“I’d like to rebuild a better relationship with the MCGA corporation and the members – the farmers.”
The Manitoba Canola Growers Association’s (MCGA) is on the cusp of several major changes.
MCGA members passed five resolutions at their annual meeting here Feb. 3, including one to limit the number of terms a director can serve and another to use a preferential ballot in future elections.
Rob Pettinger, the newly elected president who farms at Elgin, said later in an interview he will discuss the two resolutions with the MCGA’s lawyer. “My goal in talking to our lawyer will not be to say ‘does this break our bylaws or do we need a bylaw change?’ but to say ‘this is the resolution the members passed, how can we enact it?’”
Altona-area farmer Steve Siemens said sometimes organizations have to change. The MCGA should follow U. S. President Barack Obama’s mantra and say “yes we can.”
Before the resolutions were debated, MCGA director Ed Rempel told the meeting that according to the MCGA’s lawyer, John Stewart, the two resolutions require changes to MCGA’s bylaws. To do that, a special meeting of members must be called and the proposed change be endorsed by a two-thirds majority vote. Members must be informed, in writing, about the proposed change and special meeting at least 40 days before the special meeting is held.
St. Francois Xavier-farmer Ed Hiebert said since the bylaws are silent on the number of terms directors can serve and on the type of ballot, the MCGA can implement the changes if the resolutions passed.
The resolution to limit MCGA directors to no more than three consecutive, four-year terms passed 20 to three. Directors would be free to seek re-election after being off the board for two years.
“I think this is a healthy approach, Mr. Chairman, and something that is long overdue and should be given consideration,” resolution mover Larry Bohdanovich.
“These aren’t lifetime appointments,” said Bob Messinbird of Gilbert Plains.
A resolution for the MCGA to use a preferential ballot, like the one used in Canadian Wheat Board elections, also passed easily.
John Dueck of Horndean, who moved the resolution, said a preferential ballot ensures the person elected is supported by at least 50 per cent of the voters.
“I think it’s something that al lows producers to have more choice in the four people who get elected,” said John Sandborn of Benito.
MCGA director Bruce Dalgarno of Newdale opposed the resolution, saying he preferred the current first-past-the-post system because it’s simpler.
Ed Rempel, a MCGA director from Starbuck also opposed the resolution saying it would add cost, while having little effect on election results.
Hiebert said the preferential ballot is not hard to use and joked those who can’t figure out shouldn’t be voting. Myers Norris Penny already does the CWB elections and therefore a preferential ballot wouldn’t cost the MCGA much more.
The debate over the legality of the resolutions was testy and didn’t go unnoticed by Pettinger.
“I’d like to rebuild a better relationship with the MCGA corporation and the members – the farmers,” he said.
“The board of directors needs to direct the organization, but it must also listen to the members and try to keep the MCGA connected with the grassroots organization who is paying the checkoff.”
Members also voted to restrict debate on resolutions at MCGA meetings to Manitoba growers. Bill Acheson, the Somerset-area farmer who moved the resolution, said he was motivated after last year’s annual meeting where representatives of the Saskatchewan and Alberta canola grower associations spoke passionately in favour of a resolution to double the canola checkoff Manitoba farmers pay to the MCGA to $1 a tonne.
“I just felt that was a little bit out of place and inappropriate,” he said.
Acheson said the chair could allow others to provide the MCGA information, but only Manitoba farmers should be allowed to debate resolutions affecting their canola association.
“We all manage multimillion-dollar farms here,” said resolution seconder Norbert Van Deynze of Somerset. “I think we can control our own destiny.”
Members voted in favour of a resolution calling on the MCGA to lobby the Canadian Canola Growers Association to keep its office in Carman.
They also endorsed a resolution to retain the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) and ensure all grain, oilseed and pulse crop buyers remain licensed and bonded to cover money owed to farmers. The same resolution says the CGC should continue to act “in the interest of producers.”
Last year the Conservative government proposed that be taken out of the Canada Grain Act and that farmers operate their own security program through insurance or a clearing house.
“The Canadian Grain Commission has served us well and anything that compromises that situation would be detrimental to farmers in Western Canada,” said resolution mover Bohdanovich.
Rempel agreed, saying licensing and bonding grain companies costs the federal government little.
“But it’s a true benefit to western Canadian farmers and we don’t have to put it in some darned coloured box at the World Trade Organization meetings,” he said.
Brandon-area farmer Barry Bromley said the current security system costs grain farmers an estimated five cents a tonne, but the clearing house system would cost 50 cents.
“With one-tenth the money we get far better service (with the current system),” Bromley said.