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Wheat Board battle heats up

By: 
Reg McQuaid

November 20, 2011

The struggle for control of Prairie grain marketing escalated on October 18, when the Conservative government tabled Bill C-18, the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act.

The legislation is designed to terminate the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly selling function by August 1, 2012. The 10 farmer directors are to be replaced by five government appointees, with a mandate to prepare the voluntary Board for privatization or dissolution within five years. For these changes to go into effect during the coming marketing year, all legislative steps have to be completed by the end of December.

Further flouting the democratic process, the government will not allow the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture to examine and comment on the bill, but will instead send it to the Legislative Committee where only technical issues can be raised.

Reaction from farmers has been swift and vigorous. Protest rallies have taken place near Saskatoon and Brandon, and a major rally was held in front of the Wheat Board’s Winnipeg office on October 28. This grass-roots movement is led by the National Farmers Union, the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, and the Friends of the CWB.

Dismantling the Wheat Board is the first step of the Harper government towards total deregulation of grain marketing and transportation, for the benefit of the big grain companies and the two railways.

The CWB’s board of directors has filed a lawsuit against the government over the introduction of Bill C-18. The suit alleges that the government broke the law by failing first to conduct a plebiscite of affected producers, as required by Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act of 1998, which remains in force. For ongoing solidarity campaigns visit www.cwb.ca/timetolisten and www.nfu.ca

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