Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act is clear. If the minister responsible for the board wants to change the CWB’s “single-desk” marketing system, the minister must first do two things:
Consult with the CWB’s board of directors; and
Hold a clear, democratic vote among producers to determine whether they support the specific changes the minister has in mind.
Since the Harper government came to power in 2006, no such vote has taken place. The closest they’ve come, a few years ago, was a multiple-choice survey of general marketing philosophy which generated no conclusive result.
In the wake of the recent federal election, the Conservatives are again vowing to kill the wheat board. To do so will require legislation in Parliament. Before any such legislation can be introduced, the two conditions mentioned above must be met.
The Harper regime should have the courage of its convictions. No tricks. No deeks or dodges. Just put the issue to a fair vote among farmers. That’s what the law requires.
The two questions to be asked are quite straightforward.
Do you want the CWB’s single-desk marketing system for wheat: yes or no?
Do you want the CWB’s single-desk marketing system for barley: yes or no?
If the Conservatives decide not to proceed in this direct and honourable manner, there are only two other alternatives.
They might try to mislead people into believing the wheat board can somehow be “optional” and still remain functional for those who want it. But this is simply not possible. Either you have a single-desk seller or you have the open market. You can’t have a bit of both.
Or, before presenting legislation to kill the single desk, the government might try to amend Section 47.1 of the CWB Act to eliminate farmers’ right to vote on this issue.
Now wouldn’t that be a strange spectacle – the Harper regime changing the law to remove producers’ democratic right to vote on whether they want the CWB or not.
Ralph Goodale, MP for Wascana, was the federal minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board when the act was amended to give farmers more control over its future in 1999.