WINNIPEG, Man. — Farmers from across western Canada gathered Friday in Winnipeg to protest the federal government’s plan to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. The farmers gathered at Exhibition Park and formed a very long and enthusiastic cavalcade into the downtown area where they demonstrated their support of the CWB in front of its downtown office.
“We’re here today because the destruction of the CWB will cost farmers and the western economy half a billion dollars per year,” said NFU Board member and farmer Ian Robson.
“But we’re also here to raise an alarm for all Canadians. We’re here to alert citizens that our federal government is sneering at democracy, evading due process, and bending the law to the breaking point. Every Canadian concerned about fairness, proper parliamentary conduct, and the integrity and dignity of our government should take notice, and be very concerned,” said Robson.
Procedurally, here is what Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is doing:
• Pushing through the most significant food and agriculture legislation in the post-war period in just four or five weeks;
• Invoking closure to limit the ability of elected parliamentarians to analyze or question this bill;
• In an almost unprecedented move, refusing to allow the House of Commons Agriculture Committee to examine the Bill, and instead, creating a special “legislative committee” that will be confined to looking only at technical details;
• Refusing to hold the farmer vote legally required by Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act(See Backgrounder);
• Ousting a democratically elected farmer Board of Directors that was recently endorsed by a producer plebiscite;
• Replacing those elected farmer representatives with government appointees who will preside over a CWB that is a shadow of its former self;
• Ignoring 10 clear, democratic farmer re-affirmations of support for the CWB — three plebiscites and seven sets of directors’ elections;
• Privatizing — that is, turning over to transnational corporations (most of them foreign owned) — a critical sector of the Canadian economy that is now 100 per cent owned and controlled by Canadians;
• Without the appropriate national debate, pushing forward a process whereby Canadian food will be increasingly produced and processed outside this country (today, most Canadian dairy products, pasta, bread, beer, eggs, chicken, and baked goods are produced and processed in Canada);
• Refusing to admit that under trade agreements such as the NAFTA, once gone, Canada can never regain its Canadian-controlled grain marketing agency;
• Acting completely without the dignity or respect for democracy befitting a national government by announcing it will “walk over” the farmer majority that support the CWB and by calling its drive to dismantle the CWB a “train barreling down a Prairie track.”
Backgrounder to the NFU, Friends of the CWB, and CWB Alliance October 28 news release
Section 47.1 of the CWB Act says that:
The Minister shall not cause to be introduced in Parliament a bill that would exclude any kind, type, class or grade of wheat or barley, or wheat or barley produced in any area in Canada, from the provisions of Part IV, either in whole or in part, or generally, or for any period, or that would extend the application of Part III or Part IV or both Parts III and IV to any other grain, unless
(a) the Minister has consulted with the board about the exclusion or extension; and
(b) the producers of the grain have voted in favour of the exclusion or extension, the voting process having been determined by the Minister.