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Letters – for Feb. 4, 2010

Government argument insulting

I spent Wednesday, Jan. 20 sitting in Federal Court in Winnipeg as a farmer-applicant on behalf of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board. Our case is about the voter manipulation by the federal government in 2008 in our farmer-funded Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) director elections.

Instead of using the majority of their time to extol the virtues of the minister’s letter of instruction, which stripped thousands of farmers of their automatic voting rights, the government used most of its time to argue that farmers like me did not have the right to challenge it in court.

This argument comes from a government that used taxpayer money to directly campaign on behalf of its chosen anti-CWB candidates in the farmer elections. As well, this argument comes from the government that thinks it can override existing legislation and regulations by a simple ministerial letter (decree).

Farmers like me and thousands of others pay all of the costs of running the elections. We also have to live with the outcome of the elections and the elections directly affect how much money we receive from our grain sales.

It is both condescending and insulting for the government to use the majority of its time arguing that we shouldn’t be able to challenge it in court. If not us, who? If not the Federal Court, where?

At the moment we have to be thankful that we still have an independent judiciary as a firewall between us and the ongoing attacks from this government.

Stewart Wells Swift Current, Sask.

Nothing Frivolous About Farmer Control

There is a very important reason why the CWB recently tried to take a case to the Supreme Court of Canada. It was neither “frivolous” nor driven by politics, as some have alleged.

The reason was this: we believe that Prairie farmers should have the right to control and direct their marketing organization through their democratically elected CWB board of directors. We did not agree with a previous court ruling about the federal government’s power to direct the CWB. We believed that sweeping changes to the CWB Act in 1998 were intended to pass control to farmers. Why else does the CWB board of directors exist?

We believe it is important to respect democracy and the will of farmers as expressed through a democratic process. We sit on the board because farmers voted us here. We are therefore the voice of farmers. Four federal government appointees bring additional expertise to the board table and share our singular mission: to ensure the CWB maximizes value to producers.

It is no secret that the CWB board of directors and the current federal government do not share the same vision for the future of grain marketing. But when the government overrides the CWB board of directors, it is overriding the democratic will of farmers. That is why we wanted the courts to overturn a 2006 government directive (also known as the “gag order”) – because, as farmers, we have the right to run our own organization. That is why we applied to the Supreme Court. And that is the principle we will fight to preserve.

Larry Hill Chair, CWB board of directors Swift Current, Sask.

Septic upgrades punish rural residents

How many of your readers were delighted to receive an enormous bill from their trusted provincial government? I am guessing that the vast majority of people do not know that they have received it.

I am referring to the new residential waste water disposal laws which have been passed by the provincial government. Under this law, residents that have a septic ejector system of grey water disposal are required to decommission it and install an underground septic leach field system whenever a property is sold. They are entirely personally responsible for the cost of this change and no grant or other such aid is available.

No account has been taken of the extremely high cost to the individual, which is expected to be up to $25,000 depending on the area and geology. This effectively devalues the property of anyone with such a system.

The effectiveness of such a law in cleaning up the environment is debatable.

The ejector system, although it sounds worse ecologically, is in fact not so. The grey water, which is usually treated by bacterial agents within the septic tank itself, is pumped onto the surface where it is acted on by sunlight, soil-borne agents and plant life in the area before leaching into the soil. Ejector systems are easy to maintain and repair and usually pump into a fenced-off or some such unused area of the property.

Septic leach fields however are difficult to repair and it is almost impossible to find the site of the problem if the system starts backing up. They have to be buried below the frost line and are very susceptible to damage through ground heave and clogging. Not having the benefit of UV exposure, the grey water just leaches into the ground. It still will enter the water table.

It seems to punish rural residents who have no choice as to whether they should hook up to local services, as they are just not available. It is deeply unfair and places a huge financial burden on people.

Peter Clements

Virden, Man.

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)

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