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A Majority For Single Desk

The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) will fight Ottawa s plan to kill its single desk, a defiant CWB chair Allen Oberg said following a release of plebiscite results this week.

Their message is loud and clear and cannot be ignored, Oberg, who farms at Forestburg, Alta., said during a news conference at a farm near Winnipeg Monday. They voted in overwhelming numbers to retain a unique and valuable marketing structure.

Sixty-two per cent of farmers voted to keep the single desk for wheat, and 51 per cent for barley. The ballot had two options retaining the single-desk monopoly, or an open market.

A total of 38,261 farmers submitted mail-in ballots a participation rate of 56 per cent, which Oberg said is similar to voter turnouts in the last three federal elections and higher than many municipal and provincial elections.

We cannot stand back and let politics trample business interests, Oberg said. We intend to stand our ground and uphold the farmer s decision. We are calling on Minister Ritz to respect this decision of farmers.

The current CWB Act requires the government to hold a farmer vote before adding or removing crops from the CWB s mandate, but Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz intends to create an open market next Aug. 1 without a vote. Even before the results were announced Ritz vowed the government would not change course

The results of the plebiscite are inconsequential, Ritz told reporters during a Saskatoon news conference Sept. 9. At the end of the day the Government of Canada will ensure that Western Canadian farmers have the same right to an open market as the rest of farmers around the world.

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA) and Western Barley Growers Association (WBGA), which support an open market, urged Ritz in news release to ignore the plebiscite.

The entire design of this vote was geared toward producing a result in favour of the monopoly, WCWGA president Kevin Bender said. The government should ignore the results and move full steam ahead with plans to give us our marketing freedom.

Oberg dismissed their complaints, saying the plebiscite was fair and honest.

We are going to table these results in Parliament, he said. We are going to put as much political pressure as we can on this government so that they listen to what the majority of farmers has said and retain the advantages of that single-desk marketing structure.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), National Farmers Union and CWB Alliance want Ritz to honour the plebiscite results.

No changes should be made without a proper process that would poll the farmers opinion in a transparent and democratic fashion, CFA president Ron Bonnett said in a news release. The CFA applauds the Canadian Wheat Board s work in holding a plebiscite in the absence of a federal option to ensure farmers have a voice in the issue and urges government to respect the results.

Meanwhile, the Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), Manitoba s largest farm organization and CFA member, is avoiding taking a position because members are divided.

We have to listen to our membership all the time and they are telling me they want a Canadian Wheat Board and they want marketing freedom, said KAP president Doug Chorney. It s a real challenge for me as their spokesperson to articulate that into a response to this plebiscite.

But in a democratic country it s hard to ignore something like this. If anything it may give the minister reason to reflect on how this process continues to unfold. [email protected]


Butinademocratic countryit shardtoignore somethinglikethis.

doug chorney

About the author


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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