Election likely to derail Bill C-48

The looming federal election will likely derail legislation to change the Canadian Grain Commission, according to industry officials.

A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service said it is unlikely Bill C-48 will be passed before the federal election takes place, which is expected Oct. 19.

The bill was introduced in the House of Commons Dec. 9, 2014, but has not progressed past first reading.

“The House will rise at the end of June and not likely return before the fall federal election,” the USDA said in its March 3 Global Agricultural Information Network report.

“According to industry sources, this will be the third time that similar legislation to modernize the Canadian Grain Commission will fall off the order paper due to the federal election.”

Bryan Rogers, executive director of Grain Growers of Canada, said 11 weeks remain on the House of Commons calendar before it breaks for summer.

There is a lot to get through on the legislative agenda in that time, including law and order measures, anti-terrorism legislation and the federal budget.

“I’m very skeptical that there’s enough time on that agenda for this bill to work its way through,” said Rogers.

“We’re into an election cycle now and they have a lot to get through, so time may not be on our side.”

One of the key features of Bill C-48 is that it would give the commission the ability to reform the producer payment security system by establishing an industry fund in which licensees pool the risk of payment failure rather than posting individual bonds or other forms of security.

That would free up $1 billion of capital that is tied up in the existing licensing system.

The proposed legislation also extends producer access to binding determination of grade and dockage to 131 process elevators and grain dealers, such as canola crush plants and ethanol facilities.

That right is now limited to the 331 primary elevators.

It also helps address a concern raised by U.S. wheat growers that their wheat can’t currently be assigned a grade in Canada even if it is a variety registered for use in Canada.

Elwin Hermanson, chief commissioner of the grain commission, hinted in January during a presentation to canaryseed growers at Crop Production Week that Bill C-48 might be in jeopardy.

“We’re quite frankly not sure that the bill will pass. I mean, Parliament is an unpredictable place,” he said.

Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said the government has “every intention” of seeing Bill C-48 become law.

“This legislation is a key piece of our efforts to promote economic growth in Canada’s grain sector and will become law under a Conservative government,” he said in an e-mail.

“As the election approaches, our government will continue to focus on this and other issues that are important to Canadians, including enhancing the security of Canadians and creating jobs and economic growth.”

Rogers said the House leader needs to find time on the order paper for a second reading of the bill.

That would be followed by a debate and then it would be sent for further vetting by the Commons agriculture committee. The bill would then return to the House for a third reading, followed by more debate and then a final vote. That all has to happen before the House calendar ends June 23.

Then the bill would have to wend its way through a similar process in the Senate before what is expected to be a September election campaign.

Rogers thinks the time to act is now.

“With a majority government this may be, so to speak, the last best chance for a while to get commission reforms through,” he said. “That’s why we would like to see this pass before Parliament breaks.”

The bill would likely be reintroduced if the Conservatives won the election, but it could face legislative gridlock if it won only a minority government.

There is no guarantee the legislation will be reintroduced if another party wins the election, said Rogers.

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