I am responding to recently proposed legislation regarding Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) voting rules. These proposed changes do two things at the same time: take small producers off of the voters’ list even if they market their grain through the CWB and thereby help pay the costs of the organization, while at the same time add other larger producers to the voters’ list even if they do not deliver any grain to the CWB and, therefore, do not pay any of the costs associated with marketing or the election process.
Proponents of the legislation often cite a 2005 Election Panel report that supports their desire to impose a 40-tonne minimum limit on voting eligibility. But these same proponents never tell the full story – that the 2005 panel report also says that the 40 tonnes have to be delivered to the CWB – meaning that only farmers who sell grain (wheat or barley) through the CWB and thereby help pay the costs should be able to vote. By only telling part of the story, the supporters of this undemocratic legislation are misleading farmers and the public.
The only motive to disenfranchise producers based on the amount they grow is the motive of voter suppression. This minimum-tonnage restriction is not employed by the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, or the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association, or by any other commodity organization of which I am aware. These other organizations don’t ask how much you grow as long as you are selling some of their kind of grain. And they don’t allow farmers to vote unless they are selling their kind of grain into the system – only canola growers vote in canola organization elections, only pulse growers vote in pulse grower elections, and so on.
The best and only democratic option for compiling the CWB voters’ list is “user payuser vote.” In other words, only producers, large and small, who use the CWB’s marketing advantages and help pay the costs of running the CWB should be automatically eligible to vote. Period. If you agree that democracy only for the large or rich is no democracy at all, make your views known to your member of Parliament and all other MPs working on this file.
Stewart Wells Swift Current, Sask.
Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or email: [email protected](subject: To the editor)