To the Editor:
By destroying the world’s largest marketer of wheat and barley, Stephen Harper has transferred a tremendous amount of wealth and influence away from farmers. Harper and Ritz have effectively erected barriers manned by the private trade between western farmers and our former customers,” added Wells who was a farmer elected Director to the old Canadian Wheat Board and was dismissed by Minister Ritz over the objections of farmers.
There is no longer any meaningful influence by farmers inside the grain trade. Building on 65 years of expertise, the farmer-controlled CWB created in 1998 was a strong advocate for farmers on all of the questions of the day. Whether it was railway revenue caps, the need for a railway costing review, producer cars, equitable access, Canadian Grain Commission issues, the introduction of genetically modified wheat, or a host of other issues, the farmer-controlled CWB had the resources to be a strong voice for farmers.
It was the farmer-controlled Wheat Board that respected consumer wishes and opposed the introduction of genetically modified wheat into Canada. We are already hearing calls from the United States to lower Canadian quality standards to their level and I expect there will soon be another push to introduce genetically modified wheat here as well. We have lost all our market power and influence in the international grain trade, and Harper’s crippled Wheat Board will soon have no credibility with either farmers or our international customers.
In its haste to kill the CWB, the Harper government also degraded basic democracy in Canada, first by refusing to let farmers vote on this important issue, and secondly by short-circuiting Parliamentary procedures in the fall of 2011 in order to pass Bill C-18 without proper scrutiny. The only reason that the government refused to let farmers vote is that the government knew the majority of farmers supported the single desk selling advantages of the CWB.
Just six months ago the government was telling farmers that the voluntary Board would always be there for them. On July 31, 2012, the Minister of Agriculture was openly talking about selling the new Board outright.
Degrading democracy, misleading Parliament, and transferring wealth and influence away from farmers add up to a very dark day for Canada and Canadians. Sure, Stephen Harper can hold a celebratory event at Kindersley, but he has to do it under tight security at an event that is not open to the public.
Stewart Wells, Chair of Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB). Bill Gehl, Vice-Chair of the FCWB.