Canadian Farmers for Justice
web posted June 1997
Charter Challenge to Canada Wheat Board to Go Again
The Alberta Barley Commission is once again trying to strike down the
monopoly powers of the Canada Wheat Board in court. The commission has
decided to appeal a Federal Court ruling that upheld
Wheat Board Admits Monopolies Abuse Their Customers
In the latest round of finger-pointing, the Canadian Wheat Board Advisory Committee attacked the railways for failing to deliver export grain to ports on time, and attributed the problem to a "virtual monopoly" the carriers enjoy in transporting crops to market.
That led CFFJ member Russ Larson to ask, "Is that a fact or a confession? If the railroads failure to perform is due to their monopoly status, then it's time we moved to end the Wheat Board's monopoly privileges as well."
The CWB Advisory Board issued a press released which stated, "Because the railways have a virtual monopoly, they can fail to provide service and then abuse their largest customer with impunity." Responds Larson, who farms at Outlook, Saskatchewan: "They're finally seeing the light. Western Canadian farmers have been captive to the Wheat Board for fifty years, and have absolutely no choice. Consequently, the Board has no accountability for its performance."
Fellow CFFJ member Richard Nordstrom disagreed that the railways are solely responsible for shortcomings in the grain transport system. "Fact is," he said, "the reason grain is backed up on prairie farms is that the railroads face price controls and a tangle of regulatory supervision when they haul lit. All other commodities are deregulated, and they reach the ports on time. Once the grain is forcibly expropriated from farmers, no one owns it."
"Monopoly is the problem all right, but it's not a railroad monopoly," added Nordstrom of Viking, Alberta. "The CWB's disciples all suffer from the delusion that its monopoly is pro-farmer. But all the farmers who take them to court see their cases dismissed on the grounds that the Wheat Board is not the farmer's agent, but the federal government's. There's a total lack of accountability or public scrutiny over the Board."
The Canadian Wheat Board gradually increased its involvement in grain transport over the last generation, according to Larson. "Eventually, the Grain Transportation Agency evolved and the whole bureaucratic apparatus, which is responsible for marshalling and scheduling train runs, has consistently failed to perform well. It's amazing that these monopolists now have the nerve to point fingers at the railroads.
"It's also very ironic that they use the 'monopoly argument' to pass the buck, when they themselves enjoy a total stranglehold on wheat and barley marketing," Larson concludes. "It's nice to see them admit that a captive customer is not well served."
NCC Ad Campaign Urged Voters to Say "Good Riddance to Goodale"
The National Citizens' Coalition launched a campaign to urge voters in Regina to defeat Agriculture Minister Ralph Goodale on June 2.
"Ralph Goodale may be the worst agriculture minister farmers have ever had," said NCC president David Somerville. "We will be urging voters to say `Good riddance to Goodale"'.
The NCC ad campaign featured tough radio commercials, newspaper ads and a direct mail blitz.
Somerville noted that under Goodale more than 100 farmers have been charged with selling their own grain without Ottawa's permission. One farmer, Manitoba's Andy McMechan, was actually jailed. "Goodale wants to maintain the wheat board's antiquated monopoly even if it means trampling the freedom of western farmers," says Somerville.
The NCC also said Goodale wants to amend the wheat board act to require the CWB to pay the fines and legal fees of any of its employees convicted of criminal acts committed on behalf of the board. "He wants to prosecute the innocent and protect the guilty," says Somerville.
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