Published by Senator Robert Peterson (retired) on 25 July 2011
The federal government's move towards unilaterally dismantling the single desk of the Canadian Wheat Board is gaining momentum, and the outcry from farmers is growing louder and more desperate. In 1998, amendments to the CWB Act were passed to ensure that such drastic reforms could only be enacted with a plebiscite of the grain producers themselves, that the Agriculture minister responsible would not endorse any such change without this free vote, and that the Agriculture minister would not present any bill to Parliament to change the Wheat Board without the approval of the majority of producers. But to please a fraction of their electorate and to fulfill a long-held desire of the Prime Minister's, the government has chosen a unique approach to dealing with the intricacies of the law—abolish it altogether. Their plan is to pass legislation in Parliament to repeal the CWB Act, with complete disregard for the democratic rights of Western Canadian producers.
How can Prime Minister Stephen Harper's ministers and Senators even imagine themselves to be justified in the disenfranchisement of Canadian farmers? How can our government justify this dictatorial subjugation of the Canadian Wheat Board? Their response is that the recent election, in which the Conservative Party won a majority, gave them a strong mandate from the Canadian people, and that this alone justifies them in scrapping the single desk of the CWB. The implication of such a statement is startling—the Conservatives are now claiming that any initiative they choose is warranted because they have a majority government.
To their credit, respecting the rights of their shareholders—the farmers—the board of directors of the CWB will be conducting a plebiscite this summer, in defiance of their disenfranchisement and in spite of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz's callous remarks of June 29, when he explicitly said that the value he would place on farmers' votes was "little to none."