Bill to dismantle wheat board passes hurdle
By: Mia Rabson
Posted: 11/24/2011 6:02 PM |
OTTAWA — Opposition attempts to amend legislation eliminating the Canadian Wheat Board have failed as the bill breezed past another hurdle in the House of Commons.
It took 12 votes to get through report stage of the bill, with 11 proposed amendments and a vote on the bill itself. All the amendments were defeated and the bill passed by a vote of 159 to 124 on Wednesday.
The amendments had included taking out the requirement for the government to fire all the farmer-elected CWB directors and replace them with only five government appointees instead.
Not unexpectedly, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was pretty pleased by the turn of events.
"Marketing freedom will unleash the true economic potential and entrepreneurial energy of the Western Canadian grain sector," he said in a statement.
The bill now has one more day of debate at third reading before it will pass and move on to the Senate.
But the sniping in the upper chamber over the bill has already begun.
Manitoba Senator Don Plett said Wednesday the Liberals were filibustering attempts by the Conservatives to "pre-study" the bill in a Senate committee by introducing repeated similar motions and points of order to delay things.
Plett said the Conservatives in the Senate knew the bill was coming and knew the government wanted it passed before Christmas. In order to have enough committee meetings to hear from witnesses, Plett proposed looking at the bill in a Senate committee before the bill passed the House of Commons.
The Liberals however wanted the committee study to include meetings in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to allow the farmers it affects a chance to be heard. The first motion to do so was defeated, then a second similar motion was introduced, this time with specific locations in each province instead of just the provinces themselves.
Added to that was a point of order raised by the Liberals about a motion to limit the number of hours of debate on the bill, which could have delayed any chance to get the bill into committee by several days while the speaker made his ruling.
"How frivolous," Plett said. "Hypocrisy knows no bounds."
The Liberals complained about limits and delays of debate on the bill in the House of Commons and are now doing it themselves in the Senate, he said.
Liberal Senator Bob Peterson said Plett’s allegations were patently untrue. He said the Liberals think it’s important to hear directly from the farmers affected by this bill. If just listing the provinces wasn’t specific enough for the Conservatives, the Liberals proposed three specific locations to narrow it down.
Peterson also said if the Conservatives really cared about getting the bill enough time in the Senate they wouldn’t have delayed debate on the amendments in the House for so long.
"We’re just trying to be fair to farmers," he said. "All we’re saying is we want to go out and talk to them."
Plett said there have been dozens of prairie farmers meeting with Senators in Ottawa for weeks now about the bill, and no travel to the prairies was necessary.
One of the farmers doing the lobbying is hopeful it might actually be working. Andrew Dennis, a pro-wheat board farmer from Brookdale said he’s heard from some Conservative senators who are wavering a little on giving the bill speedy passage, particularly senators from Quebec who fear supply management in Quebec will be eliminated next.
"There are some cracks developing," he said.
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