. Farmer
entrepreneurs will have the option of starting up their own small specialty
flour mills and pasta plants, without the red tape it currently involves. They
will not have to wait for an outside agency to tell them, well after the sale of
their grain, the final price of the sale.
There has been tremendous growth in value-added opportunities for oats,
pulses and canola across the Prairies over the past 20 years. There is no reason
why we cannot expect more opportunities for wheat, durum and barley.
In Manitoba alone, the acreage of oats has increased by 175,000 acres since
its removal from the Wheat Board's control in 1989 — investments and profits in
Canada. Within weeks of that decision, two new processing plants were announced
— investments and profits in Canada. Several more plants were built in the late
1980s and early 1990s, significantly changing the oat market, including Can-Oat
in Portage La Prairie, which today employs 125 people — investments and profits
Just over the border in North Dakota, there are many new pasta plants that
have sprung up and created jobs that could have been created in Manitoba —
investments and opportunities missed because of the single-desk marketing. We
are already seeing renewed interest in value-added products just on the
potential of marketing freedom — again, investments and profits in Canada.
Recently, we had the exciting news of a new milling facility planned for
Regina that will take Canadian durum next year — investments and profits in
Canada. Furthermore, a malting barley facility in Alberta is tripling its barley
storage capacity — investments and profits in Canada.
There are the types of value-added industries and jobs that exist when
farmers have the option to market their products as they choose. This, along
with increased trade, could create many jobs and offset those that may be lost
at the Canadian Wheat Board as it adjusts to its new role. There will also be
added demand from farmers for strong marketers, business analysts and other
specialists in the grain trade.
In Manitoba and across the Prairies, an open market means more buyers will be
jockeying for farmers' business. Investments and profits in Manitoba — certainly
something we need in Manitoba, considering our NDP government and their lack of
On the horizon, for the first time, the Minneapolis Grain Exchange will be
accepting Canadian grain for delivery against their wheat futures contract.
Again, honourable senators, this is grain going to the United States and money
coming back to Canada.
ICE Futures Canada, in Winnipeg, is working on creating its own spring wheat
and durum wheat futures contracts for Western Canada. This is a tremendous
announcement that means that farmers will have an important risk-management tool
for the day when they get the right to market their own grain. It will mean
greater price transparency at the time of seeding so farmers can make more
informed decisions about what to plant. It will give farmers the flexibility to
react quickly to market signals. There is no doubt this is all very good news
for Manitoba and the West.
We know that with a change of this magnitude, some adjustments will be
needed. In particular, there will be a period of transition for the Port of
Churchill, as it relies heavily on Canadian Wheat Board grains.
I have a passion for the Port of Churchill, as does our government. It has
made it no secret that Canada's North is a cornerstone of our agenda. When the
act is passed, the Port of Churchill will remain an important shipping option. I
am pleased to say today that the government is making significant investments to
ease this transition and help the port continue to be a viable northern shipping
The government will provide economic incentive of up to $5 million per year
over the five-year transition period to support the shipments of grain,
including oilseeds, pulses and specialty crops, through the port. Our government
will also provide support, through funding of up to $4.1 million over three
years, to sustain infrastructure improvements and maintenance of the port during
the transition period. In addition, projects with the Churchill Gateway
Development Corporation will be given more time to finish, with an extension of
two years or until 2015.
These significant investments are complementary to other strategic funding
commitments that we have delivered for Churchill in recent years. For example,
last year Transport Canada earmarked more than $13 million to implement upgrades
to the Churchill airport. This is in addition to operating the Churchill airport
and supporting VIA Rail's passenger train service to Churchill and several other
Since 2007, the government has also committed $20 million for rail line
improvements, $4 million for port improvements, and $1 million for marketing and
development of the port. We will continue to work with the Province of Manitoba
and other stakeholders to seek new opportunities to develop and diversify the
Port of Churchill, keeping it strong through the transition and well into the
I would note that the mayor of Churchill is ready and willing to explore
options to move forward for his community. As reported in the Red Deer
Advocate, Churchill Mayor Mike Spence says that he is focused on
diversifying the Hudson Bay port's shipments if the Wheat Board loses its
monopoly over Canada's grain shipment starting next August. Mayor Spence said:
I'm the type of person who is always optimistic. I'm looking in a
positive direction, hoping that we'll be able to secure more grain and the
port will diversify . . . I think we can do that.
This, honourable senators, should be the type of positive and forward
thinking that all Liberal senators would do well to follow.
While the Government of Manitoba is resisting change, we are seeing farm
organizations like Keystone Agricultural Producers and Farmers of North America
Inc. saying that they want marketing freedom for farmers.
Bob Friesen, a long-time Manitoba farmer and former president of the Canadian
Federation of Agriculture, testified on behalf of the Farmers of North America
to the legislative committee in the other place. Ironically, Mr. Friesen was a
witness suggested by the opposition. The Farmers of North America is a business
alliance started by a grain and oilseed producer in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
They have 10,000 farmer members from across Canada. I would like to point out
that all of these members have joined this organization voluntarily. Their
number one mandate and priority is to improve farmers' cost competitiveness and
maximize their profits. The following is a quote from Mr. Friesen's testimony on
November 1, 2011:
I don't want to beat an old quote to death but as many of you have heard
before, Wayne Gretzky used to say he was good because he went where he knew
the puck was going to go. He didn't go where the puck was, or where the puck
had been. That's the kind of mentality we have at FNA. We want to try to
determine where the puck will be and then be there on behalf of our farmers.
We want to make sure that we serve them well.
I was interested to hear his comments. His said his group is keen to work
with the new organization to make it a successful marketing agency that can
offer a viable pooling option for farmers, if they so choose. Mr. Friesen
For me, the debate is quite simple. We have a lot of farmers that want to
continue to use a marketing agency. We have farmers that want to market on
What we're saying is let's make sure that for those farmers that still
want to do this, let's create something viable for them.
Again, honourable senators, that is the kind of positive forward thinking we
need in order to create new opportunities for our farmers.
I have heard many farmers on both sides of this issue, as have many
honourable senators. Wherever you stand, the main goal behind this change is to
provide Canadian farmers with more ways to achieve economic success.
Farmers who want access to a pooling system will continue to have that option
through a voluntary wheat board. Even today in the free market system for other
grains, there are pools, such as North West Terminal, one of the largest
farmer-owned inland terminals on the Prairies, a co-op. Voluntarily, farmers can
join this co-op and get help to market their grain. Meanwhile, those who can
achieve greater success by dealing directly in the marketplace will now have
that opportunity. To me, this is true freedom, true fairness and a true respect
for basic rights.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Plett: The government has heard from a number of
entrepreneurial farmers who believe that their operations will be more
successful if they have the marketing choice this bill provides.
A broadly based working group concluded in a report in September that this
would be the case. The group heard from 50 different stakeholders, including
producers, and received over 20 submissions. I would also note that in the
Canadian Wheat Board's own survey, a majority of producers favoured a dual or an
open market for wheat. Almost two thirds, 58 per cent of wheat producers, said
they preferred either a market with no Canadian Wheat Board at all or a choice
to deal with the Wheat Board or not. In fact, marketing choice or dual marketing
was the most popular choice when wheat producers were asked to choose between
three options: no change to the Wheat Board, dual market or no Wheat Board.
Henry Vos, a former Canadian Wheat Board and recently resigned director and
grain farmer from Fairview, Alberta stated to Macleans magazine:
Pierre Trudeau said there was no place for the state in the bedrooms of
I ask: Should the government be in the grain fields and the grain bins in the
Some Hon. Senators: No.
Senator Plett: It is clear that Western Canadian farmers agree that
they should have had and should still have the right to sell their own grain.
They should not be forced to be dependent on either a board or a government to
sell their crops be it in Landmark, Manitoba or in Nova Scotia. In a free and
democratic society, a society that was built on free enterprise, if even one
farmer wishes to use his freedom to market his grain, why should we stop him
from doing so?
The opposition has made a great deal of fuss about the plebiscite that was
conducted by the Canadian Wheat Board and specifically about the percentage of
farmers who are in support of single-desk marketing. On this issue let me make
the following comments. The wording on the ballot in the plebiscite gave two
voting options for wheat, and they are as follows:
A) I wish to maintain the ability to market all wheat, with the
continuing exception of feed wheat sold domestically, through the CWB
B) I wish to remove the single-desk marketing system from the CWB and
sell all wheat through an open market system.
The wording on the ballot in the plebiscite gave two voting options for
barley that were in essence the same as for wheat. The ballot never allowed for
the third option that is being presented in Bill C-18; the option to maintain
the Canadian Wheat Board as a pooling option for farmers while still allowing
them choice to market their grain independently.
The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association stated this about the
The CWB boasts that ballots were sent to over 68,000 voters, even though
Statistics Canada numbers suggest there are no more than 20,000 commercial
grain farms in western Canada.
The large number of eligible voters shows that multiple ballots were sent to
some farms and/or a significant number of retired or hobby farmers were allowed
Members opposite have rightfully stated that the returned ballots from the
skewed plebiscite showed that 62 per cent of the ballots returned show support
for maintaining a single-desk for wheat and 51 per cent support for maintaining
a single-desk for barley. However, the plebiscite that truly counts and is truly
accurate is the plebiscite that was held on May 2, 2011.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Plett: Members opposite have suggested that our government won
on only 39 per cent of the vote and that this somehow translates into the amount
of voter support on Bill C-18. This is simply not the case, as the following
rural Western voter support percentages will illustrate.
My good friend and colleague Senator Finley cited some percentages on
election results in the chamber last week. These were specific to certain
ridings. Let me now give honourable senators some province-by-province results
in the provinces most affected by the Canadian Wheat Board. In British Columbia,
62.1 per cent Conservative support and 5.2 per cent for the Liberal party. In
Alberta, 77.58 per cent for the Conservatives, 4.5 per cent for the Liberals. In
Saskatchewan, 68 per cent for the Conservatives, 5.05 per cent for the Liberals.
In Manitoba, 67.72 per cent for the Conservatives and 5.96 per cent for the
Liberals. It is truly amazing what listening to the electorate and keeping your
promises does for election results.
It should also be noted by all Liberals senators that in the riding of
Wascana, represented by Ralph Goodale, the Conservative candidate won all rural
polls in the May 2 election.
The government has developed a comprehensive plan that will provide for an
orderly transition to an open market. The act enables the government to provide
the Canadian Wheat Board with the support required to operate as a voluntary
marketing organization, allowing it time to transition to full private
ownership. We will work with them to ensure this transition happens as soon as
possible. This will allow farmers and the entire value chain to plan accordingly
and transition in an orderly fashion.
As innovation is critical to the future of the Canadian grain industry, this
bill also provides for a voluntary funding mechanism to support research and
market development. The bill is designed in phases to give farmers and the value
chain the certainty and clarity they need to make the transition to the open
The bill has five parts. For the benefit of members opposite who have not
read the legislation but have a very clear, albeit misguided, opinion, I will go
over the five parts. The first part covers from Royal Assent until the
transition date for marketing freedom. The date is not in the bill, but the
government has been very clear that the transition date will be August 1, 2012.
In the first part, the governance of the board is changed to enable stronger
collaboration going forward and to ensure that the board is focused on the new
marketing environment. The appointed board will continue to administer this
year's pool. All market participants will be free to forward contract for wheat
and barley sales for execution after August 1, 2012.
The bill has been amended to allow the Canadian Wheat Board to forward
contract for other grains as well as wheat and barley. The other major elements
of the existing Canadian Wheat Board Act would remain unchanged during the
In the second part, after August 1, 2012, the Canadian Wheat Board Act would
be repealed and replaced with the Canadian Wheat Board interim operations act.
The monopoly is then removed and anyone will be able to buy and sell any grain.
In other words, farmers will no longer be forced to sell through the board.
Under this interim legislation, the Canadian Wheat Board would continue to
offer pooling, which would have government-backed initial payment and borrowing
guarantees for up to five years. To give it a stronger base to build on, the
Canadian Wheat Board would be able to market a whole basket of crops right
across Canada and around the world.
There will be transition costs as the Canadian Wheat Board adjusts to its new
role as a voluntary marketing option for farmers. The government intends to be
there to assist with these costs so that farmers are not unfairly burdened. A
temporary checkoff would be established at point of sale to support ongoing
research and market investment.
In the third part of the bill, the interim Canadian Wheat Board would be
required to develop a business plan by year four to capitalize itself and
operate as a private company. The board of directors would need to submit such a
plan and the Wheat Board would need to become a private entity within five
years. It could be a business corporation, a producer co-op or a not-for-profit
corporation. The business model is up to the board to decide.
In the event that the Canadian Wheat Board has not been continued as a
private entity within five years, Part 4 allows for the windup of the
Part 5 would repeal the Canadian wheat board interim operations act and would
bring the transition period to an end.
As honourable senators can see, the government has chosen an evolutionary
approach, one that gives the Canadian Wheat Board every opportunity to succeed
as a voluntary marketing alternative for producers. This approach will give the
entire value chain time to adjust to the open market and, in doing so, will
increase stability for Western Canadian farmers during the period of transition.
Since day one, honourable senators, our government has made it very clear
that marketing freedom was a cornerstone of our election platform, and in return
Canadians provided us with a clear mandate, a strong majority and the
responsibility to deliver on our promises. Just like the farmers who were here
this week who make agreements on a handshake, our government made a handshake
agreement with the farmers of Western Canada on May 2, and they helped send a
majority Conservative government to Ottawa.
In our debates over the last few weeks, much has been stated regarding
section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act. Specifically, Senator Moore,
Senator Banks, Senator Mitchell, and lately even Senator Cowan, have all asked
questions on the legality of implementing Bill C-18. I wish to make the
following comments on their misinformed observations.
Section 47.1 of the act added by the Liberals in 1998 says that the Minister
of Agriculture cannot alter single-desk arrangements without first consulting
the board and holding a vote of grain producers.
Let me state, honourable senators, that a core rule of Canadian democracy is
the supremacy of Parliament as the ultimate law-making power in
non-constitutional matters. One accepted consequence of this, Senator Mercer, is
that past parliaments cannot tie the hands of present or future ones. As Justice
Karen Sharlow commented in passing, section 47.1 "does not stop Parliament from
enacting any legislation it sees fit to enact." Further, to quote our friend
Liberal Senator Joyal, "the supremacy of Parliament has been the bedrock
principle of our democracy for over a century."
The definition of parliamentary supremacy according to Justice Noel is:
Parliament has discretion to overrule Supreme Court judgments. The
principle of parliamentary supremacy is a foundation of Canadian
constitutional law: the judiciary must abide by the statutes adopted by
Justice Murphy stated:
Parliamentary sovereignty, also referred to as parliamentary supremacy,
is the rule that Parliament has the power to make or unmake any law
Honourable senators, it is not a majority government that gives us the right
to change legislation; it is parliamentary supremacy that gives us that right.
Our majority government ensures that we can have passage of this bill.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Plett: With respect to the Minister of Agriculture having
consulted with the Canadian Wheat Board and the farmers having voted, we in fact
consulted. Indeed, on May 2, 2011, we consulted. The overwhelmingly results were
that "we trust the Conservative Party to do the right and proper thing and give
Western Canadian farmers freedom."
In conclusion, honourable senators, in an open market our entrepreneurial
farmers can expand markets, increase their incomes and attract greater
investment now. Our government is taking the right approach with careful
consideration and a comprehensive plan to ensure the transition is as smooth as
possible. The time is right for action. Our farmers cannot plan for the future
with yesterday's solutions. They grow world-class food in a global marketplace
that is ripe with opportunity. We need to free our farmers so they can drive our
economy and feed the world.
Honourable senators, I ask that you all put aside your partisan views. This
is not about supporting your party, but rather about supporting and freeing our
friends and farmers from Western Canada. We, of all countries in the world, need
to lead the charge on equality. I ask all honourable senators to stand up for
freedom and support this important legislation.
Hon. Robert W. Peterson: Honourable senators, I wish I could be
speaking on Bill C-18 under better circumstances. This government has been
racing this bill through Parliament like a teenager who just got the keys to the
family car and cannot keep their eyes on the road. Sooner or later somebody is
going to get hurt. This government has imposed closure many times, refused to
accept amendments, and refused to travel and hear from farmers in Western
Canada, the very people affected by this bill.
Honourable senators, with this government's arrogance, the only way this will
end is in hardship.
Where did it all begin? In fact, the Canadian Wheat Board was created by the
Conservative government in 1935, after years of hard times for farmers in the
open market. It achieved the scale necessary to make family farms financially
viable. The Wheat Board went on to become the cornerstone of family farms across
the Prairies. Through its single-desk, it markets all wheat, durum and barley
production from the Prairies and the Peace River Basin for export or domestic
food. The Canadian Wheat Board conducts marketing logistics: It finds clients,
negotiates terms of sale and delivers products to clients. It also arranges
pricing options and offers farmers different balances of risk and return for
Price pooling — which is the important part — ensures that for a given grade,
farmers will receive the same price no matter where or when the wheat or barley
is ultimately sold. Pooling provides protection from price fluctuations and
prevents farmers from undercutting one another. Both marketing logistics and
pricing options are subject to economies of scale since they are overhead costs.
The more farmers participate, the cheaper it is for everyone.
Honourable senators, the Canadian Wheat Board has been a resounding success
over the past eight decades. It is a strong advocate for Western farmers and
costs taxpayers nothing to run. It distributes $4 billion to $7 billion in
revenue directly back to farmers each year. Independent economists peg the net
benefit of the Wheat Board to farmers at $600 million annually. Over 60,000
Why mess with success? It is not because of the results. Rather, for the past
decade, the Conservative Party has been on an ideological crusade to dismantle
the Canadian Wheat Board. Their unchecked free market beliefs cannot accept that
state-trading enterprises like the Wheat Board can achieve more for farmers
than private corporations.
This government has done no cost-benefit analysis of the effects of removing
the board. They have not done their due diligence and for good reason, since
such a review would find gains for multinational grain corporations and
railways, but none for farmers.
Tragically, honourable senators, much of the anger that fuelled the rage of
the Conservative base was directed towards the old Wheat Board before a Liberal
government gave farmers control of the majority of positions on its board of
directors. Bill C-18 will destroy the Canadian Wheat Board and throw farmers
into the arms of multinationals who have been fighting for years to realize this
opportunity. It will be nothing short of a feeding frenzy. The opportunity for
the private sector is enormous. As one industry executive stated, "We can hardly
wait for this to occur."
Unlike the government, the Liberal Party respects Western Canadian grain
farmers' right to self-determination. Farmers should decide for themselves the
future of the board's single-desk marketing system. We stand by farmers who have
rallied in Winnipeg, in Colonsay, and all across the Prairies. We support
Canadians who have been writing to their MPs by the hundreds every day to stop
this bill. We are here to defend the farmers' right to decide their future for
When it was convenient for them, the government used to pretend is stood for
farmers' choice as well. In March of this year — about two months before the
election referenced so many times it is an epiphany moment — the Minister of
Agriculture told farmers in Minnedosa that his government will not attempt to
remove the single-desk unless farmers vote for it. As he said:
Until farmers make that change, I'm not prepared to work arbitrarily.
They are absolutely right to believe in democracy. I do, too.
If you are a farmer and you hear that, it sounds like you can believe in the
minister of the Crown. He is speaking for the government, is he not? You would
These words proved to be hollow. After the campaign the minister flip-flopped
and now says the election gave the government a go-ahead to deny farmers their
rightful say. Someone should have told farmers. Even farmers who opposed the
Wheat Board thought they would be given a chance to vote directly on its future.
It is clear why the minister opposes a vote. He knows he would lose. A vote
of nearly 40,000 farmers conducted by the Canadian Wheat Board this past summer
— because the government would not do it — showed that the majority favour
retaining the single-desk to market wheat and barley. Sixty-two per cent of
wheat producers and 51 per cent of barley producers were in favour.
The results are remarkably similar to one done by 600 Saskatchewan producers
conducted by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food in January 2007, which said that
58 per cent favoured the continuation of the single-desk.
Furthermore, since 1998, when farmers have been able to elect directors, 80
per cent of the directors chosen have been strong supporters of the single-desk.
If the anti-Wheat Board sentiment is so strong, why are they unable to elect
their own directors? Simply stated, it is because Western Canadian farmers want
to retain the single-desk of the current Canadian Wheat Board.
A free vote was not just wishful thinking. It is the law of the land, section
47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, which has been referenced this afternoon,
embeds in law the principle that there shall be a vote among Prairie farmers to
determine whether the nature of the single-desk should be changed. It is a clear
violation of the Wheat Board Act to proceed without holding a vote among
The Conservatives clearly do not trust farmers to control their own affairs.
Bill C-18 eliminates producer control of the operations of the Canadian Wheat
Board and replaces it with direct, complete government control.
Currently, farmers elect 10 of the 15 members of the board of directors. If
Bill C-18 passes, they will be replaced by five government-appointed members.
Not only does the government refuse to let farmers decide, but it also
refuses to say that Bill C-18 will earn them higher prices. Why not? Because it
The Wheat Board has the clout to price discriminate between different
markets. The price it charges customers in Indonesia is lower than the one it
charges in England because the two are very different markets. If England does
not like the price, it has few, if any, alternatives. However, without the
single-desk, a customer can play one grain company off against the other,
forcing the price down. The ability to price discriminate will be gone. This
ability to price discriminate is real. Studies have shown it to be worth $600
million per year. That is an extra $34 to $41 per tonne for farmers. For a
producer with 1,000 acres of wheat, it can be an additional $41,000 per year.
The Canadian Wheat Board also returns all proceeds to farmers, less the cost
of marketing, which runs in the neighbourhood of 98 per cent. Grain companies,
on the other hand, buy at the lowest possible price and sell to customers at the
highest possible price. Profits are not returned to farmers but are distributed
to shareholders or reinvested.
Under Bill C-18, there will be competition between farmers to sell to grain
companies. The few buyers will offer the lowest possible price they can get away
with. They will do market research to avoid offering prices that are higher than
their competitors'. Because grain is not perishable, buyers will stockpile it in
low-priced years and wait out farmers in other years, keeping prices down.
Grain companies will also be able to refuse to accept delivery from farmers,
due to lack of storage space, when prices are high.
Opponents of the Canadian Wheat Board claim that ending the single-desk will
encourage further processing on the Prairies. They do not say that the reason
this will happen is that grain will be sold at lower prices. Value-added
industries seek to buy grain at the lowest price possible. They will import
grain, like subsidized U.S. wheat, to depress local markets.
Pasta is often mentioned as a value-added opportunity, but it is unrealistic
to expect much. It is a mature industry dominated by large companies that can
buy shelf space in supermarkets. Value-added processing occurs because of
customer demand. It is not determined by the marketing system. Wheat and durum
load in bulk easily, can travel long distances relatively inexpensively and
store well, so they are traditionally processed close to their final
Canada will not replace the pasta plants across the border, which were built
with special tax treatment, grants and subsidies. Thirty per cent of the durum
ground in the U.S. for pasta is already imported from the Wheat Board, which
shows you that pricing is not a determinant of plant locations.
Regardless, farmers have been delivering directly to mills and maltsters for
years. Canadian milling capacity has grown 10 per cent in the past decade. The
Minister of Agriculture suggested that results for wheat will be the same as
canola, whose producers can sell their crops to local canola-crushing plants.
One thing you have to remember is that canola is an oil, not a food. It is very
perishable and can be handled locally.
Wheat and durum are shipped to major markets for processing because they are
cheap and easy to ship. Canola, on the other hand, does not travel well and can
be readily processed in the West. Even the CEO of Cargill in Canada says
scrapping the Wheat Board will not likely result in more wheat milling or barley
malting in Western Canada.
Removing the Wheat Board also diminishes the quality of our grain. The board,
along with the Canadian Grain Commission and the Canadian International Grains
Institute, ensures that all Canadian wheat and barley meets certain quality
standards, which makes our grain a branded product, with a high reputation in
world markets, that can attract a premium price. Without the board, our grain
will become an undifferentiated commodity competing on price alone, leading to a
downward spiral of both price and quality.
The government likes to talk about a dual-marketing system, but, in reality,
it is setting up the Wheat Board for a fall. It is simply not clear how the
board will function without the single-desk, with no capital base and no access
to grain-handling facilities or port facilities.
The government's own report from the Working Group on Marketing Freedom does
not recognize the realities of the Western grain sector. It appears the Harper
government has no idea how it will work without a single-desk marketer and does
not really care.
The government has absolutely no business model to replace the Canadian Wheat
Board. They claim that the board could survive without the single-desk by moving
to a voluntary pooling system, but that is the same system that failed in the
early days of the Canadian grain industry, is failing today in Ontario and has
failed completely in Australia.
The government also claims it will "assist with funding for reorganizing
costs related to the removal of the monopoly." However, it has refused to say
how much start-up funding will be provided.
In July, the Wheat Board told the government what measures it would have to
take for the board to survive as a voluntary marketer. The government has yet to
respond. The board's recommendations include a $225-million capital injection to
finance inventories and business operations until it has a track record to take
to private lenders, a risk reserve of $200 million to cover initial payment
guarantees to farmers in case prices fall, and borrowing guarantees for at least
five years to cover debt financing. These kinds of transition supports are badly
needed. As chair Allen Oberg said, if a voluntary Wheat Board "has to operate on
strictly commercial terms, it will not be here for long."
These measures only scratch the surface of the challenge. Temporary
government ownership of the new voluntary marketer would be needed because
another ownership structure could not be created in the next nine months.
Regulations are needed to allow the voluntary Wheat Board access to elevators,
port terminals and a supply of railway cars because it will have no facilities
of its own. Yet this requirement was rejected by the minister's own working
The government plans to remove the board-regulated access to grain handling
facilities, most of which are run by only three large grain handling companies.
How will the Wheat Board be able to depend on private grain companies — its
competitors — to receive its grain in their elevators?
Bill C-18 spells the death knell for smaller, regionally owned grain
handlers. They rely on the Canadian Wheat Board for competitive access to port
capacity. Without this access they may not be viable, leading to greater market
concentration and fewer delivery options for farmers. Lower competition will
mean lower prices paid to farmers.
Market power is a huge problem in the railway network, which is extremely
concentrated in Western Canada, with only two railways. Yet there are no
provisions in Bill C-18 to protect farmers from the tender mercies of the
Without the Wheat Board, there will be no player in the system with clout to
stand up for farmers and to take on the railways when their services fail, which
happens about 50 per cent of the time, according to the government's own Rail
Freight Service Review, or when the railways attempt to extract excessive
This government says it is taking action through its Rail Freight Service
Review, but it has been saying this since May of 2007. Four and a half years
later they have only just appointed a facilitator; legislation and regulation
are at least another year away. Glaciers have moved faster.
It used to be that the producers' right to load their own rail cars acted as
a safety valve against commercial exploitation. Through the Wheat Board, farmers
were able to self-load hopper cars at a saving of $1,200 per car. In the last
crop year, 12,000 hopper cars were loaded at a saving to farmers of $14.4
While this right will technically remain in the legislation, Bill C-18 will
damage, perhaps fatally, the network of branch lines that provides loading sites
for producer cars and the short-line railways that operate on them.
According to the working group report, producer cars will not be given any
priority in the system. Farmers can order a producer car, and they might get it
months from now if there happens to be nothing else happening at the time. It is
a right without any meaningful application unless producer cars have some
priority and can be received for delivery at the ports.
Grain companies and the railways have always opposed the existence of
producer-owned grain terminals and short-line rail operations because it means
that their grain goes around their system; it provides competition, and they do
not get the tariffs and fees. Obviously they will not be conducive to allowing
these innovations to continue in an unregulated network.
Grain companies also own the port terminals, and without the Wheat Board,
they will not necessarily accept producer cars and would likely force farmers to
use their elevators and pay handling charges, ending any savings from producer
cars. Since short lines get most of their traffic from producer cars, short
lines will also likely go out of business if the Canadian Wheat Board is
Mr. Oberg, Chair of the Canadian Wheat Board, said the requirements the board
sent to the government in the summer are the least the board needs to have a
chance of surviving in the marketplace. Yet instead of collaborating on a
realistic transition, the government is trying to paint the board of directors
as uncooperative. They are setting the Wheat Board up to fail and the directors
to take the blame.
Despite government claims, the Canadian Wheat Board cannot function as a
voluntary marketing co-op. Voluntary co-ops fail because a certain number of
people will try to market on their own when prices are high, but come back to
the co-op when prices drop. Instead of pooling during good times and bad, thus
spreading the risk, they will try to beat the market, harming everyone in the
long run. Voluntary marketing co-ops do not obtain price premiums and cannot get
favourable financing because they are based on fair weather friendships.
With the failure of a voluntary Wheat Board, taxpayers will be on the hook.
An analysis conducted by the board and reviewed by KPMG accountants concluded
the cost associated with dismantling the board will be in the hundreds of
millions of dollars. Closing the Wheat Board will cost the City of Winnipeg
alone an estimated 2,400 jobs.
Small towns and family farms will be hit hard by the changes in Bill C-18.
Around the world, deregulation has coincided with consolidation of farming into
fewer, larger farms. Smaller producers, faced with mounting marketing costs,
have to sell their farms to bigger rivals. This will devastate small Prairie
towns, whose economies depend on individual farmers with disposable income. Bill
C-18 kicks the teeth out of the small farms that are the foundation of small
towns across the Prairies.
The international evidence bears this out. New Zealand had an apple and pear
marketing board monopoly from 1948 to 1994. When the domestic market was
deregulated in 1994, it caused a sharp drop in the prices. In 2001 the board's
export monopoly was removed, which led to a period of industry consolidation and
financial difficulties for many growers. The number of apple growers dropped
from 1,500 in 1998 to 900 in the 2005 season.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, deregulation drove
vertical integration and caused a decline in the quality of apples, as well as a
reduction in market development overseas. By the 2004-05 season, many growers
were facing financial ruin due to changes in the industry and the elimination of
the board's single-desk. Of those producers who left, a majority said that they
could not expand enough to be financially viable.
For another example, look to the provincial hog marketing boards in Manitoba,
Alberta and Saskatchewan. The majority of small, family farm producers opposed
the board's elimination in 1997 because they would be unable to compete with
large-scale operations. Although the trend was already toward concentration in
hog farming, the elimination of the marketing boards caused many family farm
producers to become disadvantaged and, in many cases, go out of business.
The Australian Wheat Board lost its monopoly on the domestic marketing of
grain in 1989 and became a privatized, publicly traded company between 1999 and
2001. However, it was not until 2008 that the Australian board lost its export
monopoly on wheat. Reports suggest at least significant transitional, if not
long-term, difficulties for Australian wheat producers, particularly among older
and smaller farmers, following the elimination of the single-desk on exports in
Eventually, the Australian Wheat Board was sold to Agrium for its farm supply
business, not its grain handling. Agrium finally dumped the failing grain unit
A sad side to this whole affair is the fate of the Port of Churchill.
Ninety-five per cent of the shipments through the Port of Churchill are from the
Canadian Wheat Board. However, because the private grain companies have their
facilities on the West Coast, Thunder Bay and along the St. Lawrence, they have
no incentive to use the Port of Churchill. How will the Port of Churchill
The government does plan to subsidize the port by $5 million a year to
support grain shipment for five years and another $4 million over three years
for maintenance; but what will happen to the Port of Churchill when the five
years are up? Even with a subsidy, why would private grain companies use it when
they have their own facilities?
Another unanswered question is how this fits into our international strategy.
By passing Bill C-18, we are giving the Americans their top trade objective for
free at a time of mounting protectionism. Where is the concession in return? Buy
America, marine tax discrimination, border thickening, softwood lumber tariffs,
to name but a few.
The elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board has been the Americans' number
one trade objective in North America for the past 20 to 25 years. Courtesy of
the Harper Conservative government, the U.S. is about to receive its fondest
wish, and Canada will get absolutely nothing in return.
The minister has set a very ambitious timetable for grain to be sold by
August 1. How can farmers possibly be heard and these changes be implemented in
such a short time?
Once gone, the Canadian Wheat Board — or any marketing board — cannot be
re-created, thanks to the one-way privatization doors embedded in trade
agreements like FTA and NAFTA and the World Trade Organization.
Who will benefit? Not farmers, who will lose control of a Wheat Board that
secures the highest prices in exchange for the "freedom" to sell to grain
companies that are in business to make money for shareholders. Not taxpayers,
who will be footing the bill for winding down the Wheat Board for years. Not
rural communities, which risk losing the branch lines and the short-line
railways that serve them.
Who benefits? The grain companies, the railways and the ideologues in the
Honourable senators, the Senate has always been known for its exemplary study
of legislation and for representing minority groups in Canada. It is our duty to
provide a full and complete hearing where proposed legislation has the following
characteristics: first, is of grave detriment to one or more regions; second,
breaches constitutionally protected human rights and freedoms; third,
compromises collective linguistic or minority rights; fourth, is of such
importance to the future of Canada as to require the government to seek a
mandate from the electorate; and fifth, is so repugnant as to constitute a
quasi-abuse of the legislative power of Parliament
Each of these five motives reflects the federal principle that the Senate was
created to embody: the representational interests, the protection of government
rights, the promotion of minority rights, government accountability, and
Honourable senators, we are here to ensure the Senate's coherence and
legitimacy; yet under certain circumstances, the new majority government is
often impatient with this upper chamber and places the Senate in an unenviable
"damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.
If we refuse to pass this legislation as is, we will most certainly be
accused of obstructionism or contempt for the electorate. However, if the Senate
passes the legislation without any reservations, it will have failed to fulfill
the constitutional role of providing sober reflection and holding the government
to account; and we will not be doing justice to the groups we are appointed to
The government claims that it has done due diligence and sent this
legislation for study in committee, but it has not consulted the farmers in the
region where this legislation's negative effects will be most apparent.
My final comment to honourable senators in the Senate is this: What are you
going to tell your grandchildren when they ask, "Where were you when they
destroyed the Canadian Wheat Board?"
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, I would be remiss if I did
not make certain comments on Bill C-18 at the very beginning of my speech.
There is no doubt in my mind that we could make this a partisan or very
political debate; the West versus the East. I have been wondering about
something. This afternoon, I had the opportunity to meet in my office with a
young farmer from eastern Canada, from the Restigouche area, who has travelled
all the provinces from east to west. He shared his concerns about the bill with
me. It was the first time anyone had knocked on my door, unsolicited, to discuss
Bill C-18 particularly someone from a region that mainly grows potatoes, while
other regions of that same province revolve around the fishery. He asked me to
imagine single-desk marketing for fish products and potato products. I must say,
honourable senators that the people back home would probably take to the
That being said, instead of having a partisan or political debate, given my
responsibility as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and
Forestry, I will try to opt for a debate based on facts.
It is important to state at the outset that with Bill C-18 we are not
jeopardizing or putting in danger the supply management of Canada. I have taken
the opportunity during the last three weeks to call farmers in Eastern Canada,
Quebec, Ontario and Western Canada. I want to assure them that our government
will not put in jeopardy the supply management of Canada.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Mockler: However, honourable senators, looking back and after
talking to both Eastern and Western farmers, I can say that Canadians have
always been informed under the leadership of our Prime Minister that Bill C-18
would be introduced and voted upon. Today, that will happen.
Honourable senators know the results in the other place. I will quote Prime
Minister Stephen Harper as late as October 7, 2011, from a speech he made in
Saskatchewan alongside Minister Ritz and Premier Brad Wall as they announced an
investment to create jobs with a pasta plant, the first of its kind in Western
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Mockler: The Prime Minister said:
. . . our government is committed to giving Western grain farmers the
freedom to choose how to market their products, something Eastern grain
farmers have long taken for granted.
An Hon. Senator: Right on.
An Hon. Senator: Absolutely.
Senator Mockler: The Prime Minister continued, saying:
This is not only a matter of principle. It will also lead to real
economic benefits like this one, . . .
— the pasta plant in Western Canada —
. . . to opportunities for years to come.
Honourable senators, Canadians have always known our government's position on
its social and economic policies. We have always said and we continue to say
today that our ultimate priority is to create jobs and focus on the economy
without mortgaging our children's and grandchildren's future.
We stand together for the next generation, not just for the next election.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
An Hon. Senator: Unlike those across.
Senator Mockler: Honourable senators, in order to create more economic
activities and opportunities, Bill C-18 will give our aggressive young farmers
across Canada, but mostly across Western Canada right now, more market access.
Regardless of where we live in Canada, we have a common denominator: to make
Canada a better place to work, a better place to live, a better place to raise
our children, and a better place to reach out to the most vulnerable.
On this bill, honourable senators, I am proud to stand here and say that our
government's top priority is the economy, and the agriculture industry,
regardless of where it is, plays and will continue to play an important role in
the quality of the lives of Canadians.
We believe that all Canadian farmers should be able to position their
businesses to capture the marketing opportunities worldwide that are open to
them. We believe that Western Canadian grain farmers want the same marketing
freedom and opportunities as other farmers in Canada and around the world have.
We believe they want to be able to choose whom they sell their grain to and
when, exactly like we do in Eastern Canada.
An Hon. Senator: What a novel idea.
Senator Mockler: We agree with the Minister of Agriculture when he
says that we must emphasize farmers first. We know that farming is a 24-hour,
365-days-a-year job and that it involves the highest level of business planning
and management. We also know that agriculture has proven to be one of this
country's most exciting and innovative industries. The grain industry alone
brings over $16 billion to the farm gate and is a major contributor to the
economy of all Canadians.
Hon. Michael Duffy: Say it again. How much?
Senator Mockler: It brings $16 billion. I stand proud as Canada
continues to prove itself to be a world leader in innovative quality
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Mockler: I sincerely believe, honourable senators, that it all
comes down to our country's original innovators — our farmers.
Let us look at some facts. Our agri-food sector is the leading manufacturing
employer in the country and an important driver in our economy from coast to
coast to coast.
Let us look at other facts today. Canada is positioning itself among new
players, and we cannot put our heads in the sand. We have new players out there,
such as growing markets like Brazil, Russia, India and China, and by doing what
we are doing in Bill C-18, we will be in a position to compete.
Our productivity has jumped by 300 per cent since the 1950s, and we are now
using more and better technologies. We are seeing more and more young farmers
entering the business community, which is great news as well, even though we
have challenges in other areas of Canada.
The other night I did hear from approximately 60 to 75 farmers from Western
Canada. Regardless of where they came from in Western Canada, it was touching to
hear what those young farmers were telling us. They have been telling this
government that they want freer access to those markets, and that is why we have
Honourable senators, the Government of Canada, under the strong leadership of
the Prime Minister, understands that for our farmers to continue keeping up with
changing global challenges, global markets and demographics, we must ensure they
have every opportunity to successfully compete without being bogged down in red
tape or shackled to an organization that limits their ability to decide when and
where to sell their product.
Give the farmer the tools and the freedom to run their businesses as they see
fit. Why should they not have that freedom? Like all entrepreneurs, they take
risks. Our government believes in protecting the democratic property rights of
farmers to run their own businesses, especially when the CWB's own surveys
confirm that the dual market is the most popular choice among producers, a
choice that allows them to control the price and timing of their sales.
Honourable senators, that is why we have introduced this legislation that
aims to give Western Canadian wheat, durum and barley growers the democratic
right to choose how to market their grain, whether independently or through a
Honourable senators, the current law was established in 1943 by an
order-in-council, not by farmers. I want to repeat that. That is important to
the debate that we have. The current law was established in 1943 by
order-in-council, not by farmers. As a result, Western Canadian wheat, durum and
barley growers do not have the same rights as other producers in the country
about where to sell their product. I say to the senators in Eastern Canada,
imagine for a moment if we did the same for our potato growers.
Honourable senators, what will the result be? I believe that the result will
be an open market that will attract investment, encourage innovation and create
value-added jobs which can include processing facilities like pasta plants.
Western Canadian farmers deserve the same marketing opportunities enjoyed by
farmers in other parts of Canada.
Honourable senators, they want the ability to market their own grain, whether
it is to a voluntary CWB, to a grain company, directly to a processor or to an
export customer in the U.S. or elsewhere.
Farmers are looking for new value-added products, revenue streams and greater
marketing flexibility. Why is that? It is all about world competition. I believe
that marketing freedom has many economic benefits for communities across the
Prairies, and I also believe and foresee that new processing plants will be able
to open for business. I also foresee that we will have the creation of
well-paying jobs. Being bound by the current requirement to buy wheat and barley
only from the Canadian Wheat Board, we must open those markets.
This government has listened to farmers. This government will continue to
listen to farmers today and tomorrow. The high quality of Canadian wheat, durum
and barley is recognized around the world, honourable senators.
No, we will not put supply management in jeopardy.
In conclusion, honourable senators, I have no doubt in my mind that the
Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry will be honoured to listen
to all witnesses and will assure them that they will be heard with respect and
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I would like to thank Senator
Peterson for his passionate, well-reasoned speech on democracy for wheat farmers
and on the responsibility that we have as senators to do the right thing for
I would like to begin my speech by thanking all farmers in Canada for their
hard work. Unfortunately, what they do for us as Canadians is often overlooked.
Honourable senators, I live in the city of Dartmouth and I grew up in the
city of Sydney. My grandparents lived on a farm in Grand Mira along the Mira
River in Cape Breton, and I remember many happy days spent there as a child.
Despite my agricultural roots, I am not an expert on agriculture, nor would I
pretend to be. As a resident of Nova Scotia, I am certainly not an expert on
wheat farming. I did spend time on the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture
and Forestry, but at that time the committee was doing a study on forestry — an
excellent study, I might add.
Why am I speaking on Bill C-18? It is because I believe in democracy and
fairness for farmers.
I also told the farmers with whom I met that I would speak on their behalf in
the Senate chamber. Like Senator Mockler, I, too, think it is important that
those of us from the Atlantic region speak out on behalf of our fellow Canadians
who live in other parts of the country. We must stick together.
When Bill C-18 was introduced in the other place, the teacher in me knew that
I better start my studies to better understand the implications of the bill
brought in by this reform Conservative government. I read articles on this
subject. Of course, I read the bill. I listened to those more knowledgeable on
the issue than I. I met with farmers from Saskatchewan last week, and those
farmers expressed their frustration with Bill C-18. Some of them voted
Conservative in the last election, and they took Minister Ritz at his word when
he said that the farmers would be given the opportunity to vote on whether or
not they wanted the government to do away with the Canadian Wheat Board.
Unfortunately, their trust in the minister was misplaced. I do not think he told
The farmers were hopeful that senators, both Liberal and Conservative, would
support farmers and oppose Bill C-18. The farmers I spoke with felt that they
were shortchanged by the process in the other place. The House of Commons
committee invited only one witness in support of the Canadian Wheat Board, and
the farmers felt that political games were played to limit the testimony of
witnesses by having long preambles to eat up their time so that the witnesses
got to say very little. The farmers reiterated the fact that 62 per cent of
producers supported the single-desk in a vote — 62 per cent — yet this
government is ignoring farmers' wishes.
Senator Plett spoke earlier about the results of the last federal election.
While I was not very happy with the results of the election, I am happy that
democracy works. Unfortunately, this government seems to feel that democracy for
Canadians should stop on election day.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Cordy: That is shameful.
The farmers I spoke with were also very frustrated by the government's plan
to withhold the $200 million contingency fund contributed to by farmers. The
government is taking this money and using it to fund the dismantling of the
Canadian Wheat Board.
This money, honourable senators, is farmers' money. The contingency fund was
set up as an emergency fund for circumstances such as fluctuations in foreign
exchange currency and hedging. I say again, this money belongs to the farmers.
The government is taking over this money and using it to wind up the Canadian
Wheat Board, even though 62 per cent of producers support the single-desk. The
government is taking control over $200 million of farmers' money. That is
When I read the bill, clause 51(1) states:
Any surplus that remains after the satisfaction of the debts and
liabilities of the Corporation and the winding-up charges, costs and
expenses belongs to Her Majesty in right of Canada.
The money is going to the government coffers and not to the farmers who paid
this money into the fund. This is shameful, and I was dismayed.
Senator Gerstein spoke last week about this government not raising taxes, yet
this government is taking money that belongs to the farmers. I guess if it is
not a tax, it is a money grab on farmers for being prudent with their money.
Farmers also spoke about the current system at the Canadian Wheat Board and
how this system is transparent for producers. The farmers know exactly what the
cost is at every step of distribution. Ninety-eight per cent of the profits go
back to producers. This will not be case under the proposed reorganization. The
farmers stated that the middlemen will not be required to report to farmers what
the actual costs are at every step of the process. There will be no
The farmers would like to see fair and balanced hearings in the Senate of
Honourable senators, I believe this is a very reasonable request to those who
provide wheat to Canadians and to people around the world. I would like to thank
the farmers from Saskatchewan who spent so much time meeting with me last week
and answering my many questions. Is it little enough to provide a fair process
with balanced hearings in the Senate of Canada for the wheat farmers in Western
Canada. We owe it to them.
Honourable senators, Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Sir John A.
Macdonald called the Senate the "chamber of sober second thought." Sadly, this
quote, which should reflect the work that the Senate of Canada could do best,
seems to be falling by the wayside. The senators who are part of the Harper
government seem to feel it is their responsibility to follow blindly the wishes
of their leader rather than examining legislation and determining what is best
for Canadians. I believe that it is our duty as senators to review and evaluate
legislation. We should not pass legislation with little or no study.
Honourable senators, we have a responsibility to study all legislation. Some
very valid concerns have been raised concerning Bill C-18. Wheat farmers, and
indeed all Canadians, should see these concerns addressed before this
legislation is passed or not passed. That is democracy. We owe it to Canadians
to follow the democratic process, and we certainly owe it to the Western wheat
farmers to follow the democratic process.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the farmers who met with me, a
senator from the Atlantic region, to express their concerns. It is a shame that
this government does not want to meet with farmers and voted against allowing
the Senate Committee on Agriculture to hold public meetings in Alberta,
Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Some Hon. Senators: Shame.
Senator Cordy: I would also like to thank all the people from across
the country, but especially from the Western provinces, for the time they took
to write letters to me. In fact, I would like to quote some of the letters I
have received over the past few weeks:
Even though I have typically voted Conservative, I vigorously object to
the administration's dishonest, mean-spirited treatment of the Canadian
Wheat Board and all of us who wish to retain the single desk marketing
structure. Their appalling behaviour has become a source of embarrassment
for many of us!
The Harper Conservatives keep pretending to be the champions of Western
Canadian farmers, but if their campaign to dismantle the CBW single desk is
so honourable, why must they resort to such dishonourable tactics to
accomplish it? Since when does a supposedly noble objective justify a
corrupt means of bringing it about? Not only is this government breaking the
law by ramming through the current legislation without a producer
plebiscite, but from the outset its clumsy handling of the issue has
demonstrated an alarming disregard for free speech and the democratic
That was from someone who voted Conservative in the last election.
Another Saskatchewan farmer wrote:
I started farming in 1983 with one quarter section of land. My family and
I have toiled to build a sustainable farm of 12 quarters. Without the
Canadian Wheat Board's guarantee of sales and regulation of quality
standards, my dream would never have been realized.
What system is the government going to put in place that will replace the
CWB service to the Canadian farmers? Many farmers are not able to market
their products on a daily basis and compete with the multi-national grain
companies that have historically guaranteed us a fair market price for our
The end of the CWB will inevitably be the end of small farmers. The
rising marketing costs will force the small farmers to sell their farms to
bigger rivals or agri-business companies. This will directly affect all
small prairie towns that are dependent on individual farmers to support
Another letter from Saskatchewan:
I'm worried and frankly outraged at the C-18 bill being pushed through
Parliament without due process, without giving farmers the vote they were
promised before a decision would be made. It makes no sense to me that a
bill to obliterate the Canadian Wheat Board could be passed without any
consultation with Canadian farmers.
Honourable senators, I believe in the democratic process. We owe it to
Western wheat farmers to give sober second thought to this bill. We owe it to
farmers to listen to them.
Senator Plett and the Conservative government say that this is the right
decision for the wheat farmers of Canada. Since you will use your majority to
pass Bill C-18, I hope that you are right. In fact, I pray that you are right
because if you are not, the board will be destroyed and there is no way, with
the trade agreements in place, that the decision will ever be able to be
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I have just a few words. I have
been sitting here brooding about Senator Plett's eloquent and impassioned
defence of the principle of parliamentary supremacy. I think we would all agree
that it is fundamental to our system of government that Parliament is supreme.
Parliament can make laws, Parliament can change laws, but Parliament does not
have the right to break laws. It seems pretty clear to me that that is what
Parliament is in the process of doing. The existing law says the minister shall
not introduce a measure like the one now before us until, among other things,
the minister has consulted the farmers in a vote and the farmers have voted in
favour of it.
Lord knows we have heard the other side say many times that farmers were
consulted on May 2. However, we all know that elections have more than one
issue. Even if they did not, the Minister of Agriculture, as we have been
reminded by my eloquent colleagues, had given an assurance to the farmers that
there would be a vote and that they would be consulted.
I am a Quebecer, and this process eerily reminds me of what my province has
gone through twice now. There is a party in my province, a legal, democratic
party, which twice has won election by saying, among a number of other things,
"We are in favour of the independence of Quebec, of the secession of Quebec from
Canada. However, if you, the citizens of Quebec, elect us, we will not consider
that election to be a mandate to achieve the independence of Quebec. We will
consult you in a separate vote on that matter."
That comparison may seem like a stretch to some honourable senators, but it
does not to me, because we, in Quebec, counted so greatly on the validity of
that pledge. We trusted them to that extent and were right to do so, because
both times they got elected and both times they then did hold a referendum on
independence. Quebecers, including many thousands of Quebecers who had voted to
elect them but who did not wish to become independent, were able to express
their preference in that referendum.
It seems to me that what Parliament is in the process of being asked to do is
profoundly wrong and a betrayal of the basic trust upon which our system must be
Hon. Pana Merchant: Honourable senators, three recent political events
in Canada illustrate the many faces of democracy. These three events, in
particular, resonate with what is happening regarding the future of the Canadian
There are three figures expressed in percentages that represent and highlight
graphically and substantively the current processes of democracy in our nation.
Those percentages are 64, 62 and 39. What do these figures represent? Who got
what, where and when. Who won 64 per cent, who won 62 per cent and who won 39
I believe these three percentages are a snapshot of who we are and what we
want in 2011. The Conservative Party won 39 per cent of the vote this year in
the general election — only 39 per cent. However, on the Wheat Board ballot,
support for the Canadian Wheat Board was 62 per cent in favour. One cannot
assert, with intellectual honesty, that there is a mandate of 39 per cent to
change the Canadian Wheat Board status when, within weeks, the same Canadian
voters supported the Wheat Board at a level of 62 per cent. There is a
statistical spread of 23 per cent. Even with the appropriate factoring of
statistical variables into this comparison, that spread of 23 per cent remains
impressive, if not decisive.
Who won the 64 per cent? The Saskatchewan Party in a recent election in my
province. I mention this simply because of all the political commentators who
hailed the victory in Saskatchewan of 64 per cent as a great victory for
democracy, and it was.
What is the difference between 64 per cent and 62 per cent in a democratic
exercise? I believe that the reaction of the reasonable Canadian to a two-point
spread between two voting events would be that such a margin is, in fact,
insignificant. How can it be, then, that the Saskatchewan provincial election
victory at 64 per cent is a great moment of truth and satisfaction, but a vote
supporting the Wheat Board to the extent of 62 per cent is suddenly
inconsequential, meaningless, belittled and to be discarded?
There is something fundamentally wrong with this picture: expressions or
praise for democracy coming out of one side of the mouth, while at the same time
expressions of disdain for the 62 per cent of farmers who support the Wheat
Board are coming out the other side of the same mouth.
Is there no shame, or is it politics, not democracy, that is the new guiding
formula for the making of public policy? I believe Canadians have a right to
expect more from the political processes that embrace public policy. The failure
to respect and honour the decisive support of 62 per cent on the Wheat Board
vote is a blight on our democracy. Rejection of the will of farmers in this
regard stains all of us as a political class.
I am truly ashamed of what is happening.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud: Honourable senators, this debate is quite
interesting, to say the least, and we are hearing many statements from both
sides. We could even say that there has been selective hearing at some points,
and, honourable senators, I would say that that happens more often on the other
side of the chamber. However, there is no need for a ruling from the Honourable
Speaker on that statement.
I may be showing my age when I say that "the law is the law." It was
Séraphin Poudrier who used to say that, wasn't it? I get the impression that it
does not mean much anymore. I get the impression that I am participating in a
debate that should not even be happening.
It has been confirmed that Parliament is the supreme authority for amending
laws and proposing new ones. I completely agree with that, but we must also
respect the existing legislation. That is what governs our actions. No one has
the right to break the law; I do not believe that we have the right to do so.
Any action to be taken regarding the Canadian Wheat Board should be done in
accordance with the Canadian Wheat Board Act. The honourable Senator Fraser said
it well. Section 47.1 of this act sets out a process to be followed for any
changes to the Canadian Wheat Board. It says that farmers must first be
consulted and that a vote must be held. Section 47.1 states:
(b) the producers of the grain have voted. . .
Whether they voted in favour or against,
. . . the voting process having been determined by the Minister.
The government is saying that it is going to give western farmers a choice;
however, the farmers are not being given the choice to vote on what the
government is proposing. That does not make much sense. Are we talking about
democracy? If the government had acted in accordance with the existing law, it
would have respected the democratic process and given these people the
opportunity to voice their opinion.
The government is saying that it consulted farmers and that the election was
the consultation. The act does not mention elections but it says there must be
consultation. How is it that the minister decided to do otherwise, particularly
given the fact that he said before the election that he did not want to touch
the Canadian Wheat Board before or at least until the farmers had their say?
If I were a farmer from eastern or western Canada or anywhere else, I would
have believed the minister because he speaks with authority. I would have
trusted what he said and believed that, if changes were to be made to the
Canadian Wheat Board, consultations would be held.
As I said earlier, we should not be having this debate because it is going to
bias the entire process. However, I believe that the train has now left the
station and, next week, we are going to be hearing from witnesses.
It is only because farmers from western Canada came here at their own expense
to meet with us and put their case that we were finally able to get organized so
that they could have their say before the Senate Committee on Agriculture and
Forestry. Clearly, we will listen to what they have to say and give them
whatever latitude they need to express their doubts, their support or their
opposition regarding the Canadian Wheat Board.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, there has been no shortage of discussion in this chamber in recent
weeks on the Canadian Wheat Board and the role that it plays in Western farmers'
livelihoods. I rise today to speak to Bill C-18 because this is a bill that
matters to me and to the farmers in Alberta, my home province.
I was born in a rural community in Northern Alberta, a place where many made
their living by farming. I am proud to be able to represent in the Senate today
the voices of those farmers who have not been heard.
Over the past several months, I have received countless letters from Alberta
farmers, as well as Manitoban and Saskatchewan farmers, all of whom convey
serious concerns with the way this government has handled the issues at hand
pertaining to the Canadian Wheat Board.
Honourable senators, no one would be so foolish as to argue that all Canadian
farmers unanimously support or unanimously oppose the Canadian Wheat Board.
However, I think it is reasonable to say that each of us values one's right to
be heard on a matter that directly affects one's livelihood, especially when
that "right" is a statutory one. It is on this subject, honourable senators,
where the Conservative government has utterly failed Canadian farmers. By
refusing farmers their right to a say in the future of the Wheat Board, this
government has disenfranchised and alienated farmers on both sides of the issue.
As Senator Fraser has so eloquently stated, section 47.1 of the Canadian
Wheat Board Act is presently the law. I will read again section 47.1 of the
Canadian Wheat Board Act. We have heard it many times today, but it is the law,
and one cannot break an existing law. The law states that the Minister of
Agriculture may not exclude any kind, type, class or grade of grain from the
single-desk marketing structure unless:
(a) the minister has consulted with the board about the exclusion
or extension; and
(b) the producers of the grain have voted in favour of the
exclusion or extension, the voting process having been determined by the
This is pretty clear.
An Hon. Senator: It could not be any clearer than that.
Senator Tardif: By doing away with the single-desk, the government is
effectively removing all types of grain from that structure, and is doing so
without fulfilling the requirements of parts (a) and (b). Grain
producers have a statutory right to vote on these consequential changes to the
Canadian Wheat Board, and the government's legislation is being imposed in
direct contravention of the statute in question.
What is perhaps most disturbing about this violation of the Canadian Wheat
Board Act is that just eight months ago, in March, heading into an election, the
minister assured farmers that there was no reason to worry and that the
government would not act arbitrarily on the Wheat Board when it came forward in
Honourable senators, protests have been staged across the country. Online
campaigns have sprung up on website and social media platforms. Farmers have
travelled from the Prairies to Ottawa, expenses paid out of their own pockets,
to try to be heard by their government.
Through all these efforts, my colleagues in this chamber and in the other
place have stood shoulder to shoulder with Prairie farmers and asked this
government to give them a chance to be heard.
Regrettably, these pleas have fallen on deaf ears. In what was perhaps the
most disappointing display of the reticence of the government in this very
chamber, senators on the other side voted down two separate amendments to have
the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry hold hearings in the
Prairie provinces, giving farmers a real chance to be heard.
What we asked for was simple: Bring the debate on the subject matter of this
bill to the places where it really counts; bring the debate to the places where
families and their livelihoods stand to be affected. Honourable senators, I am
left to assume that the government was reticent to hold such hearings because
they feared they would not like what they heard.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Tardif: I have listened to members of the government in this
place stand and say that those farmers who still want the CWB can still have the
CWB, voluntarily — but this is categorically false, and I know that they know
so. The CWB's defining characteristic is its single-desk selling system. With no
single-desk, no capital base and no access to grain-handling facilities, what is
left is an empty shell set up to fail. Even if I do not agree with the beliefs
of the government, I expect the government to have sufficient courage in its
convictions to be forthright about the policies it seeks to implement — not to
deliberately conceal the intended effects of a piece of legislation.
The conspicuous absence of an economic impact study to accompany this
significant legislation has been raised by a number of my colleagues. As a
matter of interest, I would like to bring to the attention of senators an
economic impact report that was conducted on the Canadian Wheat Board by
PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2005. The report observed the annual benefits
attributed to the CWB's economic activity in the city of Winnipeg, where the
board's headquarters are located, throughout the Western provinces and for the
rest of Canada.
The gross output on Canada attributable to the total initial expenditures and
premiums generated of $751.7 million was $1.6 billion. Furthermore, in addition
to the 460 positions at the CWB, a further 14,239 full-time, full-year jobs are
created in Canada as a result of the initial CWB expenditures and premiums
generated. In addition to wages paid to CWB employees, total labour income
generated in Canada was estimated at $519.3 million.
A final point of interest from this report was the notion of the Wheat
Board's activities as a significant revenue generator for the government.
Approximately $360.1 million in taxes paid to all levels of government is
generated by the CWB's initial expenditures and premiums generated in Canada.
Honourable senators, the figures I have quoted are not small amounts. I have
serious concerns with the absence of an economic impact study to accompany the
bill currently before the Senate.
Since the government has declined to allow farmers' voices to be formally
registered by way of a vote, I would like to use my allotted time to speak in
this place to ensure that some of those voices are indeed formally on the
record. I will read from some of the letters that I have received.
Two weeks ago, I received a letter from a farmer in Central Alberta. He
Dear Senator Tardif,
If ever there was an issue that required sober second thought, it is Bill
I harvested my 35th grain crop this year. In 1998 I participated in the
Senate Agriculture Committee hearings, which gave us our farmer directed
Wheat Board. One of the key aspects of that legislation was the right of
farmers to have an honest plebiscite on any substantive changes to the
mandate of our Wheat Board. Coupled with the democratic elections of
farmers to the CWB Board of Directors, this makes our CWB one of the
most democratically legitimate institutions in our society.
The farmer's letter went on to describe his belief in the CWB as a critical
component of the overall economic health of Canada. I think I just gave you some
of those numbers.
Another farmer, from Grande Prairie, Alberta, writes:
After working from 8:00 AM to 12:00 midnight for the last while, my son
and I completed harvesting on November 2. Meanwhile, the Harper government
has been ramming the Bill to kill the CWB through Parliament with total
disrespect for the ability of grain farmers to represent their interests.
In fairness to grain farmers in Western Canada and to rural communities,
could the Senate hold public hearings across Western Canada?
Well, we tried that and we saw what occurred. He goes on to state:
This would give us the opportunity to let government and the public
understand the impact this irreversible change will have on our farms, rural
communities and the environment.
The Senate might also consider holding the vote among wheat and barley
producers that is required under the current CWB Act, as a federal
election was not a referendum on grain marketing in Western Canada.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Tardif: Honourable senators, just a few days ago I received
another letter, from a farmer near the community of Camrose, Alberta. He states:
Our rural municipality is located in the central area of the Province of
Alberta. This farming community is still able to thrive thanks to local
farmers and their families.
The CWB is an important tool in our infrastructure in keeping local grain
growers living the valued, small town lifestyle that has been a strong part
of creating the great Country we live in.
Keeping our community viable and growing is the most important part of
our heritage which is being threatened by the possible dismantling of the
CWB. This is a very serious concern for us as transportation of our grain is
provided by trucks and producer cars on a short line railway. Gone are the
local elevators, and service by a Class 1 railroad; caused by
rationalization in the post Crow Rate era. This is also a big concern to
farmers who farm 1000 to 2000 acres and for the budding farmer, or my son,
who is just beginning to farm for a living.
These are but a few of the many, many letters that we have all received.
Honourable senators, we have one last opportunity, as a chamber of sober
second thought, to give those whose livelihoods will be directly affected by
this bill the chance to be heard. That this bill will pass at second reading is
a fait accompli. As such, I would like the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry to receive this bill as soon as possible so that it may
begin hearing from farmers and from other witnesses who will appear.
I must admit that I am disappointed that the government voted against our
attempt to have the committee hear on site from those who will most bear the
impact of this legislation. Had senators on the other side supported our motion,
the committee could have travelled to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta to
listen to all of those who wished to be heard. Unfortunately, that was not to
Nevertheless, I hope that the committee will listen carefully to the
testimony of those who appear before it on the subject of this bill. I hope that
they will be thorough and meticulous in the examination of the legislation,
taking into account what they hear from witnesses. This diligence is the true
mandate of our committees and of our chamber. I therefore look forward to the
study to be carried out by the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Some Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker: It was moved by the Honourable Senator Plett,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Patterson, that Bill C-18, An Act to
reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related
amendments to certain Acts, be now read the second time.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
Some Hon. Senators: On division.
(Motion agreed to and bill read second time, on division).
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Carignan, bill referred to the Standing Senate
Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.)
Hon. Terry M. Mercer moved third reading of Bill S-201, An Act
respecting a National Philanthropy Day.
He said: Honourable senators, I do not want to give a speech. However, I want
to extend my thanks to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science
and Technology for accommodating my personal schedule and for allowing me to
appear today as opposed to last week. I also appreciate the sincere questions
and debate that we had this morning and the input and the insight that my
colleagues on both sides have into the intent behind this bill. I urge all
colleagues to vote for this bill.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators to
adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.)
Hon. Michael A. Meighen moved third reading of Bill S-1002, An Act to
authorize the Industrial Alliance Pacific General Insurance Corporation to apply
to be continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec.
He said: Inspired by Senator Mercer's brevity, I, too, would like to say a
word of thanks to all senators for moving this bill forward expeditiously. In
particular, I want to thank Senator Dawson, the opposition critic, and Senator
Wallace, the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional
Affairs, for making room on their schedules to hear the witnesses this morning.
Honourable senators, your cooperation will materially assist the petitioner
in streamlining their organizational structure and in reducing costs, thereby
creating jobs and wealth for Canadians everywhere across this country.
I could go on, but I will not.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Smith P.C. (Cobourg),
seconded by the Honourable Senator Cordy, for the adoption of the first
report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of
Parliament (Revised Rules of the Senate), presented in the Senate on
November 16, 2011.
Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, I, too, will be brief.
This is an important issue for everyone in this chamber and will be important
to us for quite a while in the future. I think it behooves each of us to become
familiar with the proposed new rules. I know that is a difficult task, because
the rules are not exactly exciting bedtime reading.
I think it is important that this motion should be dealt with in the
not-too-distant future, after we return from our Christmas break, because this
could fall off the Order Paper if we ignore it for too long.
When I was the Opposition Whip for many years sitting on the other side,
Senator Kinsella was the expert on the existing rules. I am curious as to what
his opinion would be with respect to this rewrite of the rules. I hope that he
would be supportive of it, because it is important to this chamber to have
someone speak to it who has such expertise on the existing rules. I would very
much appreciate that.
I want to thank the individuals who worked on the subcommittee and the
sub-subcommittee and, of course, the staff whose assistance in getting this done
If senators do not want to speak to this matter, I appreciate that, but I
will be asking our caucus next week to let me know if they wish to speak to this
committee report, because it is important that we get this done eventually.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it agreed that this item remain standing in
the name of Senator Smith?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(On motion of Senator Stratton, for Senator Smith, debate adjourned.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the second report of the Standing
Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, (Amendment to
the Rules of the Senate, relating to leaves of absence and suspensions),
presented in the Senate on November 29, 2011.
Hon. David Braley moved the adoption of the report.
He said: Honourable senators, the report before you proposes adjustments to
the rules dealing with leaves of absence and suspensions. The Rules Committee
reviewed these issues in light of recent experiences and the changes we propose
are fairly simple, but significant.
Two issues requiring attention were identified: first, continued access to
Senate resources during a leave of absence without the possibility of control
and, second, the fact that both the finding of guilt and a sentence other than
discharge are required for a suspension to take effect. A third point relating
to the trigger mechanism to start the entire process is also addressed in the
On the first major issue, when Senator Austin, the then chair of the Rules
Committee, spoke to the report establishing these provisions on December 6,
2001, he noted that a leave of absence would only apply to a senator's role in
the legislature, not representative duty. It is for this reason that a senator
on leave of absence continues to have access to a range of funds and services
supporting us in our representative capacity. It has, however, become evident
that a certain level of oversight on this point would be beneficial.
Strict rules trying to address every conceivable situation are not feasible
and, for this reason, the Rules Committee proposes that when a senator is
granted a leave of absence because of criminal charges, the Internal Economy
Committee be empowered to suspend access to some or all of the Senate resources,
if appropriate. This would not affect the sessional allowance. Internal Economy
is not required to suspend these resources, but would be able to act if needed.
This proposal is found in the new rule 140(2.1).
The second major issue has to do with the period of time between a senator
being found guilty and sentencing. Under the current system, the senator
continues to receive the sessional allowance for this period. It again appears
more appropriate to introduce the possibility of a level of control. For this
reason, the Internal Economy Committee would be empowered, under the proposed
rule 139(2.1), to suspend the sessional allowance payable to the senator found
guilty but not yet sentenced. This would provide a means to address particular
situations in which this may be appropriate, but avoids a sort of rigid
Finally, the Rules Committee also noted that under the current system it is
the senator charged with an offence who must provide the letter that triggers a
leave of absence. It is felt that a fallback should be available to deal with a
situation in which this document is not provided within a reasonable period of
time. The proposed revisions in rules 140(1) and 140(2) would allow the Speaker
to table the necessary document in such case.
Honourable senators, as I noted at the outset, these changes are fairly
simple, but they would introduce a level of flexibility and added oversight to
these provisions of our rules. I encourage their adoption after due
(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)
Leave having been given to revert to Government Notices of Motions:
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(h), I move:
That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday,
December 6, 2011, at 2 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
(The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, December 6, 2011, at 2 p.m.)