Nevertheless we are happy to see the Bill in the House now. We want to see an immediate payment go out to the western Canadian grain farmers. There are some amendments we feel should be made to this Bill. I hope they will receive the support of the Official Opposition as well as the support of the Government. First, we would like to see payments retroactive to 1983. Second, we would like to see an interim pay-out for the 1983 crop year. I think the Minister said in his introduction this morning that the Government had in mind an amendment for the 1983-84 year. I hope that comes to pass. Third, we would like to see some recognition of the regional discrepancies within the Western Grain Stabilization plan. We have been calling for recognition of crop discrepancies as well as regional discrepancies. Finally, there should be some recognition of the net incomes of farmers in the pay-out under the Western Grain Stabilization Program. We feel, as we felt back in 1976 when the plan was introduced, that there should be a tie-in with the cost of production. There should be recognition of the fact that the cost of production is a major factor in any stabilization program. Also we are recommending that there be immediate pay-out guarantees.
Hopefully we will get the Bill through the House today and into committee, and hopefully there will be some debate in good faith on the amendments to which we would like to obtain the agreement of the Government and the Official Opposition. If we cannot accomplish that, so be it. I think we have put forth the true feelings of grain farmers in western Canada. If the other Parties will not go for it, at least we in the NDP know that we have made adequate representations on behalf of western grain farmers.
May 25, 1984
Western Grain Stabilization Act
In the Bill the time period over which averages are taken has been reduced from five years to three years. This is something for which Hon. Members, such as the Hon. Member for Humboldt-Lake Centre (Mr. Althouse) and the Hon. Member for Prince Albert (Mr. Hovdebo), have pushed many times during debates in the House of Commons. They have pushed for changes to the Western Grain Stabilization Act.
Some three months ago the New Democratic Party released a policy paper on agriculture which contained what we consider to be alternate proposals for grain income stabilization. We agree with the Canada Grains Council that a plan amalgamated with crop insurance should be tailored to individual needs, sensitive to individual income fluctuations and to regional discrepancies. That is the best way to proceed. We still feel that is the best way after much discussion within our own caucus and with farming people across the country. Unfortunately the Government does not agree. I hope it will give consideration to some of the amendments we will put forth in committee and that we have speedy passage of this Bill.
In terms of an income insurance plan, we would like it to be actuarially sound, voluntary and attractive. It should be attractive so that all farmers, whether big or small, involved in co-operative or partnership farming, or whatever, become involved and see it as a benefit. If we opened up the Western Grain Stabilization Program and allowed people to leave it, I am sure there would be a mass exodus, unless some of the changes we have recommended in the House of Commons today and in previous debates are implemented. Although I recognize that the changes of the Government are an improvement, they are certainly not tailored to the needs of western Canadian grain farmers. There would be an exodus of people from that plan unless it is tailored to meet their needs.
Another feature of the program could be participation by producers, the federal and provincial Governments. The income insurance plan would be as integrated as possible with the existing crop insurance program to avoid duplication in the recordkeeping and administrative services necessary to carry out an adequate program of this magnitude, especially in terms of its impact upon the western economy and upon the Canadian economy in general.
The federal contribution would be in the form of reduced premiums that people would have to pay for the program. The provincial contribution would be primarily to expand the crop insurance administrative capability to meet the requirements of an income insurance plan. It would generate a greater volume of work for those who administer the plan at the present time. I would like to see the federal Government talking with the provincial governments about crop insurance programs to see if they would be willing to take on a greater responsibility to meet the needs of farmers within their respective provinces.
Finally, we recommend that farmers be able to insure for both volumes shipped and market price. A variety of insured price levels would be offered with appropriate premium levels to reflect the wide variation in production costs.
Those are a few examples of what we in the New Democratic Party think should be in place as an alternative to the Western Grain Stabilization Program. In fact, we would be very happy if Hon. Members of the Government and of the Official Opposition would at least debate and consider in committee the value of our suggestions, and our policy on agriculture as it pertains to the Western Grain Stabilization Act. If these suggestions were accepted, we would have a program much better tailored to the needs of western Canadian grain farmers than what we have had in the past.
In closing, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate today. I hope government Members will take note of our suggestions, given as constructive criticism to improve the program and meet the needs of a sector of the economy about which we are very concerned. Hopefully Bill C-33 will move out of the House and into committee at the end of the debate today. Then we can look at some of the changes and, hopefully, give it speedy passage, so that farmers who need money to continue their operations will receive it as soon as is viably possible.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: WESTERN GRAIN STABILIZATION ACT