Mamadosewin (meeting place, walking together)

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Bill

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Bill

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Bill

Published on 24 November 2011 Hansard and Statements by Senator Tommy Banks (retired)

Hon. Tommy Banks:

Senator Dyck has said exactly the point. I want to try to remind honourable senators opposite that a successful democracy is not one that simply imposes as a matter of course the will of the majority. That is not how a democracy works — that is not how a successful democracy works. Rather, that is called the ‘tyranny of the majority.’ We talk about hearing the views of the people who are directly affected by this proposed motion and I understand we are not talking about the main motion but a motion in amendment. The point of the objections of the farmers, whom all honourable senators are hearing from, is that the law states that the government cannot substantively change the actions of the Wheat Board, including the single desk selling option, without the government conducting a plebiscite from the licensed wheat and barley growers. That is what the law says.

A wise convention is that a government ought not to do by the back door what it cannot do by the front door. This government has decided to go to the back door. It does not like the law, so it will change the law, quite regardless of the promises made to farmers by a minister of the Crown prior to the last election. However, Canadians are getting used to this government saying it will do things that it will not do or saying it will not do things that it will end up doing.

I have one more letter. It is from Wendy Manson, from Outlook, Saskatchewan:

Our century farm harvested 2400 acres of wheat, durum, peas and lentils this fall. Our preferred marketing tool is the Canadian Wheat Board. The power of the CWB is in its single desk and in its powerful role in transportation. The undemocratic behaviour of the Harper government is very distressing. Please do what you can to stop it.

Honourable senators, there is a misunderstanding. There is an assumption on the other side that this side is opposed to a prestudy of Bill C-18. We are not opposed to a prestudy of this bill. In fact, all of the motions in amendment, which they keep voting down, contemplate the prestudy of this bill. The amendments are to vote to prestudy the bill. The present motion in amendment is not a mandatory or declarative one because it states that if the committee decides to study the bill, which is another discussion, it take into consideration the possibility of listening to the directors of the corporation.

Senator Plett said that the committee will decide on its own who to hear, what to hear and where to hear it. That is not entirely true. It is, if the committee acts entirely within its mandate, but it is the quite proper business of this place from time to time, and we do it from time to time, although not sufficiently often, to instruct Senate committees on what they will do and how they will do it.

Senator Plett: We are big boys and we can decide for ourselves.

Senator Banks: No, the Canadian farmers want you to hear them before you decide what to do with the bill.

I implore senators opposite to vote for the amendment which contemplates pre-study of the bill, as the previous two amendments contemplated pre-study of the bill. All they asked was that the appropriate committee find out for itself exactly what these people think, from their mouths, in their homes, where they work. Members do not want to hear that.

Senator Eaton: That is garbage.

Senator Banks: Garbage? Senator Eaton, you have had your downtown say and I am now having my downtown say. Listening to farmers where they work is not garbage. The idea of listening to Canadians about what they think is not garbage.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Banks: Senators, we have an opportunity in this place to do the right thing. I only ask that you consider what the farmers in Western Canada who grow wheat and barley, and from whom you have heard as well as we have by the hundreds, have to say, and then we can do the right thing.

Please click here to read the full text of this debate