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NEWS: Harper says election trumps plebiscite on the Canadian Wheat Board

Postmedia News reports, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday the May election, in which his party won the overwhelming majority of Western Canada’s rural seats, trumps a ‘so-called plebiscite’ of farmers suggesting strong opposition to the government’s plan to terminate the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly on wheat and barley sales. …New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin and other opposition critics…accused the government of arrogantly misreading the election result that finally gave Harper a majority… ‘The general election on May 2 was not a plebiscite on the Canadian Wheat Board and it’s disingenuous to say it was’, (said Martin).”

“Canadian Wheat Board chairman Allen Oberg…released the results of a plebiscite last week that found that 22,764 western Canadian wheat growers, or 62 per cent of the total vote, favour the monopoly. The remainder — 14,059, or 38 per cent — want it abolished. Just over 12,300 barley growers were surveyed and a narrow majority, 51 per cent to 49 per cent, prefer selling their product through the monopoly. … (But Harper says,) ‘In this so-called plebiscite, not only did a significant portion vote against the Wheat Board, it did not include those tens of thousands of farmers who have walked away from that institution.'”

“Opposition MPs also argued Monday that the government is in contempt of Parliament for assuming, in a public notice issued last month, that the legislation will pass. They targeted an Agriculture Canada procurement advertisement over the summer calling for bidders to conduct an audit to determine how much it will cost taxpayers to terminate the CWB’s monopoly. Liberal MP Wayne Easter, who introduced the contempt motion, said the government hasn’t even tabled legislation and yet it’s assuming that passage is a fait accompli.”

The National Farmers Union has highlighted that, “The federal government is planning to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk authority effective August 1, 2012, in defiance of existing legislation that requires a farmer vote before making any changes to the CWB’s single desk. …The CWB Act is a law made by Parliament, and it contains a clause that requires a farmer vote before any substantive changes are made to the single desk authority. Our current government has stated it is ready to eliminate this requirement, or perhaps repeal the whole Act, in order to avoid such a vote. This is deeply concerning…”

With just 39.62 per cent of the votes in the May 2011 election, the Conservatives hold 54.22 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. If the seats were won in proportion to the votes cast, the Conservatives would have 122 seats, that’s 45 fewer than they have now and not a majority government. Fair Vote Canada says, “(This is) one of the least legitimate majorities in Canadian history.”

Last week, the Council of Canadians signed a letter of support for the National Farmers Union campaign to defend the Canadian Wheat Board. That letter states, “The CWB provides fair, equitable, reliable and cost-effective service to farmers. The existence of the CWB provides stability in uncertain times, and is a foundation of Canada’s grain sector. Ending the single desk authority of the CWB would throw western agriculture into turmoil and would transfer wealth created by Canadian farmers to big private, often foreign-owned grain companies instead of being returned to farmers and spent in their communities.”

The Council of Canadians has long supported the Canadian Wheat Board. In 2005, a report we produced stated that, “The Government of Canada should maintain the Canadian Wheat Board and supply-management mechanisms that support family farms, protecting them from the prejudiced impact of international trade agreements.” In 2006, we spoke against the threat by then-Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl to fire the Canadian Wheat Board president unless he agreed to an open market for wheat and barley farmers.

The full letter can be read at http://www.nfu.ca/cwb/2011_sign-on_letter.pdf. To add your name as an individual to this letter, please go to https://www.cwb.ca/db/corp/petition.nsf/onlinepetitionWeb?OpenForm. If you live in Manitoba, go to this web link, http://www.gov.mb.ca/farmers/. You are also encouraged to write your Member of Parliament. For more, go to http://www.nfu.ca/. An earlier campaign blog on this can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10294.