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Pooling to push the open market

“For a voluntary co-operative effort we’re pooling the cost.”

– Curtis Sims

The three open-market candidates running for Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) director in District 10 have formed a coalition to defeat the pro-single-desk incumbent Bill Toews.

Rolf Penner, Curtis Sims and Barry Reimer sent a flyer to farmers asking them to rank any one of them “1,” “2” or “3” on the preferential ballot and leave the spot blank beside Toews’ and Harvey Vaags’ names.

“For a voluntary co-operative effort we’re pooling the costs (on their election flyer),” Sims said, chuckling at the irony of open-market advocates “co-operating” to “pool” their resources.

“Each of us wants to win. Each of us has our own individual skills and experiences or strengths, but… our primary goal is to have someone from this district represent a voluntary wheat board.”

In separate interviews Penner, who farms at Morris and Reimer, who farms at Killarney, said they agreed getting an open-market director elected is more important than which one of them wins.

“Our ultimate goal is to get one of three of us in,” Reimer said.

It’s not unusual for third parties such as the National Farmers Union or Market Choice Alliance to distribute flyers asking farmers to vote for a slate of candidates, but it’s the first time in District 10 like-minded candidates have openly co-operated to inform farmers how to vote strategically.

The flyer, headlined “Important CWB Voting Instructions for Supporters of Marketing Choice,” made some people suspicious because it wasn’t clear who was behind it, Penner said. Under CWB election regulations, only candidates have access to the voters’ list. Election rules would have been broken had a third-party intervener distributed the flyer.

Sims, who farms at Mac-Gregor, said he, Penner and Reimer are sharing the $3,000 cost to send the flyer to around 5,400 farmers on the voters’ list. Each candidate can spend up to $15,000 on the election. However, in a controversial change, the federal government recently removed the $10,000 cap on third-party spending.

There’s no rule against candidates in the same district sharing election advertising, said election co-ordinator Ian

Craven of the accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny.

“Those drafting the (election) regulations probably didn’t foresee a situation where there was more than one candidate advertising together,” he said.

Toews said he’s not surprised the open-market candidates are co-operating to try and defeat him.

“It’s something I have to deal with,” he said from his farm at Kane. “Farmers will have to decide the outcome. I obviously don’t agree with their (Penner’s, Sims’, Reimer’s) simple-minded version of what would happen in a voluntary market.”

Toews is asking farmers to mark “1” beside his name, but he said he won’t tell them how to mark the rest of their ballot.

“I think they have the ability to make up their own minds,” he said. “I don’t think they need to be lectured about the various types of strategic voting.”

Under the preferential ballot voters have the option of ranking the candidates in their order of preference, starting by ranking their first choice with “1,” their second choice “2” and so on. Although the voter has the option of voting for more than one candidate, a ballot is valid if “1”is placed beside just one name.

With a preferential ballot, also known as “instant run-off,” all first choices are counted. If nobody gets a majority, the candidate who placed last (by having the fewest first choices), is knocked off. Ballots of voters who ranked the eliminated candidate first then are redistributed to next-choice candidates. The process continues until either one candidate gets 50 per cent of the votes or there is only one candidate left. [email protected]

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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