Wheat Board supporters protest on Parliament Hill
A group of farmers opposed to the Conservative government's bill to end the Wheat Board monopoly on marketing wheat and barley in western Canada protested on Parliament Hill yesterday. Drew Baker the farmer who led the rally said: "On our own, we will have little power to negotiate with big American companies, and that concerns me." The U.S. has long challenged the Wheat Board monopoly as giving Canadian farmers an unfair advantage in global marketing.
Where the U.S. complaints have always failed , western farmers themselves have now achieved what the U.S. and the grain marketing giants have long desired, an end to the Wheat Board monopoly. Farmers have done so by voting in large numbers for the very Conservatives who promised as part of their platform to end the monopoly. A Wheat Board organised vote later showed that a majority of farmers actually support retaining the system.
The board is run by directors elected by farmers. Only two of the elected board members favor the changes in the government bill. The remainder support the retention of the single desk system as it is called. The system gives the farmers collectively considerable power to negotiate good prices for grain sales.
The government legislation would also dismiss the farmer-elected directors of the board. The board had been controlled by members elected by farmers since 1998.
The Wheat Board has launched a lawsuit challenging the government's bill. The suit claims that the bill violates the Canadian Wheat Board Act. The Wheat Board Act specifies the minister cannot change the system without holding a vote of Prairie grain farmers. The Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz promised during the latest election campaign a vote would be held. The only vote held was by the Wheat Board itself. The Conservatives claim that the abolition of the monopoly was a prominent part of the campaign platform and since they were elected with a majority they already had a mandate to change the system. For much more see this article.