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[lofo List] Star Phoenix editorial on the CWB
Print Story - canada.com networkWednesday ¬ª June 25 ¬ª 2008
CWB threat shows disdain for democracy
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Sounding a bit like disgraced Zimbabwe President Robert
Mugabe, who claims
God put him in power and it will take an act of God to get him
Minister Stephen Harper's warning about the Canadian Wheat
Board (CWB) is
enough to send chills up the spines of democrats.
After being told a federal judge ruled Mr. Harper's government
the Constitution when it denied the wheat board the right to
constituents about the impact of proposed changes to the
barley, the PM told a partisan crowd anyone who stood in his
way would be
Demonstrating his ability to put faith before evidence, Mr.
insisted western farmers want the end of the wheat board's
monopoly and he
assured the gathering in Saskatoon, assembled as a backdrop to
announcement on funding for a new bridge, the farmers will get
It may be that farmers do want an end to the single-desk
powers of the CWB
but, as Federal Court Justice Roger T. Hughes made clear in
the ability to decipher the true desires of the farmers was
subverted by a
government determined to get its way.
"It is entirely clear . . . that the (government) directive
motivated principally to silencing the wheat board in respect
promotion of a 'single desk' policy that it might do," he wrote.
The ruling came after the board complained a directive issued
agriculture minister Chuck Stahl during last year's barley
prohibited its officials and elected members from setting the
straight when special interest groups made false claims about
the way the
Not only did Mr. Strahl insist the board withdraw any
information from its
website dealing with the importance of its monopoly position
the interests of farmers, he also mandated even those members
protect that single-desk status keep their mouths shut when
Even though interest groups opposed to the single-desk powers
of the board
have campaigned vigorously since the former government changed
the law and
allowed farmers to vote for the majority of the 15-person
board, eight of
the 10 still oppose dual marketing -- this even though they
But because of Mr. Strahl's directive, that majority was
unable to counter
the allegations made by the minority when they went before
meetings in the months leading up to the vote.
The government then appointed a loaded task force to study the
removing the single-desk authority. When its report was
published by the
wheat board, Mr. Strahl insisted an academic study of its
couldn't be posted as a counterpoint.
That any reasonably minded person would find these tactics not
breach of the Constitution but utterly odious should not have
come as a
surprise to the prime minister.
But silencing its officials and elected members was only one
government used to get its way in destroying the board.
Mr. Strahl consistently refused to meet with the board members
their side of the issue, the government drafted a plebiscite
industry observers and board members argued was unclear and
would bring in
ambiguous results and it changed the voters' list mid-vote in
manipulate the results.
The ambiguity was clear when 38 per cent of voters supported
and 48 per cent voted to save the wheat board while offering
choice. But because the board has no facilities, its ability
farmers the premium they demand depends on its monopoly. Only
14 per cent
wanted to do away with the board.
Ironically, given current marketing conditions and the
of barley compared to wheat and other commodities, the
now get the results it wants, should it hold a fair and open
But fair and open doesn't seem to be a risk the Harper
willing to take.
Although the courts have ruled the Canadian Wheat Board should
be run by
producers, the federal government, which promises to give
choice to farmers, seems to have determined the best way to do
that is to
override the wishes of the majority.
Mr. Harper pointed out Friday board members will undergo a
scheduled vote this fall to determine whether farmers still
want them as
Unaccustomed as this prime minister is to letting democracy
have its say,
perhaps this is where his focus should be.
Rather than bullying by language and threats, he should let a
fair vote decide the workings of an agency that has gained
recognition as an industry leader.
If, as he says, western Canadian farmers want the freedom to
get out of
the board, let them say so on a ballot that is free from
And let the votes go to producers who depend on the board, not
those who suffered a couple of years of crop failures as the
system tends to do.
And let's keep this battle on the Prairies and out of the
Commons, as Mr. Harper threatens to do should his party form a
- - -
"Democracy cannot be maintained without its foundation: free
opinion and free discussion throughout the nation of all
the state within the limits set by the criminal code and the
- The Supreme Court of Canada, 1938
¬© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2008
Copyright ¬© 2008 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest
Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.
CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications,
Daryl H. Hepting, Ph.D.
Associate Professor * Computer Science Department * CW 308.22
University of Regina * Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4S 0A2
firstname.lastname@example.org * http://www.cs.uregina.ca/~hepting
tel: (306) 585-5210 * fax: (306) 585-4745 * cell: (306) 596-6312
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