Statement on Canadian Wheat Board from the Feds of Labour
Statement on Canadian Wheat Board
The Harper government’s decision to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) is illegal and undemocratic. Once again, the Conservative government is putting the interests of its corporate friends ahead of the interests of Canadian communities, families and working people.
Illegal: The law requires the government to consult with farmers on any changes to the CWB, but the government has refused to hold a vote among farmers.
Undemocratic: Farmers held their own vote on the future of the CWB and a majority voted to keep the board. The Harper government is ignoring this vote. Farmers elect directors of the CWB – eight out of 10 elected board members are strong proponents of the board. The Harper government is ignoring this. While Harper claims his majority in the House of Commons gives him a mandate, 60 per cent of voters in the last federal election backed parties that support the CWB.
The real story: The Tory government claims it believes in the free market, but wants to undermine the ability of farmers to get together to freely and collectively bargain for the best price for their goods. To Harper, market freedom extends only to corporations. Any attempt by farmers or workers to act collectively to get a fair deal for their work is under attack. We have seen this in back-to-work legislation for members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and for workers at Air Canada. We are seeing it again now with the CWB. Next on the list of targets will be the dairy and poultry industries. Ed Fast, the Minister of International Trade, has admitted that the supply-management systems in these sectors will be on the table in free-trade talks with the Asia-Pacific trade group.
For more than 75 years, the CWB has worked successfully to help farmers negotiate on an equal footing with the buyers of their products, mainly large multi-national or U.S. corporations. It has also helped small Prairie farmers compete with larger corporate farming operations.
The CWB has annual revenues of $5 billion to $8 billion, all of which goes to farmers, less operating costs, as profit. It receives no public subsidies. Studies show that farmers earn hundreds of millions of dollars a year more when going through CWB than they would in an open market. That money is vital to the survival of the small, family farms that are the backbone of Canadian agriculture – and to the rural Prairie communities where they operate.
Clearly, the CWB is working for the majority of farmers. The Tory government has not put forward a business case for its decision and it will costs hundreds of millions of dollars to wrap up CWB operations. Prairie farmers and rural communities will lose out. Only large corporate farmers and foreign corporate buyers will benefit.
That is why the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba Federations of Labour wholeheartedly support the campaign to save the Canadian Wheat Board and ask our members to join that fight by signing the petition.