Farmers for economic freedom
Updates from the Canadian Farm Enterprise Network, Canadian Farmers for Justice and the Prairie Centre. Several of the items appearing here originally appeared in an email list operated by Dwayne Leslie at http://www.prairielinks.com.
web posted January 24, 2000
Do we need more endangered species legislation?
By Craig Docksteader
For the past five years, four consecutive federal environment ministers (Sheila Copps, Sergio Marchi, Christine Stewart, and David Anderson) have tried to convince us that Canada has a desperate need for more legislation to protect endangered species. But before we nod our heads in agreement, perhaps we should consider the answer to the following question:
What do the following pieces of legislation have in common?
Answer? They all contain provisions which provide protection for either endangered species or their habitat.
Perhaps its time to take a short reality check on the endangered species situation. Either the 42 laws we currently have arent working -- which means we need to find a non-regulatory way to protect endangered species -- or there is no endangered species crisis. Considering that the last extinction of a mammal in Canada was 78 years ago, and the last extinction of a bird was 84 years ago, its a question that should be answered.
web posted January 17, 2000
The historical record on property rights
By Craig Docksteader
In the British parliamentary system, from which Canada's system of government was derived, there has long been a recognition of the importance of property rights. The 1215 Magna Carta gave landowners protection from having their property arbitrarily confiscated by the monarch; the 1689 English Bill of Rights put statutory limits on the power of the King to seize property; and, in the early 1800's, the British parliament was dominated by rich landowners and, in most electoral districts, only property owners could vote.
As time moved on, however, the governmental system moved from being decidedly aristocratic to democratic. Voting rights were extended to a wider circle of citizens, the secret ballot was implemented, and property qualifications no longer had to be met in order to run for political office. While property rights continued to maintain a place of importance, they began to be subjected to the will of the democratic process.
It was in this context that, while hammering out the framework for a self-governing Canada, the Fathers of Confederation had to grapple with the need to protect property rights. The British system of responsible government would potentially make possible a "tyranny of the majority", whereby minority landowners could find their property confiscated by a simple vote of the majority through the democratic process.
To guard against this possibility, the Fathers of Confederation implemented an unlikely strategy. It was called the Senate. In an article entitled, "Why Property Rights Were Excluded from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms", Alex Alvaro explains that, "[Sir John A.] Macdonald supported the concept of an appointed upper house which would hold veto power over legislation from the House of Commons, thus protecting the propertied class from unlimited majority rule."
The strategy was quite simple, and followed along the lines of the British example. Members of the Senate would be appointed rather than elected, and had to meet a minimum property requirement of at least $4,000 over and above debts and liabilities. Although this doesn't seem like much today, in 1867 it represented a sizable estate. According to Alvaro, both the appointment and the property requirement "were meant to ensure that those who had veto power over Commons legislation held a vested interest on property rather than a loyalty to constituent voters." In this way, Parliament was to be prevented from passing legislation which would encroach upon the property rights of individuals.
In spite of the good intentions on the part of the Fathers of Confederation, however, Alvaro points out that the plan never accomplished its intended purpose, and the importance of property rights as a primary consideration in Canada's parliamentary system quickly eroded. "The phenomenon of party dominance discouraged divergence by the Senate from the House of Commons. Time rendered the property requirement for appointment virtually meaningless. The Senate never fulfilled the functions meant for it, becoming instead a rubber stamp for Commons legislation and a burial ground for political patrons."
For prairie landowners who are becoming increasingly aware of their lack of property rights protection, the historical record is bitter-sweet. On the one hand, the Senate's inability to deliver protection for property rights simply stirs the contempt earned by its well-known failure to protect regional interests. On the other hand, however, the case for effective property rights protection is strengthened by the clear indication that the Fathers of Confederation viewed it as vitally necessary.
web posted January 10, 2000
How the CWB adapted to a dual-market
By Craig Docksteader
Recent public opinion polls conducted by the Canadian Wheat Board are said to confirm the fact that an ever-increasing number of prairie farmers want marketing options. They would prefer to see the CWB as a voluntary marketing agency, allowing prairie producers to individually choose the marketing agency of their choice.
But while very popular with producers, this dual-marketing proposal is routinely denounced by monopoly-friendly stakeholders as unworkable. Their fear is that the CWB would not survive if farmers had the option of choosing an alternate marketing agency.
Fortunately, however, for both those who prefer the CWB and those who prefer to access other marketing options, the concern over the viability of the CWB in a dual-market environment is unfounded. The CWB could adapt to a dual-market environment and already demonstrated how this could be done, during the continental barley market of 1993.
Following are quotes from an edition of "Grain Matters", published by the CWB shortly after the June 1993 announcement that feed and malt barley would be marketed through agencies other than the CWB.
* CWB Operates in Dual-Market Environment *
* Producer Contracts Solve Problem of Supply Certainty *
* Changes to Improve Returns on Barley Pool Account *
* Better Terms for Farmers Under Dual-Marketing *
* CWB Considers Penalties for Poor Performance *
The continental barley market of 1993 only lasted 40 days until a prairie grain corporation succeeded in having the courts overturn the decision. During those 40 days, however, the CWB was an active and successful player in the continental market, and demonstrated that it could operate effectively in a dual market environment.
web posted December 27, 1999
Questions never asked on a public opinion poll
By Craig Docksteader
A recent poll conducted by Decima Research, suggested that 76 percent of Canadians believe governments in Canada should be doing more to protect species at risk, and 88 percent of Canadians support laws to protect the habitat of endangered species.
This was good news to Environment Minister David Anderson. He even included the poll results in his recent publication entitled "Canada's Plan for Protecting Species at Risk". Federal environment officials everywhere will undoubtedly now use the results as a stamp of approval, suggesting there is broad public support for their plans and initiatives.
I can't help but wonder, however, if the government would have been given a decidedly different message if a few other questions had been included in the survey. Maybe they should have tried a few of the following:
1. Adequate legislation to protect endangered species already exists in each of the three prairie provinces. In spite of this, the federal government plans to implement an additional level of bureaucracy by having its new law also apply to provincial and private land. Are you in favour of this plan?
2. There are eight federal and thirty-three provincial or territorial laws which already provide protection for endangered species. In addition, there are dozens of private and government-funded programs in Canada which provide protection for endangered species and their habitat. In your view, should the federal government implement additional endangered species legislation or improve the existing laws?
3. It is the intention of Canadian wildlife ministers to "assess the general status of all wild species in Canada" in order to provide legal protection to those that are endangered. Are you in favour of this plan?
4. It is estimated that over 250,000 species exist in Canada, only a quarter of which have been discovered and identified. Under the existing plan to protect endangered species, each species and subspecies must discovered, identified and then its status assessed in every jurisdiction in which it is found. This means the federal government could be required to make well over 1,000,000 individual assessments. Do you support this plan?
5. The National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, which was designed by provincial and federal wildlife ministers, promises to provide legal protection for all non-domestic species that are endangered. This includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, snails, slugs, clams, oysters, butterflies, moths, insects, fungi, bacteria, viruses and one-celled organisms. Do you agree with the scope of this proposal?
6. The agenda which drives the push for more endangered species legislation is called biodiversity. Those who are championing this cause are not only concerned about species in the wild, but those that grow in your garden or are raised on your farm. For example, they lament that 98 percent of dairy herds are comprised of Holstein cows, and only 25 varieties of apples are grown commercially (in comparison to about 250 varieties grown 100 years ago). Would you support their desire to see endangered species legislation extended to protect such domestic species as well?
7. While the federal Environment Minister has not released a budget for his new proposal, the scope of the plan would require billions of dollars to implement fully. Would you be prepared to pay additional taxes toward covering the cost of this initiative?
I wouldn't be surprised if Minister Anderson got a slightly different picture from the answers to these questions.
Craig Docksteader is Coordinator with the Prairie Centre/Centre for Prairie Agriculture, Inc. "Where Do We Go From Here" is a feature service of the Prairie Centre.
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