Farmers for economic freedom

Updates from the Canadian Farmers for Justice and the Canadian Farm Enterprise Network

Delegates to UGG want voluntary CWB

In early November, delegates to the United Grain Growers Ltd.'s annual meeting called for participation in the Canadian Wheat Board to be voluntary.

But Bill C-4, the controversial legislation to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act, doesn't take that step and there's little chance it will be changed to do so before being passed by Parliament.  

"The government seems intent on retaining the Wheat Board monopoly," said Blair Rutter of UGG, one of Canada's largest agribusiness companies.  Nevertheless Rutter, manager of policy development, said delegates were strongly in favor of a resolution calling on participation in the Wheat Board to be voluntary.

"The only thing we can do is make our views known to Parliament," he said. "There is still opportunity for change."

Formerly a producer-owned co-operative, UGG went public in 1993 and has entered into a partnership with U.S.-based Archer Daniels Midland Co.

In their own words...CFEN members file submissions with Ag Committee

Members of the Canadian Farm Enterprise Network recently filed submissions to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on Bill C-4, a bill which amends the Canada Wheat Act. CFEN members stated that they could accept Bill C-4 if it simply contained a provision which allowed western Canadian wheat and barley farmers to opt out of the CWB system of grain marketing.

Here are two submissions made by Bernie Sambrook and John Husband, directors of CFEN

Written Submission to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on Bill C-4, by Bernie Sambrook

As a member-director of the newly formed Canadian Farm Enterprise Network, I appreciate the opportunity to present, in writing, my views on Bill C-4. The CFEN is a network of like-minded entrepreneurial individuals who share a common goal of creating a marketing environment in which individual achievement can be celebrated, not scorned. We want a free market in wheat and barley!

There are many reasons why we support a free market system over a system of compulsion and central planning. But why we believe this is not as important as the fact that it is contemporary reality that we not only believe, but know that a free market is superior to what we have today. Those who support a voluntary approach are clearly in step with what is occurring elsewhere in Canada and around the world. At the very least the government must recognize that this desire to market wheat and barely in western Canada cannot be ignored and will not be pacified by insignificant adjustments to the buying monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board.

I find it typically political for this Ontario-dominated Liberal government to think that although they can hardly even register in terms of representation of the people who this bill will effect, they can gauge what is needed to address the dissatisfaction with our current marketing system by acting on advice from only those who see no fundamental flaws in the CWB monopoly system. It would be as if the school-yard bully was the main source of advice to a principal trying to deal with kids being beaten up on the playground -- worse yet, having the principal acting on that advice -- but would be understandable if the bully was being told to harass the kids by the principal, wouldn't it?

There are three areas I would like to address concerning this particular bill:

1. Accountability to farmers

If Bill C-4's aim is to make the CWB more accountable to farmers it fails miserably. If Bill C-4's aim is to present the illusion of accountability, chalk one up in the win column for Mr. Goodale. For accountability to actually exist an honest accurate accounting must first take place. As long as all information concerning the CWB's operations, past and present, remains secret and exempt from scrutiny by way of exemption from freedom of information, accountability will only be an illusion.

The duty of care still remains to the government, and any newly elected farmer directors will, by law, have to act in the best interests of the corporation (CWB), even if it is not in the best interests of farmers. Again, the illusion of accountability, while no real accountability will exist.

The sole objective of the CWB has been to market in an orderly manner, in interprovincial and export trade, grain grown in Canada as identified in clause 5 of the CWB Act. What does this mean? What is the definition of "orderly marketing"? Does "orderly marketing mean having forty or fifty ships waiting in Vancouver harbour for months at a time collecting demurrage? Having terminals in Vancouver waiting with the wrong types and grades of grain while these same ships are waiting and charging demurrage, does this constitute "orderly marketing"? When special deals are arranged for good supporters of the CWB monopoly system i.e. Manitoba Pools Warburton's deal, is this what "orderly marketing" is? Is "orderly marketing" happening when the federal government uses its power to throw in a good deal on wheat to a customer or strategic ally in order to clinch some other deal? Or maybe "orderly marketing" is considered anything that isn't a free market? Of all the flaws in this bill, surely the government could define better what "orderly marketing" is, instead of leaving it open to vague interpretation.

2. Inclusion and exclusion

I may be deluding myself, but it is my understanding that Canada is a free society, and as a citizen and a businessman living in a free society, I expect that I can take certain actions on my personal behalf without seeking approval from some higher authority. Freedom is nothing more than the ability to convert will into act, but this bill will take this freedom from me and hand it over to a delegated body made up of my peers and neighbours. Surely this cannot be classified as freedom? Maybe Fidel Castro's idea of freedom, but definitely not the freedom we expect in a country like Canada. This bill will make it law for my neighbour to have a greater claim to my property than I do.

My main disagreement with the inclusion and exclusion provisions of this bill is the fact that the authority to make these changes will continue to rest with the minister and the government. Here again we can chalk one up for illusion. It may seem that farmers will decide these contentious issues, but has Ralph Goodale knows, farmers will not reach a consensus on this issue any time soon, if ever. All that these provisions will do is generate deeper divisions within the farm community and all the while allowing the Liberal government to take a pass on what is their responsibility and deflect the criticism away from the minister. This, in my opinion, is a cowardly way of dealing with a very tough issue and Ralph Goodale and the Liberal government should be ashamed of themselves for their lack of backbone!

3. Compulsion vs. Choice

As I have stated earlier, as long as compulsion is the foundation of the CWB, any amendments to the CWB and Bill C-4 will not find any form of support from the CFEN and any western Canadian farmers who are demanding marketing freedom.

The only amendment that will calm the waters of discontent is an amendment that will make participation in the CWB voluntary. Our organization would support a formal opt out-opt in provision to this Bill.

If a farmer signed an affidavit proclaiming which system he or she preferred, that farmer could be free to market their wheat and barley as they wished. This would identify to the CWB which farmers are with them, and how much grain they will likely have to market in the coming crop year.

To say this system will affect the ability of the CWB to market effectively is to say that in a drought year, with less grain to market, the CWB can't market as effectively because it doesn't have the same volumes of grain as it would have in better years. Also the belief that because it doesn't own any terminals and elevators, it couldn't market this grain because they would be in competition with the companies that do, doesn't stand up to reason either. Since in an opt-out, opt-in system, grain contracted to the CWB could only be sold through the CWB, it would be extremely bad business for any company not to do business with the CWB because their competitors surely will. Some feel enforcement would be a problem, but again, it doesn't stand up to reasoned thought. For years farmers and grain companies have operated with contracts and parties abide by these contracts without extravagant enforcement costs. In every elevator and terminal in this country a computer system is in place to keep records of farmers and deliveries. A numbered system could be put in place identifying opt-out farmers with a 01 designation, and CWB farmers with a 00 designation. When a farmer delivers a load of wheat or barley, the computer will only issue cash settlement of the chosen system to that farmer.

I can assure you farmers who opt-out will not waffle or try to sneak back into the CWB system. Since the CWB supporters are more than happy to try and force others to sell to the CWB, I'm sure they won't have any trouble making a commitment to the CWB themselves.

This proposal is sound, it is do-able, and it has support. But what it does not have is a willingness by the powers that be to make it work. If this government wanted to have a voluntary system to work, there is no doubt in my mind that it could work.

In conclusion, it is the opinion of the CFEN that this Houdini Bill will solve nothing, it is only an attempt to perpetuate the illusion on a very serious situation in western Canada. Only when the marketing of wheat and barley is done by choice, not compulsion, and only when true facts replace propaganda, will this issue die away.

Written Submission to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on Bill C-4, by John Husband

For over fifty years we have been deceived and misled about the Canadian Wheat Board. The current head spokesman, Ralph Goodale, and CWB Commissioner Hehn, have disparaged farmers for a lack of understanding about the CWB, and yet they have continued with the same deliberate misleading obfuscation about the Board.

In order to understand the true nature and function of the CWB, one must look to the CWB Act itself and to its interpretation in the courts. Although very complicated and carefully crafted, the Act conclusively dispels the myths about the CWB that have developed over the years.

It is indisputable that the CWB is the forced placing of private property into public ownership.

While not a classic direct taking by government, it denies farmers the most fundamental right of ownership, which is the control and management of property. International law recognizes that when property has been interfered with so, to all intents and purposes, that it has been taken by the state, even though the state purports otherwise.

Black's Law Dictionary defines expropriation as "taking, as of privately owned property by government" which occurs when "government action directly interferes with or substantially disturbs the owner's use and enjoyment of the property."

Over the years, governments have schemed up so many different ways of taking private property, that there is a need for specific definitions for each kind of state taking. Confiscation and expropriation are the terms that most accurately define the functioning of the CWB. Expropriation means the owner receives adequate compensation for the taken property. Expropriation changes to confiscation when the compensation is inadequate or uncertain. Much of the debate among farmers has actually been about the adequacy of prices from the CWB system, however, this is not an issue for a growing number who are opposed, in principle, to government taking their property, whether confiscated or expropriated.

Our courts recognize the expropriation aspects of the CWB, but without Charter property rights for Canadian citizens, they rule that Parliament can indeed expropriate and confiscate private property, provided is is for public purpose. In 1943, the purpose was to hold down wheat prices to aid the war effort. In 1997, our costs have determined that the present justification for the CWB is to protect Canadians from the "harms of the open market"! This is inconsistent with the fact that Canada has ratified international trade agreements such as NAFTA and GATT that do not allow state institutions such as the CWB to interfere with the natural functioning of the marketplace.

To justify confiscation on the grounds of protection from the marketplace will also surprise and concern many Canadians who grew up believing that Canada is based on freedom and a market economy. This century is filled with the miseries of people who were protected from the open market, a hollow security indeed.

The issue is important to all Canadians, not just farmers. Grain is very important to the economic well-being on the prairies, but affects us all. It raises concerns of what other resources, livelihoods, or even savings might such an interventionist government target next? We need to understand very clearly that this issue is not about farmers marketing grain. This is the confiscation of private property, and only on the prairies. Who can really believe that the government is changing laws, maximizing penalties and jailing farmers simply to appease farmers who support monopoly marketing? In India, the ruling British jailed over 100 000 people, trying to keep their colonial state monopoly on salt.

Amendments to the CWB Act tabled in Parliament attempt to provide a pseudo-open market, but only within the confines of the CWB monopoly. Producer elected directors are to be part of the governing board, but will only be puppets subject to the direction and control of Cabinet. The government simply refuses to give up its level of control over the west.

Consider that in 1948, the United Nations proclaimed that property rights are a basic human right for all peoples of the world and that the United Nations has condemned colonialism and "all practices of segregation and discrimination associated therewith, in whatever form and wherever they exist." Also consider that Canada has signed trade agreements that force our government to give strong property rights to foreign investors in Canada.

As our parliamentarians, you need to explain why Canadian citizens are denied the property rights that are guaranteed to foreigners. You need to explain why you are confiscating our private property, and you need to explain why you are doing it only in western Canada.

J.E.S. Fawcett, writing in The International Protection of Human Rights, lists the generally accepted purposes that a state may take for restricting human rights:

threats to security, war, national emergency; control of crime, protection of public health; observance of certain accepted moral standards; protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

What is the purpose of the CWB?

The CFFJ needs your help! The battle against the Canada Wheat Board can only continue with your support. All cheques should be made payable to:

Canadian Farmers for Justice
Attention: Ron Duffy
R.R. 4
Lacombe, Alberta
T0C 1S0

Write 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
Department of Natural Resources Canada
21 - 580 Booth Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0E4

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

Want to find out more about this group of farmers fighting for the right to keep the efforts of their production and the right of free trade? Visit CFFJ's site at

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