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CWB vote may be farmers’ most democratic option

Since the CWB is a creature of the Liberal party, in Stephen Harper’s world, it must be destroyed. It has nothing to do with freedom of choice.

With a stronger minority Stephen Harper promised in his victory speech to carry out his commitments. One of those is the destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board. He will no doubt wait to see the outcome of this fall’s vote for directors of the even-numbered CWB districts, but should the vote go against him, he will not be short of other nasty and quite possibly illegal efforts to put an end to the CWB.

On the face of it, it would appear that the farm vote is quite solidly behind Harper. But does that mean farmers agree with Harper in the matter of the CWB? Time will tell.

Why does Harper hate the CWB? Only a small number of farmers want to get rid of it. He knows that it does an outstanding job for farmers in marketing and in standing up to such entities as the railroads, on behalf of farmers. He knows the returns to farmers are at least as good, and often better, than an open market would give them. Harper is no dummy. So why the zeal to eliminate the CWB?

Confrontational

One thing we can dismiss at the outset is concern for farmers. He has never sought consensus in this battle. He knows, when he says he will “walk over” those who stand in his way, he’s talking about bona fide farmers. And his election platform, while skimpy by any standard, was bereft of anything of substance for agriculture. In the opinion of this writer, Harper wants to get rid of the CWB because he is first and foremost a deregulator, in the style of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and, more recently, George Bush.

His second reason, I believe, is because he sees a threat in the CWB in that it could morph into a political rallying point against him. Do our present world conditions make deregulation and laissez-faire capitalism a popular stance for either political or financial people to take? After the most fervent pro-deregulation government in modern history resorted to a socialist-type bailout of over a trillion dollars to shore up its financial system, deregulation has taken on a bit of a bad flavour.

But against all evidence, our prime minister doesn’t seem to think so. Or does he? When France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy was in Canada, he had the opportunity to address the Quebec legislature. In his address, Sarkozy admonished Quebec separatists against trying to divide the country,

stressing that we are in a time when consolidation, not separation, should be our goal. He had barely time to close his mouth at the end of his speech before our prime minister, full of enthusiasm, almost climbed the podium in his haste to agree with Sarkozy’s comments.

So why is it good for banks, for credit unions, for countries to tighten up, to consolidate, to regulate, but a farm organization that has demonstrated that it can play with the big boys, that it can take on the railways, that it can protect quality control and raise the respect due to that quality worldwide, must be stripped of its mandate, disbanded and destroyed? What is wrong with this picture, and why are we even debating it?

Origins

The answer is Harper’s political agenda. It is Harper’s stated intention to permanently change Canada’s political complexion. He spent two years performing nothing less than character assassination on Stéphane Dion to that end.

Since the CWB is a creature, in its origins, of the Liberal party, in Stephen Harper’s world, the CWB must be destroyed. It has nothing to do with freedom of choice.

If there is a single message I would like to rivet on the minds of those few deluded souls who endlessly raise their caterwauling cry for “choice,” it would be that Stephen Harper doesn’t

care about you. To him, you’re just a dumb bunch of farmers who will vote for him regardless, and who have a perennial whine he can use in his drive to make us into a different country. He is clever, sly, willing to break the law and utterly ruthless. The country, in that inchoate wisdom that is so often seen in elections, has denied him a majority. Farmers, in their sparse numbers, didn’t have much role in that decision, either pro or con. But we can deny him a majority of yes-men at the CWB. Let us do so. It may be the most democratic thing we will ever do.

For me, it would be a wonderful thing to see the CWB in the input business. I would like to see trains with its logo have the running rights on the tracks which those monopolies that Harper likes, CN and CPR, have as their money trees. In the uncertain world in which we live, let us not get rid of something as valuable as the CWB. And don’t be lulled into thinking it can survive as one more (little) grain company.

– John Beckham is a farmer writing from Winnipeg. He does not belong to the Liberal party of Canada.

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