“Piece by piece, the minority Conservative government under Stephen Harper is dismantling Canada’s highly successful grain system.”
The Canadian Grain Commission and the Canadian Wheat Board are essential to the export success of Prairie farmers but the Harper Conservatives are trying to destroy them, a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says.
The CCPA report runs counter to opinions offered by organizations such as the C. D. Howe and Fraser Institutes, advocating a much greater role for state-supported agencies in the grain business. Canadian farmers have markets around the world thanks in large part “to the uniquely Canadian grain regulatory and marketing system,” it says. “Unfortunately, this critical component is under attack by Canada’s own government.
“Piece by piece, the minority Conservative government under Stephen Harper is dismantling Canada’s highly successful grain system,” the report says. “Both the Canadian Grain Commission and the Canadian Wheat Board are feeling the wrath of a federal government that seems more interested in creating opportunities for transnational corporations than in protecting Canadian farm and consumer interests.”
The CGC is starved for funds, the report says, because the government prohibits it “from obtaining greater revenues by raising user fees and direct funding for the CGC continues to be inadequate and unpredictable.” The Tories want to reduce the commission’s supervisory role and end some of its inspection duties and its visual identification system for wheat.
If the CGC only inspects wheat as it’s delivered to export terminals or ships as the government proposes, it will be harder for the CWB to know the quality and quantity of the stocks in the grain-handling system, the report adds.
The CCPA called on the opposition parties to continue blocking the Conservatives’ attempts to overhaul the CGC and end the CWB’s barley monopoly. They should force the government to reinstitute kernel visual distinguishability for the major export wheat classes to prevent the system from becoming contaminated with low-quality look-alike varieties.
The report also called for the retention and strengthening of inward weighing and inspection by the CGC to provide “early detection and prevention of safety threats, insect infestations and other problems in the grain supply (that) are essential to safeguarding quality and consumer health.”
Opposition MPs should demand the government stop underfunding the CGC and provide it with “predictable parliamentary appropriations that cover shortfalls and variability in revenue from fees,” the report continues. “Grain Appeal Tribunals and the Producer Payment Security Program should be retained to protect the ethos of trust underlying the grading system and to protect producers from inappropriate financial losses.”
The government should also prevent the importation into Western Canada of unregistered wheat varieties and non-pedigreed wheat seed. The position of assistant commissioners should be restored at the CGC, the report says.
Ottawa must make it clear it won’t accept the latest version of a proposed WTO agreement because it threatens the board’s monopoly.