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Fernand Robichaud

The Hon. Fernand Robichaud, P.C. Appointed to the Senate by the Rt. Honourable Jean Chrétien, Senator Fernand Robichaud represents the province of New Brunswick and the Senatorial Division of Saint-Louis-de-Kent. He has served in the Senate of Canada since September 23, 1997.

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Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Bill

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Statement made on 24 November 2011 by Senator Wilfred Moore

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore:

Honourable senators, I would like to assure senators opposite that I am not on my feet here defending the members of board. I am here today to speak about the farmers of Western Canada and the sorry lot that they find themselves in as a result of the action by this turncoat Reform government.

What I find interesting, honourable senators, is that I have not heard anyone talk about or table an economic impact study as to what will happen here. We have heard nothing about that. We do not know anything about the assets of the Wheat Board, who will get them, how they will be distributed, or what their numbers are.

We know that so far the board has done well to get top dollar for the farmers. Now we want to get rid of that. We want to get rid of the monopoly and give it to an American oligopoly. What are we doing? We are transferring the sovereignty of our trading to the U.S.

The honourable senator opposite can shake his head, but it does not take much imagination to realize what will happen here. The big people in the U.S., the conglomerates, will be coming in and offering prices, their prices, saying: "We will give you what you want, but buy our feed and our fertilizer." That is what will happen. Maybe the farmers need to have a taste of this to realize what will happen to them.

This is not just a western issue. I have a bunch of letters here. We have all received letters from people in the West and across the country. I have a couple of letters from Nova Scotia:

I am very troubled that politicians have been treating the farmers who want the Canadian Wheat Board with such disrespect, dismissal, even disdain. Imagine our Prime Minister saying the train is coming, so you better get off the track. What a horrible metaphor. They need to appreciate that the train track crosses Canada and that people across Canada are concerned with this process. This bill is a larger issue than the Canadian Wheat Board. It is a question of democracy. Why the need to rush it through?

Another says:

I know the chance that the Canadian Wheat Board will be saved is essentially nil. This is a last-ditch attempt by me to ask that you reflect on this further and ask other members of the Senate to pause and consider the ramification of Bill C-18. Is there a reasonable problem in delaying the decision? What is the motivation behind this hard push to get the bill through? People have told me that there is no point in writing to senators, that it is a petrified forest, but after reading your biographies I was encouraged by the expertise and accomplishments amongst you and by the involvement in such areas as social justice, philanthropy and gardening. You are obviously wise people and I hope that you can influence the whole Senate by taking a non-partisan perspective with integrity and eloquence. It is my hope that you will be united in showing the country that Nova Scotian senators support the Canadian Wheat Board in principle until both sides can provide more evidence upon which to make an informed decision.

These are letters from Ontario, which is interesting:

Destroying the Canadian Wheat Board will take millions of dollars out of farmers' pockets and hand it on a platter to the multinational grain corporations. This not only will affect farmers, but our rural communities as well. The Canadian Wheat Board is a good example of food sovereignty in action. It is a democratic agency controlled by food producers and citizens who collectively shape the food system to guarantee a healthy, productive Canadian society.

Here is one from a farmer in Ontario:

I am vehemently opposed to the abolishment of the Wheat Board. I am disgusted with the undemocratic actions of the Canadian government against the welfare of hard-working Canadian farmers. It is difficult in these times to keep a farm profitable as it is. The small farmer is a real benefit to diversity, availability, cost and quality. I think that the government is trying to hand over our farms to big business. Please stop this malicious action now.

This is one from a farmer in Manitoba:

I request that Bill C-18 be shelved and that the farmers be allowed to decide the future of the marketing board via plebiscite, as set out in section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

I will say more about that in a moment.

Here is another one from Manitoba:

I would greatly appreciate you standing up to defend the majority of the Prairie farmers who want to keep the Wheat Board as it now is. You would be also standing for the many employees of the board and for the residents of Churchill, Manitoba.

Goodbye, Churchill, if this goes through.

The Harper government is breaking the law of Canada by not giving their farmers their plebiscite of wanting the Canadian Wheat Board. We say that 62 per cent of farmers still want the board. If the law can be broken by government, what is next on the list to go? Our democracy is at stake.

PS. Thank God we still have the Senate.

Another from Saskatchewan:

I am writing to you as a young farmer from Saskatchewan who is concerned about the loss of the board. As a Canadian I am horrified that the federal government can take the board's single desk away without letting farmers have a vote. Is this democracy? I will no longer be able to load producer cars and have a financial benefit if the single desk is removed. I am also deeply concerned that the grain trade will have operational control over all aspects of transportation, and farmers will have no input.

Another one from Saskatchewan:

Although we organic producers sell our product into higher-priced niche markets, we have always had the freedom under the Canadian Wheat Board Act to use the buy-back in order to independently sell our grain into organic markets without impacting the price pool for other producers. The Canadian Wheat Board single desk enhances the value of Canadian grain overall in the world marketplace and more than off sets any buy-back costs.

Another one, I will just read a couple lines, also from Saskatchewan:

I do not believe that I have ever seen so much anger and cynicism in the farm community. I think it is fair to say that most feel their national government has totally betrayed them.

Here is another one from Saskatchewan:

We feel that larger grain companies are the ones who will benefit as they did before the Canadian Wheat Board came into being and that this will be the end of farming as we know it. It is very hard to see the work of the people who went before us, so that farmers could receive a fair price for their wheat and barley and not be held hostage by the grain companies, to see that work be trashed.

Honourable senators, this goes on. Here is another one from Saskatchewan:

Presently the Wheat Board has a 15-member board of directors: 10 elected by farmers. What is going to happen to that board? Is the government going to appoint their own members to the board? It seems likely that farmers will have no say in the operation of the board. We certainly do not regard this bulldozing process as democratic.

This one is from Alberta:

I am writing to express my deep concern over Bill C-18, which seeks to end single-desk selling by the Canadian Wheat Board. This is completely unacceptable to me as a western farmer who supports retention of the board. Time and again the majority of western producers have shown their support for the board at the ballot box by electing directors who support single-desk marketing and selling.

The farmers who have most at risk here get to vote for the directors in a free vote, and they do that and voted for directors who want to retain the board. I must be missing something here.

This is another one from Alberta:

In fairness to grain farmers in Western Canada and to rural communities, could the Senate hold public hearings across Western Canada? 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.

Here is another one from Alberta:

If Canada is a democracy, why would farmers be denied the right to determine the future of the Wheat Board? Are the actions of the present government illegal?

Good question.

Section 47.1 of the board act stipulates that grain producers shall have a right to vote prior to any substantive change to the board's marketing mandate.

This is one is from B.C.:

Saving the Wheat Board matters to me. Losing it will affect the food we serve our families, our communities' economies and Canada's democracy.

There is no doubt, honourable senators, about the feelings of the people across Canada with regard to the Wheat Board and its importance to them.

A couple of those notes referred to section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, which I just happen to have here, which says:

The Minister shall not cause to be introduced in Parliament a bill that would exclude any kind, type, class or grade of wheat or barley, or wheat or barley produced in any area in Canada, from the provisions of Part IV, either in whole or in part, or generally, or for any period, or that would extend the application of Part III or Part IV or both Parts III and IV to any other grain, 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 Minister.

It sounds to me, honourable senators, like the people in the West, the farmers who are most impacted by this proposed law, want to have the right to vote, as set out in the existing act.

There is a little oath here:

I, __________, do swear (declare) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors. So help me God

That is the oath that members of cabinet take and that senators take. This is allegiance not so much to the figure on the throne but to the Crown and other institutions and concepts that the Crown represents. Among those concepts are our Constitution, our traditions, the legal basis of ministerial responsibility, and the responsibility that we have as appointees to this chamber.

It is clear to me. Why are we going to places like Afghanistan and Libya and trying to impress upon those people the worth and value of the western way, the democratic way, the rule of law way, when we are not doing it ourselves? It is absolutely disingenuous, honourable senators. I cannot, for the love of me, understand why the farmers, the producers of grain and barley, are not given the opportunity to have a plebiscite and to vote as stipulated in the law of the land. The law of Canada says they have that right. Why are we not doing that? I do not understand that.

I heard some comments opposite about the Liberal Party and who we believe in and so on. There is no doubt in my mind that we believe in farmers. There is no doubt in my mind that we believe in their rights.

Put it to the test. Senator Greene, put it to the test. You let them have their plebiscite, as provided by law. You did not tell them what you were doing.

Honourable senators, there is no doubt about the impact that this will have on the communities, on the small tracks and the equipment they have invested in. What will happen to those assets and jobs? Where is the impact study that tells us all about that?

We have heard this is a multi-billion dollar business, and we will be turning it over basically to large conglomerates of the United States of America. I think it is wrong. It will happen. They may have subsidiaries in Canada, but make no mistake there will be a big sucking noise of Canadian dollars going south. You will hear it.

Honourable senators, I think this is wrong. I think that farmers should be given the opportunities provided for in the act. I hope that the reasonable senators in this place will give sober second thought to this issue and that farmers will be given that opportunity.

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