Another Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) election is underway, but without the changes farm groups have called for or those recommended by a review panel five years ago.
Eligible grain farmers in Districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 will elect fellow farmers to the CWB’s board of directors.
District 9 covers western and northern Manitoba, including the Dauphin, Deloraine, Souris, Virden, Russell and Swan River areas, plus a strip of eastern Saskatchewan from the Carnduff area up through Kamsack to Hudson Bay.
Mail-in ballots must be postmarked on or before Dec. 3, 2010.
The deadline for nominations is Oct. 15, 2010.
Most Prairie farmers are preoccupied with getting this year’s crop off. Wet weather delayed seeding and it’s hampering harvest too.
There is one change since the 2008 election with respect to who is automatically on the voters’ list. Those named in a CWB permit book in the current or previous crop year and who delivered grain to the CWB in either the 2008-09, 2009-10 or 2010-11 crops years are automatically on the list. (In 2008, those who delivered during the current or previous crop year were automatically on the list.)
However, every “actual producer” is entitled to a ballot if he or she produced wheat, oats, barley, rye, flaxseed, rapeseed or canola in any of the odd-numbered districts in 2008, 2009 or 2010.
In addition, anyone entitled to a share of the grain grown by an actual producer also qualifies.
Farmers who want to know if they’re on the voters’ list can call election co-ordinator Ian Craven of Meyers Norris Penny at 1-877- 780-VOTE (8683).
Those who aren’t can establish their eligibility by submitting an application to vote before November 19, along with one of the following:
A crop insurance contract number,
A grain delivery receipt or cash purchase ticket from a licensed elevator or grain dealer, or
A statutory declaration.
More details are available at www.cwbelection.com.
The federal government had hoped for another change to voter eligibility. In May it introduced Bill C-27, but it still isn’t law. That bill has proposed that only farmers who grow at least 40 tonnes of the seven major grains in the current or previous two crop years be eligible for a ballot.
CWB elections are a battleground for those in support or opposition to single-desk grain marketing. That’s because any change to the mandate is supposed to start with the board, although the government has tried, but so far been unable, to eliminate the single desk for barley.
Since 1998 pro-single-desk directors have dominated, holding eight of 10 elected positions. But the federal government, which wants an open market, replaced the five appointed directors. As a result single-desk supporters carry a slim 8-7 margin.
Meanwhile, two single-desk supporting directors who have served since 1998 – Manitoba’s Bill Nicholson in District 9 and Saskatchewan’s Larry Hill in District 3 – can’t run again because their terms have expired.
Farm leaders on both sides of the CWB marketing issue agree the rules for electing directors and the role of the election co-ordinator need to be clarified.
In 2008 Craven said he couldn’t investigate alleged breaches in the election rules. And when he did rule someone broke the rules, Craven appeared powerless to force them to comply even though regulations under the CWB Act state it’s the election co-ordinator’s job to ensure fair elections.
The CWB’s corporate secretary Deborah Harri acknowledged in a 2008 interview changes in the election process are needed.
In 2005 a government-appointed review panel made 14 recommendations to improve CWB elections, including creating an autonomous, independent election commission.
Monitoring election spending by candidates and third-party interveners is among the election co-ordinator’s responsibilities, but the co-ordinator is powerless to penalize those who don’t comply.
“We’re not given any authority to discipline or provide any mechanism for discipline,” Craven said in an interview Sept. 2.
In the 2008 election five western Conservative MPs sparked controversy when they mailed letters to CWB voters urging them to vote for candidates opposed to single-desk selling. Critics, including the National Farmers Union, argued the MPs should have registered and reported as third-party interveners.
“We certainly personally don’t have the knowledge of what side to come down on whether MPs and the government of Canada should be seen as a third-party intervener or not and somebody else needs to,” Craven said in a 2008 interview.
Whether the MPs’ actions were legal or not, Keystone Agricultural Producers president Ian Wishart said they were inappropriate.
“I hope the MPs stay out of it and not make the mistake of doing it again,” he said in an interview earlier this year. [email protected]
“We’renotgiven anyauthorityto disciplineorprovide anymechanism fordiscipline.”
– IAN CRAVEN