Statement Canadians For Peace & Socialism - January 7, 2007

At no time in history has the Canadian Wheat Board(CWB) been openly attacked by a federal government - members of the board of directors are fired and replaced with ones who have been hostile to the CWB; a ‘gag’ order was instituted to prevent the CWB from promoting itself; during the election period, 1/3 of the electorate had to ‘prove’ they were eligible; the President/CEO was fired for following the CWB Act not the agricultural minister’s directives and the conservatives carried on a campaign against the CWB during the election period. A very brief history of the farm struggle will help to understand why this is happening.
The late 1800s problem of farmers obtaining full value for their production followed them to the prairies. As grain production grew, prairie farmers found they confronted two more major problems besides trying to get a fair price from the grain trade- 1) A grain based economy meant most grain had to be exported, 2) they were land locked and had to rely on railroads to get their grain to consumers.
Tired of being exploited by the railroads and grain trade, at the turn of the last century producers began working together. Every attempt of the farmers to have more control of their production, when successful, resulted in being out manoeuvred by the railroads, grain companies and grain trade, resulting in catastrophic failures. The agricultural politics of the day dictated the provincial and federal governments become involved to stabilize the western economy.
This struggle of farmers working together to get a better deal for themselves finally forced governments to financially and legislatively support them. The major benefits resulting from this struggle were: co-operative legislation guaranteeing successful Co-ops and Wheat Pools, a Grains Transportation Act which ended railway gouging, a Canadian Wheat Board Act which stopped grain trade manipulations and a Canadian Grains Commission Act to ensure quality grading for internal use and export. By law the Canadian Wheat Board worked for farmers and returned all revenues after expenses to them, thereby paying for it, with little political interference.
The last two decades of attacks on legislation and structures which benefited western producers has taken its toll. The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool Act was changed to return grain handling to private companies(don’t be fooled by the retention of the name,) allowing ‘management’ to steal farmers equity and restart grain buying shenanigans which for the most part ended over six decades earlier. Changing the Grain Transportation Act immediately cost the grain producers $750 million, allowed railway branch line abandonment and without Wheat Pools, local elevator destruction resulting in large increases in grain trucking costs. This is the principle reason farmers expenses are now higher than their income.
The last major structure in the way of total corporate control of western grain is the Canadian Wheat Board. Contrary to so much of the propaganda, the CWB does not cost any government any money nor is it trade distorting as proven in many trade challenges.
This democratically farmer controlled business directly benefits farmers by up to $800 million more than could be realized in the 'open market.' The CWB obtains for farmers a premium price for their grain, negotiates better transportation and elevation fees, ensures a premium product and markets it to the world. It works with the Canadian Grains Commission in these areas to ensure ‘farmer interests are protected.’ It also partially funds the Canadian International Grains Institute(CIGI) which develops grain products and educates farmers and buyers. No other country or corporation has an organization like CIGI.
There can be no place for ‘protecting farmer interests’ in this government’s view- all grain trade in Canada must fall within the confines of the ‘free market,’ so it becomes clear why the attack on the CWB. To ensure this happens right-wing think tanks are funded to plan and test strategies, then a few reactionary farmers who believe they can benefit are given ‘unequal’ time to spew their propaganda of ‘freedom’ and ‘choice’ to confuse other farmers and the public. Finally, with current members of this ‘conservative’ government from this background, they do what their masters want and start to remove the real power of the CWB has - single-desk selling- which the overwhelming majority of farmers want.