Farm­ers should de­mand legal vote to de­cide CWB fu­ture

The Southwest Booster - - OPINION - Ste­wart Wells - Swift Cur­rent

Edi­tor: 100 years, five dif­fer­ent Wheat Boards, one that works.

Over the past 100 years we have had five dif­fer­ent mod­els of the Cana­dian Wheat Board (CWB) op­er­at­ing in west­ern Canada. The first and sec­ond ver­sions were gov­ern­ment man­dated and run. The third ver­sion was a vol­un­tary farmer-run co-op­er­a­tive which failed and at the time was the largest bank­ruptcy in Cana­dian his­tory. The fourth was a vol­un­tary gov­ern­ment man­dated ver­sion which also failed, cost­ing tax­pay­ers hun­dreds of mil­lion of dol­lars.

The fifth model is the or­derly mar­keter of to­day that has pro­vided ex­tra money and sta­bil­ity to farm­ers since 1943—with a change in the con­trol struc­ture that put farm­ers squarely in con­trol in 1998. Those changes in 1998 also guar­an­teed west­ern farm­ers they would have a vote on sig­nif­i­cant changes to the CWB—es­pe­cially the kind of de­struc­tive changes that the Harper gov­ern­ment is now propos­ing.

It is clear that the Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment has been hold­ing out a false prom­ise to farm­ers—the prom­ise of the “dual mar­ket”—and they have no anal­y­sis or plan to put be­fore farm­ers in the 100 days lead­ing up to the in­tro­duc­tion of leg­is­la­tion that will kill the world’s largest and most suc­cess­ful mar­keter of wheat and bar­ley. Rather than name call­ing and mak­ing other deroga­tory re­marks, per­haps Gerry Ritz should be defin­ing what he means by the terms “strong and vi­able”.

It is as­tound­ing that af­ter six years of day­dream­ing in gov­ern­ment about a vol­un­tary Wheat Board the Min­is­ter con­tin­ues to rely on empty rhetoric. Af­ter six years why can’t they an­swer the sim­plest ques­tions about the neg­a­tive ef­fects their changes will have on farm­ers’ pocket books?

The only po­si­tion that the gov­ern­ment pre­tends to be cer­tain about is their de­sire not to hold a farmer vote on the sub­ject. In fact, the Con­ser­va­tives say they are pre­pared to re­peal the CWB Act—wind­ing up the CWB or­ga­ni­za­tion—sim­ply to avoid Sec­tion 47.1 and the farmer vote.

With­out a vote, and with the only ef­fec­tive ver­sion of the CWB killed in par­lia­ment, farm­ers will be left with some­thing akin to “Fast Gerry’s Dis­count Grain Com­pany” with the large grain mer­chants cherry-pick­ing the bet­ter mar­kets and mak­ing price pool­ing im­pos­si­ble.

De­mand a clear, de­tailed ex­pla­na­tion of how a weak­ened Wheat Board is sup­posed to sur­vive when all sim­i­lar Board’s have per­ished. And de­mand a vote — the vote that is guar­an­teed to farm­ers un­der Cana­dian law.

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