Hon. Percy E. Downe:
Minister, welcome to the Senate.
As you know, we have no farmers in the Senate of Canada. But I’m wondering if you could elaborate for the members the changes that were made to bills —
Senator Lankin: Yes, we do.
Senator Downe: Oh, no. I mean a farmer, an actual farmer. I checked with Senator Black, and he grew up on a farm and worked in the agri-food and agricultural business, but he’s not actually a farmer, as Minister MacAulay is, having come out of the fields to the Parliament of Canada.
On Bill C-49, the transportation bill, can you explain the benefits Bill C-49 and its amendments, some of which were made by the Senate, will have for the agricultural industry in Canada?
Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, P.C., M.P., Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food: Thank you very much, senator. I appreciate your question, and I know your concern.
I hope it’s not illegal, but I still have farmer on the ballot, and I still have farmer in my heart. Senator Black can assure you that is the situation. I think being a farmer, always a farmer. You know when the rain should come, and you know when they need the moisture for the potato to size up. These things never leave you as a farmer.
Bill C-49 was a wonderful experience for me, because I grew seed potatoes in Prince Edward Island and I ordered cars, which puts a bit of an age on me. It’s a long time since there were railcars on P.E.I. But if that car didn’t come in, tough luck; and if you had the seed sold somewhere in Central Canada and it didn’t go, you could lose the sale. If that car came in, and I had trouble and didn’t quite get it loaded in time, I paid the merge. That was somewhat annoying.
As the Minister of Agriculture and being involved in this bill — it’s not my bill, but I was certainly involved in it — and to be able to have reciprocal penalties — not that we want to pick on the railways or anything else — to me that was fair. I remember the first time a farm group mentioned to me that they would like reciprocal penalties. I’m not sure whether I said it under my breath or out loud, “Not a chance,” but it happened.
There are so many other things we find inadequate and unsuitable. Of course, putting soybeans under the MRI; long-haul switching; and changes to the Canadian Transportation Agency so that if complaints or investigations are needed, they can bring them to the minister and have them investigated now. Perhaps some might have felt that the agency itself should order the investigation. I disagree with that, because I’m a politician, and if I do something that you do not like, you can vote against me. You cannot vote against an agency. I believe a minister needs to be responsible.
I also want to thank the Senate for the work that you did on this bill. The amendments were pleasing to me, it’s fair to say, and I think also pleasing to the agricultural sector. It certainly indicates — and I never had to be told — how valuable the Senate is, overlooking legislation in a nonpartisan way just to be sure it’s appropriate. That is the role of the Senate, you did an excellent job there and you made the bill better and I thank you for it.
Thank you very much.