Backing the board

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To the editor,

One hundred 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 millions 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 Boards have perished. And demand a vote—the vote that is guaranteed to farmers under Canadian law.

Yours truly,

Stewart Wells, farmer

Swift Current, Sk.

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