Farmers for economic freedom
Updates from the Canadian Farm Enterprise Network and the Canadian Farmers for Justice. Several of the items appearing here originally appeared in an email list operated by Dwayne Leslie at http://www3.mb.sympatico.ca/~dleslie/aglinks.htm
web posted April 1998
Advocates of collectivism speak out
A recent report at The Western Producer Online told the story of Canada Wheat Board supporters who call themselves "the silent majority." Tired of all of the CWB bashers getting airtime and space in newspapers, they decided to speak out -- and promptly showed their collectivist roots.
"...68-year-old Fred Kon of D'Arcy supports allowing farmers to vote more crops into the board. 'If I was a young guy I'd like everything under the CWB.'"
The five interviewed for the piece also praised Bill C-4, stating that they "think Bill C-4 will give the board the flexibility it needs to survive and flourish." It is interesting to note that Bill C-4 allows the inclusion of even more crops in the CWB, including canola, flax,oats, and rye. Not only is the current collectivism not enough, but now the government agency can grab even more production from farmers.
"Giving the board of directors a broad range of powers should mean it satisfies even more (wheat board) customers," said Merv Lloyd.
All but those who believe in a free market. Here's a simple concept for lovers of collectivism to mull over while their system is brought down around them: You do not have the right to force someone into your system because you think you're right. Do you understand that?
Reform MP blocked against action over the CWB
The Hill Times reported in March that Reform Party MP Jake Hoeppner (Portage-Lisgar) lost his battle in the Supreme Court, meaning that he cannot sue the CWB, nor can he even find out any information about the marketing agency. Hoeppner was also ordered to pay all of the legal bills of the CWB.
Hoeppner first filed his suit against the CWB in December 1995 over the issue of pricing controls, claiming that the CWB charged insufficient buy-back prices to grain companies for exporting various grades of wheat to the U.S. during the 1993-94 crop year and that the board did not put the money into the pool which is distributed among all producers.
The case has been before the courts three times. It was initially thrown out then reversed and then overturned again.
The Supreme Court refused to hear Mr. Hoeppner's appeal of an earlier decision by the Manitoba Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court's decision left intact the Manitoba Court of Appeal decision which stated that the Canadian Wheat Board could not be sued by Mr. Hoeppner because it was not answerable to the producers, but to the minister responsible for the wheat marketing agency.
Hoeppner stated that the minister of charge of the CWB, Ralph Goodale, has appeared before the House Agriculture Committee to answer questions, but refused to divulge any information about the secret affairs of the agency.
"The minister only has to reveal what he feels he wants to," said Mr. Hoeppner, who hired a private investigator to look into farmers' complaints about the board before he launched his lawsuit.
"The act itself suggests that the board is not to be held accountable to producers, but rather to the minister responsible and ultimately, to Parliament itself," read the decision.
The court argued that since the board is required to file an annual report to the minister and that the minister is responsible to make it available to cabinet and Parliament, that these provisions "tend to negative a duty to obtain the best price, recover the largest rebate or seek and obtain the most favorable terms in contractual dealings."
In his decision, Manitoba Court of Appeal Justice Charles Huband wrote that the board cannot be sued, concluding "the legislation envisages the board suffering litigious attack by its producers as it endeavors to fulfill its statutory mandate."
The court went on to write that Parliament can scrutinize the board's administration and "will be responsive to producer concerns."
"It would be inconsistent to require the board to be answerable in civil suits directly to producers," read the decision.
"It means the Wheat Board is immune from lawsuits," said Winnipeg lawyer Patrick Riley who represents Mr. Hoeppner as well as farmers who are also suing the Wheat Board in a separate case. Mr. Hoeppner is also involved in this case.
Mr. Riley described the Wheat Board act as "out of step with normal law."
"The whole notion of legal immunity is shrinking," he told The Hill Times. "Wheat producers have less rights than convicts in jail who have successfully sued their jailers."
Mr. Hoeppner said the court's decision isn't right because MPs can't get information on the workings of the board since it is protected by the Access to Information Act.
All told, Hoeppner's legal bills could be as high as $100 000. That's one of the things we do know.
Off-board marketing for wheat given green light in Ontario
On March 5th-6th, 1998 at the Provincial Delegates' Conference of the Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing Board delegates met to review and debate marketing and policy issues of the board.
At the meeting, a report was presented by a five member delegate committee established to review an off board marketing system for Ontario wheat producers. The report of the "Declared Off Board Marketing Review committee" was adopted by the delegates and is now referred to the Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing Board.
The directors of the Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing Board will be meeting in early April and will follow with an announcement on the next steps in handling the recommendations from the report.
There are several key recommendations to the report:
It is important to note that delegates turned down a resolution calling for a producer vote on agency marketing. This not only indicated support for pooling and the cash pricing of the board but also that the proposed new marketing alternative requires time to be implemented to work in harmony with the existing marketing plan.
Farmers battle Wheat Board in Manitoba
Twelve farmers continued the fight to market their own grain in a Minnedosa court room March 16th to 19th. The fight started in March of 1996 when a convoy of 39 trucks and cars hauled barley to the USA without a Canadian Wheat Board Export Permit. Most of this barley was taken from the farm of Andy McMechan in Canada and delivered to his other farm a few miles away in North Dakota. Andy McMechan was facing farm foreclosure and was unable to market his waxy barley through the CWB for the premium price it deserved. Upon entering Canada the farmers were all told that their trucks had become the property of Revenue Canada and should they choose to drive them away they could be charged with theft. A roadblock just north of the Canada Customs Office of Lyleton was set up by the RCMP and the farmers were all charged with theft over 5000 dollars. When the farmers went to court where they would have been granted a jury trial the theft charges were dropped. Over the ensuing months four different customs charges were laid against the farmers each resulting in summary proceedings in Manitoba Provincial Court.
Since the original charges some farmers have plead guilty, some have obtained legal counsel and had their cases adjourned. There are now just 12 stalwart individuals doing battle with the CWB either in person or through their personal advisors. Alfred Bouchard, Clayton Desrochers, Norman Desrochers, Roderick Flaman, Kurt Freitag, Bradford Harris, John King, Arthur, Mainil, Valbert Rekken, Stewart Scott, and Robert Shaw listened to evidence put forward by Crown Prosecutor Christopher Mainella for four days in Manitoba Provincial Court in Minnedosa. One charge of exporting wheat or barley without a Canadian Wheat Board Export Licence was stayed after the acquittal of Andy McMechan on the same charge. The remaining charges are for exporting wheat or barley without reporting in writing, failing to put their vehicles in custody after they were seized and removing the vehicles from a customs office without the release from Customs Officers. As it turns out there is no obligation on a person who has had goods seized to place them into Custody. This is the responsibility of the Customs Officers themselves as they testified in Court. It also turns out that none of the trucks were in a Customs office and therefore there can be no such charge as removing the trucks from a customs office. In this case the Minister has designated the Customs Office of Lyleton with a Postal Code, and a phone number. The postal code is presumably at the Post Office in Lyleton, Manitoba.
So the remaining charge to be dealt with is that of exporting without reporting in writing. It appears from testimony that the only way of reporting in writing that is acceptable to Canada Customs is by having a Canadian Wheat Board Export Licence. This is not stated anywhere in the Customs Act but there is a Memorandum from the Minister stating that this is Policy. Although there is another Memorandum from the Minister of National Revenue stating the purpose of the memorandums is to educate the public and government employees it was not shown that these memorandums are actually law. Nor was it shown that there could be any charges laid for not obeying these memorandums. Testimony from the CWB witness Trevor McGee indicated that the CWB Export Licence is a requirement anywhere in Canada but that it was provided at zero cost to whomever the CWB believed had met their "Internal Policy Requirements." These requirements were not substantiated in court with any written documentation, but it is understood that in Quebec and the Maritimes there are no additional requirements for the receipt of a "free" CWB export permit, but that they are available simply for the asking. Again this is not stated anywhere in law, but is simply Canadian Wheat Board Policy which is assumed to be established in Winnipeg and which is enforced by a Memorandum from the Minister of National Revenue to the Officers of Canada Customs. Another important aspect of Canada Customs ability to enforce the CWB policy is the exclusion of the requirement to report in writing. The law grants the power to exclude commodities from the requirement to report but that list is again the subject of discretionary memo writing powers of the Minister of National Revenue.
A "Notice of Constitutional Question" was filed in opposition to the proceedings in Provincial Court in Minnedosa by the 12 farmers. Judge Peters ruled that all evidence would be heard before the Constitutional Question was heard and that the farmers must make these submissions in writing as part of their closing argument. This written argument is scheduled to be in the hands of the Court by April 20th. Dan Creighton who is advisor to some of the farmers will be preparing this argument with the help of the farmers themselves. It is believed that this is the "last best hope" of proving that the Canadian Wheat Board does not have a legal monopoly over wheat and barley in Canada. In fact part of the final argument will hinge on the Competition Act and the World Trade Agreement where some individuals believe that criminal charges could actually be laid against the Board.
Protecting citizens from overzealous lawmakers
By Craig Docksteader
The recent introduction of Bill 26 in the Alberta legislature underscores the lack of protection for the individual rights of Canadians. In a move that was quickly abandoned, Ralph Klein's government introduced a bill which would have limited compensation to hundreds of people who were sterilized without their consent between 1929 and 1972.
Simply by invoking the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution, Klein's government intended to override what limited protection the Constitution provided, and leave the individuals with no legal recourse. The immediate public outcry led to a quick reversal, but not before focusing attention once again on the lack of real protection citizens have from overzealous lawmakers.
On at least one front there is momentum growing to see this lack of protection changed. That's the area of property rights. Property rights are probably the least secure of all individual rights, because they are not even mentioned in the Constitution, and receive little security by their appearance in the Canadian Bill of Rights.
In an attempt to at least partially rectify this problem, Gerry Breitkreuz, MP for Yorkton-Melville, has been working on a Property Rights Bill. If passed, this bill would both strengthen the Canadian Bill of Rights, and prevent politicians from using the "notwithstanding" clause found in the Constitution Act unless two-thirds of MPs supported it.
Although the odds of seeing it passed by a government which has repeatedly trampled on property rights are slim, Breitkreuz is not only going ahead with his bill, but circulating a petition to gather grassroots support for the initiative. Regardless of the outcome, one can hope that the bill will serve to draw increased attention to the need for stronger property rights, and by doing so, perhaps ratchet the issue up a notch on the public agenda.
Meanwhile, in the Alberta legislature, Ron Hierath, MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner, is sponsoring a bill called the Personal Property Bill of Rights. Because federal law supersedes provincial law, the bill would not provide protection from federal violations of property rights, but apparently would increase protection on the provincial level. Although somewhat of a weak measure, there is nonetheless a general consensus amongst folks following the issue that it represents a step in the right direction.
Considering the importance of property rights and the fact that they are a foundation stone in any free society, a person can easily become somewhat perplexed as to why there is not more support for such measures on the political level. Just the other week, MP Jim Pankiw made a motion in the House of Commons that the Charter of Rights be amended to recognize the right to the enjoyment of property and that this right not be violated without due process and full compensation. The result? It was voted down. It's even more puzzling when you consider that previous polling results have shown over eighty percent of Canadians support property rights.
Probably the simplest explanation for the ambivalent attitude of Canada's politicians towards property rights legislation boils down to one simple fact: Property rights legislation requires government to pass laws which puts limits on it's own powers. There's something about that equation that doesn't sit well with most professional politicians. To compound the problem, Canada has a history of drafting laws which increase dependency on government, rather than decreasing it.
Whether we like it or not, the recent debacle in Alberta tells the story the way it really is: Property rights in Canada are minimal, and it is unlikely we will see government significantly strengthen them until the public demands it.
They call it democracy (March 30, 1998)
By Craig Docksteader
As the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry conducts its hearings on Bill C-4, the Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) Act, its finding a lot of objections to the Act. Among them are: the exclusion clause, the inclusion clause, the government-appointed CEO, farmers electing only ten of the fifteen directors, CWB directors being required to operate in the best interests of the government corporation instead of the best interests of farmers, previous directors being protected from lawsuits and fines, and on it goes.
But at the heart of the debate lies an issue which receives little attention, and yet is probably the most distasteful. You might call it legislative off-loading. It goes like this: The government makes a law that only affects a certain group of people. Some of those people affected dont like the law. In order to silence the dissenters, the government turns over the administration of the law to the affected group. Now the government claims that it is no longer responsible for any dissatisfaction with the law because it is in the hands of the party upon whom it impacts. This, it says, is democracy.
Not only is this the personification of poor leadership, but its subtly deceptive. The proposed changes to the CWB Act do nothing to address the real issues and actually pass the responsibility for their resolution to the non-legislative level. Farmers, whose argument was once with the government, are now told theyll have to settle it amongst themselves. This lays the groundwork for what might prove to be the most divisive piece of legislation ever tabled in the House of Commons. To top it off, it is suggested that anyone who does not prefer to embrace this kind of arrangement doesnt believe in democracy.
If this is democracy, somethings wrong with it. Consider that the CWB Act essentially makes farmers shareholders in a government-established marketing corporation whether they like it or not. Obviously the shareholder part is not technically correct, but by way of analogy, its a fit. Each year, farmers put billions into this corporation and are paid by the CWB on the basis of the overall rate of return. But, if a farmer is dissatisfied with the Boards performance, he is prohibited by law from selling his shares and entrusting his personal property to an alternative marketing corporation.
When confronted with this, the government claims to have solved the conflict by allowing farmers to determine ten of the fifteen directors on the board. They dont seem to understand that dissatisfied producers will take little comfort in electing a director to a corporation with whom they dont want to do business.
Frankly, the proposed changes to the CWB Act are closer to tyranny than democracy. The crop on a farmers field often represents his income for the year. It is hardly radical to suggest that he should be able to choose where he sells it, and retain the right to agree on the selling price before transferring ownership to the buyer. If all his neighbors want to market another way, they should have the freedom to do so voluntarily and cooperatively, without forcing their personal convictions on others and calling it democracy.
Bill C-4 is now in the hands of the Senate. While there might be some tinkering on the edges, there is no indication that the basic direction of the bill will be changed. Farmers could very well find themselves saddled with a new Wheat Board Act which will aggravate the problems instead of solving them. If this happens, the least the government could do is to quit calling it democracy.
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 which can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
C-4 Enshrines Two Classes Of Wheat Farmers
Bill C-4 must be amended to avoid having two classes of wheat farmers in Canada - Ontario farmers who have a choice in how they market their crops and western farmers who are chained to a monopoly, says Larry Maguire, President of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA).
Maguire says a recent decision giving Ontario farmers the option to market wheat outside the Ontario Wheat Producers Marketing Board (OWPMB) has put western farmers in an intolerable position.
"It is inconceivable that we can tolerate a situation in Canada where professional business people, engaged in the same enterprise, can be made to operate under such dramatically differing arrangements," Maguire told a Senate hearing in Regina into the proposed new Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) Act.
In its submission, the WCWGA says Bill C-4 should be amended to provide western wheat producers a "Declared Off Board Alternative" identical to the Ontario program. He notes the decision by Ontario farmers to give themselves a choice would not be possible under the CWB governance structure.
The WCWGA brief says the dramatic turn of events in Ontario has magnified the shortcomings of Bill C-4.
"The government must understand that the adamant defense of the status quo is the voice of the past," says Maguire. "It cannot survive, and the Ontario situtation has ensured its imminent end."
Other major deficiencies in Bill C-4 are the so-called "inclusion clause" and measures that place the Board under more strict government control.
The inclusion clause, which provides a mechanism for crops to be added to the CWB monopoly, will create uncertainty in non-board markets and compromises Canada's negotiating position in upcoming trade talks, says Maguire.
"If the clause is triggered, it will lead to a bitter and divisive debate which will threaten investment and development," he says.
Maguire says government claims that Bill C-4 "democratizes" the Wheat Board are false. In fact, he says the legislation tightens federal control over the Wheat Board, with the government appointing the CEO, five of the directors, and approving the CWB's operating plans.
Unless the government is prepared to give western farmers a "Declared Off Board Alternative", the Wheat Growers request the legislation be delayed until the Estey Review on grain transportation is complete so that the implications of the Ontario decision can be studied further.
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