Last week saw the announcements of the sale of two distinctly Canadian assets: Canadian Wheat Board and Cirque du Soleil.
The latter is a privately owned company and its sale was a decision made by its owner. While it represented lots of things Canadian, the change over its control doesn’t mean much in terms of the country’s overall economy.
But the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board marks the completion of the destruction of a truly functional and exemplary Canadian institution by its own government for purely ideological purposes.
The Harper government dismantled the CWB on grounds that the organization’s single desk marketing was against the free market principles and that farmers should have the freedom to market their grain for themselves.
Well, what happened after the single desk marketing was abolished was made very clear in a statement of facts in February last year, coming soon after the bumper harvest of the 2013 fall:
In 2008, when the CWB did the marketing for and coordinated the transport of the grain of the prairie farmers, of the $10.61 per bushel price of wheat at the Vancouver port, 94 per cent went to the farmers’ pockets. In 2009, the percentage was 93, and in 2010 it was 90.
In 2014, of the $11.38 per bushel port price of wheat, farmers got only 41 per cent as their share. More than half of the value of the grain exported to outside world went to inflate the bank accounts of grain traders and railway companies.
That is, more than half of the value of the sweat and labour of the grain farmers were taken away from them, and this is a continuing saga, which will ultimately turn prairie farmers into cheap labourers on their own land.
And this is not the only thing that was lost with the disempowerment of CWB: Valuable scientific research, which helped to maintain Canadian wheat and barley above average standards internationally and kept Canadian grain exports in high regard is no more.
The group, which purchased the majority share of the CWB is owned by, very interestingly, by Saudi and US interests.
Saudis, having lived on and ruled a desert land for centuries know extremely well the meaning of food security. By purchasing the majority stake of the CWB with their American partners, and with it, the power of determining the price of the grain produced by Canadian farmers, they have practically taken over the monopoly, which was stripped off the CWB. Now, there is again a monopoly, but this time it is controlled by US and Saudi interests and it will work against Canadian farmers who will no longer be able to have a say in how their product is priced and marketed. Those who don’t want to sell their grain to the new foreign-controlled CWB will again be left at the mercy of other grain traders.
From whatever angle one looks at it, it is a lose-lose equation for Canadian farmer.
In the media there is a lot of cheer and applause, for the final undoing of the CWB as a great Canadian institution.
But there is little realization that this is just another step on the way to the doomsday scenario that National Farmers Union warned about recently: Canada is coming under an existential threat in terms of its food sovereignty.
Without a doubt, with the disempowerment and sale of the CWB and the passing of Bill C-18 into law, Stephen Harper and his minister of agriculture and his government as a whole may take pride in what they have accomplished as they don’t hide their preference for serving corporate interests over the interests of the Canadian farmers.
The question is whether the Canadian farmers have realized what they have done by voting for Mr. Harper and keeping him at the head of the government for three terms.