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Higher Threshold Requested

“My biggest fear was that they would immediately go to the weighted ballot. I think this will actually stop that.”

– IAN WISHART

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA) says C-27 is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough to prevent hobby farmers from voting in Canadian Wheat Board elections.

“Forty tonnes is a ridiculously low threshold,” WCWGA chair Gerrid Gust said in a release.

The WCWGA, like the federal government, wants the CWB’s single-desk power removed and an open market created.

The bill should be amended to make the threshold at least 320 tonnes, the WCWGA said.

The WCWGA is also disappointed more electoral reforms aren’t in the bill, including the appointment of an independent elections commission, a weighted ballot, and a rebalancing of the election districts.

The Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), whose position is that farmers should decide the CWB’s marketing mandate, is also backing C-27.

“I don’t think 40 tonnes excludes too many people,” KAP president Ian Wishart said in an interview. “My biggest fear was that they would immediately go to the weighted ballot. I think this will actually stop that.”

KAP views C-27 as a “compromise,” Wishart said.

In a release, KAP noted that the CWB had endorsed the 40-tonne threshold in the past “and this change was also recommended in a review by the independent 2005 Canadian Wheat Board Election Review Panel. Every farm group in Western Canada had input into that report, including KAP.”

However, according to review panel member David Rolfe, there’s a significant difference between what the panel recommended and what’s proposed in C-27. See story above.

Under CWB election rules, permit book holders get ballots to vote. The panel was concerned that because many farms have multiple permit books some are held by people who aren’t actively farming, Rolfe said in an interview last week. That’s why the panel recommended farmers should have to deliver 40 tonnes to the CWB to get a ballot.

Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) chair Larry Hill declined to say how he voted on the CWB resolution to support C-27. However, it’s almost certain the Swift Current-area farmer and single-desk supporter voted for it, otherwise it wouldn’t have passed. The other seven directors who support the single desk confirmed they opposed the resolution.

“The board has been supporting the review (of election rules) and the 40-tonne (threshold) issue for quite some time,” Hill said. “After the review panel did its work, the board basically accepted that review, but you have to keep in mind that was a whole package of things that we were supporting.”

Hill also said he knows many farmers oppose a production threshold and are upset that farmers who don’t deliver to the CWB will be eligible to vote under C-27.

The CWB is disappointed C-27 doesn’t include any of the other 13 election reforms recommended by the panel or the CWB, Hill said.

“Of course we would’ve liked to have seen more in this legislation around farmer control to shore up that issue as well,” he said. “We want to make sure the elected directors are the ones who operate the wheat board and are the ones responsible for it.”

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About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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