Ontario MP Bruce Stanton has introduced a private members’ bill to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s singledesk marketing authority.
Bill C-619 would give farmers the ability to “opt out” of having to market their wheat and barley destined for export or domestic human consumption through the CWB for at least two years at a time. They’d have to declare their intentions between January 1 and April 1. That would give farmers marketing choice while retaining predictability and stability for farmers who choose to remain in the CWB pool, Stanton said in a news release.
“The barley and wheat that is produced by the hard-working farmers of Western Canada is a product of their own labour and investment on their own land, yet, they have no say as to how it is marketed or at what price,” Stanton said. “This is fundamentally unfair to today’s western farmers who have never had the freedom to market their product as they wish.”
(The CWB’s single desk came into effect in 1943.)
Stanton said he tabled C-619 instead of a western MP because the introduction of private members’ bills is done through a lottery and it was his turn.
Opposition MPs say the chances of the bill passing are almost nil.
Liberal Agriculture Critic Wayne Easter accused the government of playing games with C-619.
“It’s so far down the list (of private members’ bills) it won’t see the light of day if there isn’t an election for three more years,” he said. “The bill is going nowhere on parliamentary procedure alone.”
If it ever gets to a free vote C-619 will be defeated, Easter said.
The NDP opposes changing the CWB’s marketing mandate without farmers’ approval.
Easter noted last fall of the five wheat board directors elected by farmers four supported single-desk selling.
Instead of the government introducing a bill it knows will be defeated, it gets a private member to do it.
“It leaves the impression he’s (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) doing something for his base when he’s really doing nothing at all,” Easter said.
The same strategy was used with the gun control issue and it’s good for fundraising, according to Easter.
“The Conservative Party of Canada can say, ‘look we’re going to the wall fighting the fight for you, send us money we need it now,’” he said.
CWB chair Allen Oberg says the board of directors has concluded the best value to farmers is to retain single-desk selling.
“I think the larger issue is that this legislation would remove that debate and decision-making ability away from farmers in Western Canada and really move it to Ottawa and the House of Commons,” Oberg said in an interview.
“If farmers, in their wisdom decide that’s the route they want to go – a voluntary wheat board – they should be the ones making that decision, not the House of Commons.
“That debate needs to be held in Western Canada. The current legislation allows for that. With the removal of wheat or barley under Section 47(1) it requires a plebiscite.”
The minority Conservative government tried to end singledesk selling for barley in 2007 through a cabinet order, but the courts overturned it concluding under the current CWB Act such a move needs to be approved by Parliament.
A government bill to end single- desk selling for barley introduced in March 2008 was never debated and died on the order paper when Harper called the 2008 election.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and the government are backing C-619.
“Our government has always been clear that western Canadian grain growers deserve the freedom to market their grain,” Ritz said in an emailed statement.
“As a private members bill, I hope the opposition will finally support equality for all Canadian farmers regardless of where they grow their crops.” [email protected]
“It’ssofardownthelist(ofprivatemembers’ bills)itwon’tseethelightofdayifthereisn’tan electionforthreemoreyears.Thebillisgoing nowhereonparliamentaryprocedurealone.”
– WAYNE EASTER