Farmers for economic freedom

Updates from the Prairie Centre Policy Institute from Regina, Saskatchewan.

Hot off the press! Don Baron's Jailhouse Justice and
Canada's Great Grain Robbery
are now available at

web posted November 25, 2002

The Canadian News Board

By Ken Dillen

Sometimes it is difficult to clearly understand a situation someone else is in until you apply the same principles to yourself which govern them. Much like the expression, "Don't judge someone until you've walked a mile in his shoes."

In October, 13 Alberta farmers went to jail. They want the opportunity to exercise marketing choices for their wheat and barley. They do not wish to be compelled to support the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly.

Some editorials written about these farmers have favourably explained the farmers' plight in wanting marketing choice while others have condemned them or simply dismissed them as attempting to dismantle the CWB.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, editors' support for the CWB monopoly and the single desk marketing concept would have more credibility if their editorial board would call for the same marketing conditions to be applied to their industry.

For example, let's call it the Canadian News Board (CNB). While Canadian by name, it will only apply to the prairies. This board will have extraordinary powers. It will be able to take ownership of every story, every article, editorial content, what advertising will be accepted, how much the news will be worth, how many papers will be printed, and how much they will sell for. In other words, the Canadian News Board will have a monopoly on every printed word produced and the CNB will sell this material all over the world.

Every journalist will receive an initial payment at the beginning of the news year. The spin will be that this initial payment will stimulate creativity and imagination. After one year, and depending on how successful the CNB was at selling news, the journalist will receive a final payment. The fact that only half of the journalists agree with this system is of little consequence.

If a group of prairie journalists become unhappy with this arrangement and decide to take a sample of their work to the New York Times or the Washington Post to get paid upfront in U.S. funds, they will discover that they cannot do so without a News Board export permit. In order to obtain the export permit they must buy their news items back from the CNB at inflated prices, which negates the potential for profiting from the sale to a U.S. buyer. Meanwhile, their counterparts in Ontario and Quebec will be free to sell to whomever they please with no export permit and no buy-back.

A high level of anger and frustration will justifiably creep into this situation and the journalists will vent their frustration by openly calling for change -- a news dual market -- only to have those requests for change fall on
deaf ears.

The authorities, driven by the voices of those who relish collective mediocrity, will call on the Justice Department and Canada Customs to punish these wayward journalists to the full extent of the law. And if the law does not exist, make one up. The border must be closed. No news that is not controlled by the CNB will be allowed out of the country. "Throw the dissident journalists in jail", will be the rallying cry. And while they are in jail, others will write feverishly that they are deserving of their fate.

I wonder how many journalists would like to work under the Canadian News Board monopoly. Editors and other onlookers who support the principles of the CWB monopoly should call for the same conditions to apply to their industry. No doubt, they'd judge these farmers differently after they "walked a mile in his shoes".

Ken Dillen sits on the Board of Directors of the Prairie Centre Policy Institute.

web posted November 18, 2002

Economic slavery on the Prairies

By Ken Dillen

Dr. Barry Cooper teaches political science at the University of Calgary and Dr. David Bercuson is director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the same institution. They could hardly be accused of being unable to formulate an intelligent decision based on the Prairie experience and the facts.

It is certainly comforting to know that these two great scholars have come to the same enlightened conclusion that many prairie residents have, that the Canadian Wheat Board is a tyranny. They say the Canadian Wheat Board is "… a tyranny of rules and faceless bureaucrats for which even parliamentary oversight is absent. Alone among Canadian farmers, prairie wheat and barley producers must, by law, market their product through the Canadian Wheat Board." These learned scholars continue by pointing out that, "They [meaning wheat and barley growers] have no choice. The Wheat Board is a compulsory monopoly run by and for the people who staff it. Like CSIS, the spy agency, the CWB is exempt from access to information requests."

At one time, had anyone made such a damning indictment of the CWB, the defenders would have held rallies, marched in the streets, and would have accused the detractors of heresy and lies. They would have insisted on a retraction and even an apology. How times have changed. Today, the shrill voices in defense of the CWB are all but silenced. Even the most ardent defender is ready to admit that the CWB is a secretive, self-serving, untouchable bureaucracy, unfamiliar and insensitive to the realities of a changing world.

The CWB and its dwindling support base continues to assert that the Board extracts premium prices for farmers and will still not provide any empirical research that supports that assertion. Since Saskatchewan, with 48 per cent of the arable land in Canada is the biggest contributor of wheat and barley to the CWB, it should be the most prosperous province in Canada, right? Not so. Real income in Saskatchewan has fallen 7 per cent in the past ten years. In 2001, it had only 136,295 net taxpayers supporting just over one million people. It has a 1 in 7 dependency ratio (for every taxpayer, Saskatchewan has 7 people who take more out of the system than they put in). Saskatchewan has lost 20,000 people to out-migration in the past three years. In spite of these negative statistics, the CWB spin doctors continue to maintain that they are doing a good job.

Cooper and Bercuson, to their credit, see it differently. They say, "In practice, the CWB is simply oppressive. The 13 farmers who were found guilty of a crime are eloquent witnesses to its despotic power."

It is high time for the Liberal-dominated Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to present a Bill in the House of Commons to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act in accordance with the Standing Committee's own recommendation #14 to "authorize on a trial basis, a free market for the sale of wheat and barley".

In the past few years, we have witnessed the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and the re-unification of East and West Germany. Just like the Berlin wall was used to oppress East Germans and keep them from the free market economy, the Canadian Wheat Board uses its power to oppress those who want the freedom to market their grain as they choose. Is it possible that the end of another bastion of socialist oppression is finally very near?

Ken Dillen sits on the Board of Directors of the Prairie Centre Policy Institute.

web posted November 11, 2002

“Operation Wheatbar”

By Ken Dillen

Sometime prior to April 1996 an "operation" was re-established with the United States Customs to place food exported from Canada for human or animal consumption into the same interdicted category as drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and guns. The operation was referred to as "Operation Wheatbar" and included an agreement between the most senior member of the Canada Customs Border Services, Steve Sloan, and Richard Mercier, who was at the time the U.S. Customs Attache at the U.S. Consulate in Ottawa.

The purpose of "Operation Wheatbar" was to formalize a document and information exchange agreement with U.S. Customs, even though bringing Canadian grain into the U.S. is not an offence in that country. A farmer who wished to take wheat or barley into the U.S. only had to stop at the U.S. Customs office and pay a $5.00 fee for the certificate and was asked to drop off the scale ticket on his return to Canada.

Information gained through an Access to Information request reveals that Canada Customs was apprehensive about how the U.S. information would be used against western farmers and sent a cautionary memo to all Managers, Prairie Region Investigations, Subject: USE OF U.S. SOURCE DOCUMENTS:

"As a follow-up to recent telephone conversations and the re-establishment of OPERATION WHEATBAR, with U.S. Customs, I would like to reaffirm that we should not be using U.S. source documents in any of our civil proceedings. It is our understanding that we will only use the documents when we proceed criminally.”

This was an undertaking that CCRA had given to the U.S. Consulate. That was their word, that was their bond. However, in style so untypical of anything Canadian, they went on to say, “Once the matter has been resolved and the documents are a matter of public record the use thereof, in civil proceeding can be justified. Please ensure that we observe these procedures as we do not wish to jeopardize our document exchange program.” Signed Steve Sloan, Chief, Investigations Section with a cc: to Richard Mercier, U.S. Customs Attache.

Not only was "Operation Wheatbar" a document exchange program, but the agreement extended to the use of force by armed U.S. border personnel if they were called on for assistance by Canada Customs officers, who were unarmed and had not yet received their surveillance equipment and body armour.

In a letter from John Pinches, Acting Manager Customs Section to Mr. Mercier U.S. Customs Attache, a boastful John Pinches writes, "Operation Wheatbar, to the credit of your Customs personnel, has paid high dividends. As you are aware, many of our cases [prosecution of western farmers] would not have reached a satisfactory conclusion without the spirit of co-operation extended by U.S. Customs. The letter continued, "We cannot understate how critical the maintenance of this program is to the effective enforcement actions taken against those who would choose to violate the regulations".

Farmer Andy McMechan was jailed for 155 days, even though it has been subsequently determined that the law in question did not exist. Thirteen more farmers have been jailed in Alberta. Twenty-eight more are facing the same consequences in Regina.

To the American public who cherish freedom, the very notion that their own Customs Attache participated in the jailing of Canadian farmers whose only crime was to get the best price for their wheat and barley is nothing short of outrageous. When one farmer has his most basic freedoms and individual rights violated by the joint action of two governments it is a serious threat to the freedom of everyone.

Ken Dillen sits on the Board of Directors of the Prairie Centre Policy Institute.

web posted November 4, 2002

Animal legislation still haunts rural Canada

Recently the "good folks" the farmers, ranchers, hunters, trappers, fishermen and loggers, the rural sustainable use community -- won a small battle in the war to defeat Bill C-15B, the proposed federal animal cruelty act. The Bill died at the recent proroguing of Parliament. The victory is temporary, because the bill can be re-introduced at the same stage that it died, as opposed to starting from scratch. Bill C-15B was in the final stage of Senate approval so, if the Liberal government chooses, it could be sent back to the Senate for speedy passage.

The measure moves animals one step closer to being granted new rights, in line with the radical animal rights agenda. It is bad for rural communities because it will allow more intrusions into what are normal animal husbandry practices, and expose animal industry workers to capricious and intimidating legal actions.

The stated goal of the radical animal rights movement is the complete elimination of animal use by people, including those used for vital medical research, a practice that has saved all of our lives. The best way to eliminate animal use is legislation that opens the door to lawsuits, inspections, increased bureaucracy, and general meddling by animal welfare societies; groups that are increasingly "hijacked" by animal rights extremists.

You think I'm kidding? A member of the Winnipeg Humane Society (WHS) and another from the Animal Alliance of Canada recently teamed up to write a letter to a national newspaper condemning modern animal agriculture. The Animal Alliance is one of the most radical of all Canada's animal rights groups and this "alliance" with the Winnipeg Humane Society, a supposedly mainstream animal welfare group, should be of great concern to rural communities.

In spite of repeated assurances from government officials, animal industries remain worried. "This law, as it's worded, opens us up to frivolous lawsuits," warns Peggy Strankman, spokesman for the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

"We'd be wasting a lot of time in court, and a lot of money on lawyers, defending our management practices."

Many animal rights extremists do intend to push the law as far as they can and they view Bill C-15B as but the first step in the granting of expanded animal rights. The strategy of the animal activists was revealed by Clayton Ruby, a Toronto animal rights lawyer, who said in the March 18, 2000 edition of the Montreal Gazette:

"…over the next 10 years, the changes will be subtle, masquerading as animal protection and continuing to develop as a moralistic adjunct to human rights until some of them at least get their own entrenched in law. We'll see the development of animal rights in a very hesitant way, through incremental changes in case law and judges attitudes…" The article goes on to say, "We need legislative protections and legislative change but you take what you can get. We're just at the beginning of the movement…"

Bill C-15B is another example of legislation crafted for urban voters but with profound effects on rural communities. The livestock industry, an island of prosperity in a sea of low commodity prices, is carrying many rural economies.

Rural, animal industry, and medical research interests have another, last chance to deal with Bill C-15B. The Liberal Rural Caucus, under the able chairmanship of Ontario MP Murray Calder, strongly opposes the bill, as does the Official Opposition.

If Bill C-15B is passed in its present form, all Canadians will feel the pain.

Reprinted from The Frontier Centre for Public Policy. A Backgrounder on Bill C-15B - "Giving Animals Rights" can be viewed at

web posted October 28, 2002

MLA pension plan - A source of capital?

By Ken Dillen

While the government of Saskatchewan continues to announce its investment strategy of millions here and millions there on a weekly basis, the investment contribution by the province is only from one source, the taxpayer. Over the course of the past twenty years its performance at picking winners and losers has not been very comforting.

The list of losers has cost the people of Saskatchewan hundreds of millions of dollars. With several litigations worth hundreds of millions more winding their way through the courts the costs could be even more devastating.

Over the years, the province has tried to invest itself out of disaster. The failure of that strategy can be measured in many ways, not the least of which is the current benchmarks identified by the Canada West Foundation, the Fraser Institute, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, as well as the Prairie Centre Policy Institute's report entitled "This Year Country - Creating Wealth in Saskatchewan".

The benchmarks are like a frame in time and they include the following: (a) a 14 billion dollar debt; (b) a 1.3 billion dollar dependency on various transfer payments from Ottawa; (c) an economy that performs at 32 per cent less than the national average; (d) in 2001, a total of 136,000 net taxpayers supporting a 1 million population; (e) 1 net taxpayer for every 7 dependents, a figure that is expected to increase to 1 in 17 by the year 2026; (f) a population loss of about 15,000 in the past two years of our most highly educated and skilled people; (g) real earning power that has declined by 7 per cent over the past two years.

Saskatchewan is obviously in a serious downward spiral and neither the government nor opposition MLA's have the courage to speak publicly about these conditions. All of these conditions exist in spite of years of massive intervention in the economy by the government using taxpayer's money, hailing it as "investment".

If these are such good "investments", why is the MLA Pension Plan not demanding the option to join in the investment play? Why is it not investing in Saskatchewan instead of Alberta shopping centers and foreign instruments? If the MLA pension plan is not willing to participate in provincial investments, why should the taxpayer be expected to take all the risk? Why isn't the government's investment criteria the same as that which the MLA Pension Plan employs? If an investment is not good enough for the MLA Pension Plan, why is it good for taxpayers?

The fastest way to a pension in most prairie provinces is to seek public office as an MLA. All it takes is two terms, usually no more than eight years, and a full pension is provided. In many cases, the MLA does not even stay in the province to spend his or her pension. Yet, the pension plan these MLAs enjoy does not invest in the enterprises the government so easily throws tax dollars into.

It is time for the government to use the same investment criteria in the investment planning for the province as the MLA Pension Plan uses when making investments. Perhaps the enormous losses and civil suits could be avoided if MLA's were required to put their own pension money on the line through the MLA Pension Plan when a potential investment is considered by the government, crown corporations and their subsidiaries.

While the MLAs are free and easy with other people's money, the MLA Pension Plan remains safe. Most individuals take greater care when it costs them something. As the old cliché goes, "Put your money where your mouth is."

Ken Dillen sits on the Board of Directors of the Prairie Centre Policy Institute.

Prairie Centre Policy Institute
#205, 1055 Park Street
Regina, SK
S4N 5H4

Phone: 306-352-3828
Fax: 306-352-5833
Web site:

The CFEN and CFFJ need your help! The battle against the Canada Wheat Board can only continue with your support.

Canadian Farm Enterprise Network
Box 521
Central Butte, Saskatchewan
S0H 0T0
Canadian Farmers for Justice
c/o Ron Duffy
R.R. #4
Lacombe, Alberta
T0C 1S0

Write the following and demand free market rights for Western Canadian farmers!

The Canadian Wheat Board
423 Main Street
P.O. Box 816, Stn. M.
Winnipeg, MB
R3C 2P5

Telephone: (204) 983-0239 / 1-800-ASK-4-CWB
Fax: (204) 983-3841

Email Address:

Ralph Goodale
Minister Responsible for the Canada Wheat Board
Department of Natural Resources Canada
21 - 580 Booth Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0E4

Telephone: (613)996-2007
Fax Number: (613)996-4516
Email Address:



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