Open-market proponents are criticizing the Manitoba government for funding a campaign to let farmers decide the Canadian Wheat Board’s future through a vote.
The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA), the Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative opposition and federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz say the Manitoba government’s $180,000 advertising program is misguided.
Premier Greg Selinger says removing the CWB’s monopoly on the sale of western Canadian wheat and barley for export and domestic human consumption will not only hurt farm incomes but also weaken the economies of Winnipeg, Churchill and the entire West.
Not so, according to the WCWGA.
“(T)his change is all about improving the bottom line for farmers, restoring our property rights and creating greater prosperity throughout the Prairies,” WCWGA vice-president Rolf Penner said in a news release.
An open market creates the potential for thousands of new jobs by encouraging investment in wheat and barley research, processing and marketing throughout Western Canada, the WCWGA said.
“Manitobans have already made their views known on this issue, and so have Canadians,” Manitoba Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen said in a release. “Now Greg Selinger wants to put the strong relationship that previous Manitoba premiers have enjoyed with the federal government at risk. He is spending taxpayer money trying to overturn the decision that the electorate has already made. Instead of
looking to the future, Greg Selinger is once again stuck in the past.”
Selinger said the federal election was not a plebiscite on the CWB and noted several Conservative candidates said they favoured leaving the decision about the CWB’s mandate to farmers.
“It’s disappointing but not surprising that the Manitoba government would be against an open and competitive market that would attract investment, encourage innovation and create value-added jobs,” Ritz said in a statement.
“Our government wants the CWB to be a strong, viable option which is why we want to work with the board to avoid any delays in its transition that will only hurt its competitiveness in earning farmers’ business starting August 2012.”
Selinger said if farmers voted to end the CWB’s single desk the Manitoba government would accept the decision, but added indications are the majority of farmers want to keep the single desk.
The Manitoba government also hasn’t ruled out helping to fund a legal challenge to stop Ottawa from ending the single desk.
“We’re not ruling out anything that would be helpful for our farmers and for our jobs,” Manitoba Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers said in an interview June 13.
Keys tone Agr i cul tural producers president Doug Chorney said he has so far seen no evidence that the CWB can operate in an open market. “I don’t think it’s fair to throw the onus to come up with a game plan and how to function in an open market over to the CWB because it’s not asking to make this change,” he said.
– ROLF PENNER