One thing I’ve learned over the years is that sometimes it’s good to be stubborn. Many of us know (or are) parents who’ve loved a child with a stubborn love, even when they’d rebelled and made it difficult. Parental stubborn love has saved more than a few rebellious young people.
There are other things we should be stubborn about – telling the truth; being faithful to family and friends; facing setbacks, disappointment, and failure. Many people fail repeatedly only to succeed in the end because they’re too stubborn to roll over and die.
One of the highlights of my life was getting to know and work with a group of Alberta farmers who are among the most stubborn men I’ve encountered. I’m not talking about people who are rude or hard to get along with. I‘m referring to a group of wheat and barley farmers – gracious and thoughtful men who just happened to be stubborn about their freedom and the right every person must have to choose what to do with their own property.
From 1943 until 2012, wheat and barley farmers in western Canada never really owned their own crops. If the grain was to be exported or consumed domestically (made into beer, bread, pasta, etc.), it had to be delivered to the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) monopoly – an arm of the federal government. The monopoly was established in 1943 to provide cheap bread during the war, and to allow Ottawa to sell wheat to Britain at lower-than-market prices.
After the war, the CWB was maintained because Ottawa signed contracts with western European countries to supply cheap wheat as part of the reconstruction process. They were thus able to artificially hold down prices. In the first few years of the CWB’s operations, individual growers lost more than half a billion dollars.
This multi-decade intrusion into the affairs of western wheat and barley growers reached a crisis when 13 Alberta farmers decided to challenge the law. They wanted to force Ottawa to arrest them and throw them in jail, thereby publicly demonstrating that the CWB was a bully.
Driving assorted vehicles, the 13 growers crossed into the U.S. carrying wheat and barley they’d grown on their farms. All were charged. All were sent to jail at the Lethbridge Correctional Centre. I was one of the 13. My cellmate was Jim Ness, a New Brigden farmer whose crime was taking a 50-pound sack of barley across the border and donating it to the 4H kids in Sunburst, Montana.
A few years ago, I received a letter saying that the government wanted to acknowledge the wrong it had done to the 13 of us. We were told that the Prime Minister would be issuing each of us a pardon, clearing us of criminal conviction.
This summer marks the fifth anniversary of the passing of the CWB. Even so, as I reflect on its demise and the effort it took to finally see that freedom of choice occur; I’m reminded of the necessity that we as Albertans have to be appropriately stubborn about other things.
For example, no Albertan should tolerate runaway provincial government spending and massive provincial debts that will affect our province for decades. About these things, we need to consistently be stubborn.