Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Canada Wheat Board fight begins

As the video above explains, the NDP government in Manitoba, facing an election in October this year, is rolling out taxpayer funded ads to oppose the federal Conservatives' intended move to take away the Wheat Board's monopoly: "Manitoba releases pro-wheat board ads as election looms." Governments of all stripes do love those ads, the ones that don't come out of their party coffers.

Despite the federal position, that the Conservatives have won their majority with its supposed affirmation of their position on the Wheat Board, there is a fight shaping up. There is this difficulty for the federal position, for example:
“This is an organization that’s funded entirely by farmers,” added Allen Oberg, chair of the CWB, “The present law says the way to decide this issue is with a plebiscite, so that’s what’s at stake here.”
Ritz's answer to that is classic:
Following his address, Ritz conceded that Goodale is "half right. There is a vote required if you're changing commodities that the board is handling ... But when you're fundamentally changing the full act, that comes down to the supremacy of Parliament,'' Ritz said. "We're removing the (Canadian Wheat Board) Act. Removing the act is substantially different than removing a commodity (from the CWB Act).''
The principle underlying the right to a vote is being violated though. If there is a change in a commodity being handled, the Act seems to contemplate that a vote is warranted because that is a significant change that affects farmers. Similarly, if the Conservatives make a change to the very operation of the Board - albeit under a new Act - a change that will significantly affect farmers, that should also warrant a vote. There is an expectation of participation that's been created under the present Act and if it's taken away, well, you can see the opposition that is clearly there.

There was, however, this bit of happy karma for Ritz:
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz slammed the CWB and the Selinger government for the ads in an emailed statement Monday, accusing them of “engaging in gratuitous fear mongering.”
The irony be strong with Ritz, very strong.

An issue to watch, clearly.