Canadian Sovereignty 5951 Views by Robert Kury

Canadian Wheat Board: Eight reasons to stop the Sell-Out

On October 18th, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Harper introduced legislation, Bill C -18 to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) in response to some unclear complaints about some of the CWB past actions without articulating a credible business plan. The majority of western wheat growing farmers oppose this legislation as wheat farmers have repeatedly voted for a strong, effective CWB.

Western wheat farmers are protesting this dismantling of the current system, but to save our democratically controlled marketing agency, farm families need the help of their fellow Canadians.

The loss of the CWB will hurt every Canadian family. Here are eight reasons why farmer and non-farmer Canadian citizens should act to help protect the Canadian Wheat Board:

1. Privatization and Loss of Economic Control

Few sectors of the Canadian economy are 100% owned and controlled by Canadians. But one is: our multibillion-dollar western wheat and barley marketing system. If the Harper Conservative government destroys the CWB, wheat and barley sales will turn over to transnational corporations (most of them foreign), a critical sector of our economy that is now owned and controlled by Canadian citizens. What C-18 takes away from farmers and other Canadians, it gives to grain giants such as Cargill whose shareholder profits come ahead of consumer and Canada’s interests.

2. Genetically Modified Food

In 2000, Monsanto moved to introduce genetically modified (GM) wheat. Farm organizations, environmental groups, and citizens’ organizations banded together to stop Monsanto and keep GM wheat out of Canadian fields and foods. United, Canadians succeeded. The CWB was a crucial ally. Many people and organizations believe that had it not been for the work of the CWB, Canadians would now be eating food made from GM wheat. Lose the CWB and we may lose the fight to stop GM wheat.

Experience with GM canola and now superweeds, and the still unconvincing research on the health safety of GM crops, shows that concerns regarding GM crops are justified.

3. Food Sovereignty

As an alternative to a “Globalized“, long-distance, corporate-controlled food system, many Canadians are advocating Food Sovereignty, wherein farmers and all citizens collectively shape the food system we want for our families. The CWB is a good example of Food Sovereignty in action: a democratic agency controlled by food producers and citizens. By attacking the CWB, this Conservative government is pushing back hard against Food Sovereignty, serving notice that our future food system will be more far-flung, more corporate controlled. A government hostile to the CWB is hostile to Food Sovereignty.

4. National Sovereignty

Today, Canada has its own grain production, processing, handling, and transportation systems. Our Canadian Grain Commission sets and enforces quality standards, equal to the highest in the world. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulates new seed varieties, keeping harmful ones out and ensuring farmers have access to seeds that grow well in our climate.

Most of our grain flows “east-west”, hauled by Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways and loaded onto ships at Canadian ports by Canadian workers. If we destroy the CWB, other parts of our Canadian grain system will be destroyed in turn. As the government empowers US-based grain transnationals, those corporations will chafe against Canadian regulations and push for the destruction of our Grain Commission, seed regulations, and the rest of our quality and regulatory systems, as they have in the past. Destroying the CWB accelerates the Americanization of our grain and food systems.

Worse, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Chapter 11 gives US-based grain companies a veto over future attempts to rebuild our CWB. If we destroy it, we can’t get it back.

Is this Americanization of our grain system what Canadians want?? Is the American economy, one Canada wants to mimic?

5. Your Economy

The CWB is the cornerstone of our Canadian wheat and barley marketing, handling, and transport systems. Those systems create jobs:

- in Winnipeg where the CWB, the Grain Commission, the Canadian International Grains Institute, and other agencies are headquartered;
- in Thunder Bay, Ontario; Churchill, Manitoba; Vancouver, B.C.; and Montreal, Quebec; where Canadian export grain is cleaned, blended, and loaded onto ships; and
- across Canada as money is retained in this country and spent in rural and urban centres.

The CWB raises farmers’ revenues by $500+ million annually, money largely from foreign nations that is spent in urban and rural businesses across Canada. PriceWaterhouseCoopers calculated the CWB’s total benefit to the Canadian economy at more than $850 million annually. Without the CWB, citizens and communities across the nation will suffer financially.

Are these businesses and jobs not important??

Remember, it is not governments that have created the current global financial crisis, but unregulated unaccountable businesses, businesses too big to let fail.

6. Our Democracy

The vast majority of farmers want a strong, effective CWB. Farmers have reaffirmed that support in 10 votes—3 plebiscites and 7 sets of Directors Elections. Despite this, the Harper Conservative government is pushing forward to destroy the CWB, and it is doing so illegally.

Section 47.1 of the CWB Act requires that farmers must vote in favour of major changes to the CWB. The government is ignoring that law and refusing to hold a vote. Also, the government is ramming its legislation through parliament, using closure to limit debate, refusing to let the Agriculture Committee examine the bill, and instead setting up an ad hoc committee to review the bill, but limiting that committee to just 5 minutes per section. Prime Minister Harper has announced he will “walk over” the western wheat farmer majority that support the CWB, and he has called his drive to dismantle the CWB a “train barrelling down a Prairie track". Our federal Conservative government is sneering at democracy, evading due process, and bending the law to the breaking point. If these antidemocratic tactics are not challenged, they will be repeated.

7. Farms and the Land

The CWB raises farmers’ prices and incomes. And the CWB provides equitable access to the market for all farmers, big or small. Losing the CWB will accelerate the loss of family farms. In so doing, it will concentrate farmland ownership in fewer and fewer hands. A blow to the CWB is a blow to family-farm agriculture, and the men and women who produce our food. Supporters of Bill C-18 do not seem to care how much pain, anguish, and uncertainty they are creating for the majority of western wheat farmers, and employees at associated institutions, all fellow Canadians.

8. Certainty

Businesses claim that they need government policy certainty to risk business investment. The CWB provides certainty to the grains market. The actions of the Conservative government against the CWB, does not inspire confidence, because once the precedence has been set, the next majority government can claim to have the mandate as the current government claims, and ram without proper debate and consideration, their biased and prejudiced agenda through to approval even though they represent a minority of all Canadians. This disregard for intelligent consideration, displayed to the market, industry, and world will not go unnoticed, and will create uncertainty.

A vote against Bill C-18, is a vote for our birthright; our human sovereignty as Canadians; and for Canada.

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