NUPGE is the National Union of Government and General Employees. Harper recently fired the chair of the Wheat Board. He has also appointed opponents of the Wheat BOard monopoly to the board. It is his right to fire the chair and to be fair he campaigned on a promise to do away with the monopoly and allow competition in marketing. However even a large majority of those who voted Conservative probably support the monopoly or single desk selling. The large grain marketers and the US are keen to see the Wheat BOard gone.
NUPGE joins campaign to save the Canadian Wheat Board
'Corporate agribusiness would dearly like
to see the end of the CWB.' - James Clancy
Ottawa (23 Nov. 2006) - The 340,000-member National Union of Public and General Employees is joining the campaign to save the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) and asking the Harper Conservative government not to dismantle the marketing agency as big-time agribusiness is demanding.
The union is urging all Canadians who want orderly grain marketing maintained to add their voices to a lobbying campaign launched by the National Farmers Union (NFU).
The NFU is a non-partisan farm organization made up of thousands of members from across Canada. It promotes policies in the interests of family farms. The NFU has long been a strong supporter of marketing programs that maximize returns to farmers, especially through the wheat board.
The farmers union has started an internet-based campaign which allows all wheat board supporters to easily send a common message to Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl.
Turning clock back to the 1930s
"The Canadian Wheat Board Act must be respected and there can be no unilateral changes by the Harper government," says NFU president Stewart Wells.
"The true marketing advantage of the CWB is the single desk. By removing the single desk, the Harper Conservative plan gives Cargill Corporation and friends 'market choice' – the choice to source grain from Canadian market one day and from the Brazilians or U.S. the next, each time playing farmers in one nation against those in the other," Wells says.
"The Harper government is intent on turning the clock back to the unsuccessful voluntary CWB of the 1930s. The Harper government is recycling a failed, tired idea of the old Conservative government of R. B. Bennett."
In a letter to the federal agriculture minister, NUPGE president James Clancy says many NUPGE members live and work in western Canada and, along with thousands of other union members across Canada, are strong supporters of the board.
"Our members everywhere are committed to ensuring Canada’s economy operates with maximum fairness, and protects the interests of individuals who must deal with the incredible power of large corporations," Clancy writes.
"That is why we are completely opposed to the moves your government is making to deny Canada’s farmers the market protection they have had for decades through the CWB. We understand your government is responding to the continuing complaints of the U.S. government about the CWB’s grain marketing monopoly.
"For years the U.S. government, through the WTO (World Trade Organization) and in other venues, has tried to eliminate the monopoly powers of the CWB. We also understand that corporate agribusiness would dearly like to see the end of the CWB."
Praised by auditor-general
Clancy said marketing boards help farmers deal with unbalanced markets, and the CWB is a prime example of their value. The agency is also run efficiently, according to a 2002 report by the federal auditor general. It returns 98% of revenue to farmers and adds over $2 million a day to the western farm economy.
"The CWB is farmer-controlled and it acts as an agent for farmers: it sets a price, negotiates with the customers, arranges handling with the elevator companies, and delivery with one of the railways. The grain farmer then gets paid the world price for their grain. This arrangement also gives farmers bargaining power to negotiate freight and handling with the railways on the 350,000 or so grain cars shipped each year," he adds.
"We have witnessed past attacks on the CWB, which were simply naked grabs for revenue by the private grain handling companies and the foreign-based flour millers. The only difference today is that the issue is being cloaked in the misleading rhetoric of freedom and choice," Clancy notes.
"We want to add our voice to the voices of the thousands of farmers and their supporters who are calling for the retention of the Canadian Wheat Board. We are calling on your government to drop its plans to destroy this tool that has worked so effectively for our farmers for so many decades. And we are calling on you, as the Minister responsible for protecting the interests of Canadian farmers, to stand up to the U.S. government and the interests of agribusiness by working to defend CWB, and the economic rights of Canada’s farmers." NUPGE
• Join the National Farmers Union campaign to save the Canadian Wheat Board
• Why workers everywhere should support the Canadian Wheat Board
Web posted by NUPGE: 23 November 2006