Grain Act Bill Dead Or Delayed

“The key here is that this hoist motion actually kills the bill before it even has a chance to make it to committee.”

– PIERRE LEMIEUX

Opposition parties employed a rarely used parliamentary tactic to effectively kill the federal government’s proposed legislation amending the Canada Grain Act last week.

Just as the government was preparing to move Bill C-13 for second reading and send it to the agriculture committee, the New Democratic Party Agriculture Critic Alex Atamanenko, supported by the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois, moved a “hoist motion,” which delays second reading for six months.

Since the motion wasn’t voted on, C-13 is technically alive, but given the opposition parties’ posture, it’s a “dead bill walking.”

“Marleau and Montpetit (Compendium of Parliamentary Procedure) states that the adoption of a hoist amendment is tantamount to defeating the bill by postponing the bill’s consideration,” Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture Pierre Lemieux, told the House.

“The key here is that this hoist motion actually kills the bill before it even has a chance to make it to committee.”

An official from Atamanenko’s office said a vote on the motion is unlikely. If there is one, and it carries, the bill is sidelined. Either way C-13 dies on the order paper when the session ends. “This bill has pretty well been kiboshed,” the official said, noting the government still has the option of introducing a new bill that is more to the opposition’s liking.

“By getting rid of Bill C-13 today, the opposition parties have hamstrung producers again,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said.

Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale said C-13 shifted the CGC’s mandate away from protecting farmers’ interests to defending those of the grain companies and railways.

“We’re not saying ‘don’t modernize the Canadian Grain Commission,’” Goodale said. “We’re saying ‘this bill goes in the wrong direction.’ So start again… but don’t go through an exercise here that fundamentally shifts virtually all of the risk on to the shoulders of farmers themselves.”

The National Farmers Union welcomed the delay, saying the bill as proposed would have increased farmers’ risks and costs. The Western Canadian

Wheat Growers Association condemned it, saying the act needs modernizing to cut regulations and save farmers money.

Keystone Agricultural Producers president Ian Wishart said his organization had concerns with the bill, but would have worked to have those addressed at the committee level. “The last time I had a chance to talk to the minister’s staff I said, ‘your mandate is not to look after the shareholders of the corporations… your mandate is to look after the farmers in the industry.’ And they didn’t argue.”

Under C-13 licensed grain companies would no longer be required to post security to cover what farmers are owed – a concern to most farm groups.

The results of a study into alternatives undertaken by KAP and other farm groups, with federal funding, will be available by month’s end. A mandatory, farmer-administered insurance program might compete with the 10 cents a tonne farmers are paying indirectly now for security, Wishart said.

The Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA) didn’t agree with everything in C-13, but didn’t want it scrapped, said executive director Wade Sobkowich.

The WGEA wanted optional CGC inward inspection at terminals. C-13 would have eliminated it. Now the WGEA wants CGC inward inspection to remain for all Canadian Wheat Board grains, but removed for non-board crops.

“We know the wheat board requires inward weighing and inspection for settlement purposes,” Sobkowich said. “KVD has been removed on wheat and the CGC has been playing a role in the monitoring function and that is very important.”

Wheat is a complex crop with eight milling wheat classes, different end uses and a focus on quality, Sobkowich added.

Wishart said inward inspection of CWB grains allows the wheat board to capture any blending gains occurring between the primary and terminal elevator.

“Some years that can be quite substantial,” he said.

Companies take ownership of non-board crops when they’re delivered to a primary elevator making inward inspection less important to individual farmers.

The government says C-13 is necessary to modernize the grain act, the grain industry and to save farmers’ money. It says the bill is based on proposed changes unanimously endorsed by the Commons agriculture committee.

The opposition says the government ignored some of the committee’s recommendations, including doing cost-benefit studies and establishing the office of grain farmer advocacy to ensure farmer interests are protected. It also says C-13 would undermine the CGC’s ability to protect Canada’s grain quality and its reputation for supplying the best wheat in the world.

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About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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