Aug. 4, Open Letter to Brad Wall
To the editor:
I just recently heard your radio ad in which you said that you were the person to look to to stand up for the people of Saskatchewan, to do what is necessary to defend our interests against the rest of Canada and the world. You mentioned your admirable (albeit eleventh hour) stand on potash as an example. Shortly thereafter I heard a report of your government's support of Gerry Ritz's plan to change the Canadian Wheat Board Act. I challenge you to live up to your radio promise and stand up for your people on the Canadian Wheat Board debate as well. It's no less important to us than our potash.
The federal government, driven on by Stephen Harper, is trying to destroy the CWB for purely ideological reasons because there is no economic reason to end the CWB. Credible, unbiased economists from prairie universities put the value of the CWB in the neighborhood of a billion dollars generated for farmers per year. Anti-board economic "studies" in contrast, have been soundly discredited.
There is no democratic reason to end the CWB. The regular producer elections elect a solid and consistent majority of pro-board candidates (only a scant 31 votes prevented a clean sweep last round). There is a majority of board supporters even among the farmers who voted Conservative in the last election. Farmers already control the CWB and can do with it whatever they wish. To say that it must be changed by 166 federal MPs to accommodate the majority of farmers’ wishes is a lie.
There is no issue of rights and freedoms, this is an invention. If the choice of the majority of producers must be overwritten to allow the freedom and choice of the minority, then all citizens would be free not to wear a seatbelt or free to drive their private vehicle in any manner they choose on public roads; professional (and we should note non-voluntary) associations of doctors and lawyers would have no authority to enforce standards on their members. The "freedom" argument is a moot point in any case, as farmers have a number of Producer Payment Options to take advantage of so that they can price and receive payment for their grain whenever they choose while the physical product still stays in the pool to maintain the single desk marketing advantage.
We know that the forced Conservative "choice" means the end of the board and all its benefits. To say it can exist in a privately controlled market is ridiculous. We know this logically because the single desk price advantage of the board will be gone, competitors with infrastructure in the system will make sound business decisions to put the grain handling interests of their shareholders ahead of those of the board, and since pooled prices are only attractive in declining markets, in profitable years most grain will go to the grain companies and in tight years high volumes and low or negative margins will make the board will scramble to cover costs. We also know this historically because the Australian Wheat Board, which even with its own considerable infrastructure, only lasted a couple of years after deregulation. Even former Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl's own task force stated that the CWB cannot survive if it is not a single desk marketer.
Again I challenge you Mr. Premier, on economic, democratic, and moral grounds, to stand up for your citizens and help us defend our board.