Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pressure to change Wheat Board mandate should ease: Pat Martin

This is from the Winnipeg Free Press.
Given that it is part of the Conservative platform to do away with single desk selling, it is unlikely that the Conservative government will just drop the issue. However, the economy will probably be the first priority for a while. We will see. The Conservatives may feel they can try and push something through while the Liberals are weak. If they did make the issue a confidence motion then it would be unlikely that the opposition would try to defeat them on it any time soon!

Wheat Board pressure should ease: Martin
bylineParse('By Mia Rabson')
By: Mia Rabson
Updated: October 23 at 11:09 AM CDT

Manitoba NDP MP Pat Martin says the Conservatives failure to secure a majority government and the economic downturn should mean the pressure will come off the Canadian Wheat Board.
“I believe the Conservatives did not get a mandate to kill the Canadian Wheat Board,” Martin said today, at an unrelated press conference on Parliament Hill.
“Canadians will push back if they try.”
Martin also said given the current state of the Canadian economy, tinkering with the Wheat Board wouldn’t be a good idea.
In a time of economic crisis the last thing you want to do is turn orderly marketing of commodities upside down and on its head.”
The Wheat Board’s monopoly on prairie wheat and barley sales received very little attention during the campaign.
However as soon as the election was over lobby groups in favour of opening up barley marketing in the prairies immediately called on the Conservative government to implement the election promise Stephen Harper made in 2006.
Many cited the fact the Conservatives won almost all the rural seats in the prairies where wheat and barley are grown as evidence of the backing for eliminating the Wheat Board.
Legislation introduced last year to end the monopoly on barley sales was never brought up for debate by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and died on the order paper. Currently the government is fighting a court challenge against its regulatory change restricting the voters list in Wheat Board director elections to farmers who produce a minimum amount of grain.
Pro-Wheat Board supporters say that removes 16,000 people from the voters’ list.
A federal judge in Winnipeg earlier this week reserved a decision in the case.
Elections are already underway for five of the Wheat Board’s director seats. If enough directors are elected who want to open up marketing, the board could vote to do it on its own and the government would not have to pass its legislation.
Before the current elections, the pro-monopoly wheat board directors outnumbered the anti-monopoly directors by just one vote.
Martin said if the government reintroduces its legislation, he is doubtful Harper would make it an issue of confidence in order to help it pass.
In the last Parliament, a number of bills the Conservatives knew would not pass easily were hit with a confidence label, which meant if the opposition parties voted against them there would be an election. The Liberal party abstained from more than three dozen votes in order to prevent that from happening.
But Harper himself has said he is tired of elections and Canadians surely would be unhappy at any party that caused another one to happen soon. It means the confidence vote tactic likely will not appear as often if at all in the near future.
“My prediction is you’re going to see a kinder gentler Prime Minister,” said Martin. “I don’t think he is going to push the envelope on controversial areas in this next short minority government.”
Triggering an election over the Wheat Board would also be unwise, says Martin, noting it is an issue that only directly affects the prairies.
“Making the Wheat Board a confidence matter, most Canadians wouldn’t get that,” said Martin. “I can’t imagine Harper trying to trigger an election based on how barley is marketed around the world.”

No comments: