Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« OK, If You Say So | Main | Alberta Wine? You Mean Moonshine, Right? »

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Silence of The Grave

Quieted but still alive:

Stephen Harper has managed to silence one of the most vocal and activist groups battling against his plan to give prairie farmers the right to opt out of selling their wheat and barley through the wheat board. Namely, the Canadian Wheat Board itself.

The board’s directors had, since the Tories’ election, been running a relentless campaign to protect their “single-desk” marketing monopoly. They regularly funded studies and surveys that invariably concluded the CWB’s model was the most profitable, most popular manner for grain marketing; when Ottawa held a plebiscite in 2007 that resulted in a majority of barley farmers voting for marketing choice, the directors launched a publicity campaign undermining it as rigged and irrelevant; they urged farmers to write the agriculture minister in protest

The Opposition Liberals entered high dudgeon when the Harper government attempted to silence the directors. They seem to have forgotten that the CWB is just a government agency. It functions under an act of parliament. It was also a wartime measure that long, long since outlived that particular war, and several wars since. The government's incremental campaign against the CWB has been one of the few positive accomplishments of the Harper era. 

I've often been critical of their approach to the CWB, but they've stuck with it so far, when many other old Reform Party planks have been discarded in the political ditch. It's pretty reasonable to assume that a majority Tory government would spell the end of the Wheat Board, and its monopsony over western farmers. Now Old Publius is not a farmer, not even directly from farm folk. Maternal grandfather was a day labourer in the Alentejo, many moons ago. I live in the heart of the Imperial Capital (Toronto). Couldn't tell wheat from barley from a cow's behind. What irks me is that fellow Canadians don't have the right to sell what they produce to whom they choose, all on the filmiest of collectivist pretences. If farmers can't sell their wheat, how safe is anyone else's right to make a living? 

It's not a thought that enters most Ontarians heads much. Electorally Ontario is the kingmaker for the federal government. The CPR, the National Policy, the CWB and NEP have benefited Central Canada disproportionately. It's a sad maxim of the human condition that we only remember our rights when they are being threatened. When someone else's rights are being denied, whether a comic in BC or a farmer in Alberta, we tend to give a shrug of the shoulders. In the long run it can be a fatal indifference.

Posted by Richard Anderson on February 9, 2010 | Permalink

Comments

duDgeon.

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2010-02-09 7:08:29 AM


When someone else's rights are being denied, whether a comic in BC or a farmer in Alberta, we tend to give a shrug of the shoulders. In the long run it can be a fatal indifference.


Posted by PUBLIUS on February 9, 2010 at 06:40 AM

This true. We need to become more activist ourselves. Are you aware of any organizations that do just that about issues such as this?

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-09 7:15:04 AM


The CWB is not even national in scope. It has no mandate for Eastern grain sales. It is similar to Doctors in Canada not being free to sell services directly to individual Canadians. Same paternalism but in the case of CWB, Eastern Paternalism. It does have support from the communists of the NFU.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-02-09 10:03:16 AM


I stopped dead in its tracks what was devolving into a heated argument with a committed supporter of the CWB with a simple question:
"Can we agree there is a serious and fundamental problem with a system that puts a Saskatchewan farmer in jail, for doing what an Ontario farmer does freely?"

Posted by: Dana | 2010-02-09 12:01:55 PM


Well, Publius, if you don't know your wheat from your barley perhaps you shouldn't wade in on the issue. The CWB has a board of directors, majority of which are farmer elected, and the rest appointed by the government. Farmers do not sell their grain to the CWB, the CWB sells the grain on behalf of the farmers. The CWB operates on behalf of many farmers who would rather have a large organization do all the wheeling and dealing necessary to sell their wheat. Sure it would be easier for some folks to sell their wheat to the miller who has a milling facility right next door and he might make more money, but the majority of us western farmers would be left out in the cold. Capitalism is such a cold hearted, individualistic, selfish system where looking out for number one is the only thing that matters, and some farmers have this opinion as well.
Wheat and barley are only a few of the crops that most of the eastern and south western farmers can grow. If they don't like the wheat board they can grow something else. For those of us in Northern Alberta for whom the CWB works just fine, we don't grow much other than wheat, barley and canola. We sure would like it if people like you, who know nothing at all about how the CWB operates, kept your opinions to yourselves.

Posted by: Western Canadian Farmer | 2010-02-10 11:36:08 AM


We sure would like it if people like you, who know nothing at all about how the CWB operates, kept your opinions to yourselves.

Posted by: Western Canadian Farmer | 2010-02-10 11:36:08 AM

You don't need to know your butt from a hole in the ground, or wheat from barley, to know that it is wrong to put a farmer in jail who disagrees with you. There is nothing wrong with the CWB if it is voluntary.

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-13 12:25:18 PM


~Western Canadian Farmer

i'm a cold hearted capitalist, in love with the free markets; but what about what TM said? do you think that giving a farmer the ability to opt out is an acceptable compromise?

its amazing how many of my farmer friends, who call themselves "conservative", turn into prairie socialists and ag-collectivists when they think about having to break out of their comfort zones and learn how to market their produce themselves.

are they too dumb? lazy? i doubt it. just too scared to step beyond their self-imposed boundaries.

Posted by: shel | 2010-02-13 1:24:47 PM



The comments to this entry are closed.