Canadian Wheat Board directors stand up to Harper on Parliament Hill

With legislation set to be passed by Christmas, CWB, farmers and Opposition MPs urge government to do the right thing

WINNIPEG, Nov. 15, 2011 /CNW/ - Today, for the first time ever, all eight farmer-elected Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) directors, representing tens of thousands of farmers, along with members of the Opposition, stood on the steps of Parliament Hill to call on the Harper government to stop its illegal decision to dismantle the CWB by Christmas.

With less than five weeks left until the end of the Parliamentary session, there is still time left for the Harper government to put an end to the legislation that will devastate the livelihoods of many Canadian farmers, said Allen Oberg, chair of the CWB's farmer-controlled board of directors

"We want a clear answer from the Prime Minister on why he is rushing this legislation through Parliament and why he unlawfully chose to ignore the 62 per cent of farmers who voted to keep the CWB in our own plebiscite," said Oberg. "We are here because we cannot sit idly by while this government sacrifices farmers' interests to those of giant American grain corporations. We cannot stand and watch farmers' democratic rights be steamrolled.  This should be a farmer's decision - not one that is made in Ottawa."

Farmers aren't the only people taking issue with the Harper government's treatment of Prairie farmers. In the one-week Stop the Steamroller campaign, over 25,000 Canadians sent letters to their MPs in support of farmers.

"The response to our campaign was incredible - Canadians are passionate about this issue," said Oberg. "They fundamentally disagree with a government that uses bullying tactics to get its way.  It's time for the Harper government to start listening."

Joining the farmer-elected CWB directors on the Hill were Manitoba wheat farmers Reg Martinet and Drew Baker, as well as NDP agriculture critic Pat Martin and Deputy Liberal Leader Ralph Goodale.

"For my entire life, my family has worked through the Canadian Wheat Board, our own marketing organization, to sell our wheat around the world and retain all the profits ourselves," said Baker, 24, a fifth generation farmer.  "By dismantling the Wheat Board the Harper government is putting western Canadian farmers at risk without even consulting us."

Martin calls the Harper government's treatment of the CWB an "affront to democracy.  The way (the Conservatives) are pushing this bill through is reckless and irresponsible.  It shows their blatant disrespect for Parliament." 

"The Conservatives try to silence their critics by claiming that those farmers who still want the CWB can still have the CWB, voluntarily -- but that`s false," said Goodale. "The CWB's defining characteristic is its single-desk selling system. With no single desk, no capital base and no access to grain handling facilities, what's left is an empty shell set up to fail."

Canadian Wheat Board Quick Facts:

Why are the government's actions illegal? 

Despite the fact that the law requires the government to consult with farmers on changes to the CWB, the government refused to hold a vote among farmers and has ignored a vote conducted by the CWB. Not only is this decision illegal, it's also the opposite of what the farmers themselves want.  A recent plebiscite among wheat and barley famers showed 62 per cent want to keep the CWB.

What happens to Canadian farmers without the CWB?

  • Farmers will be left to negotiate their own prices with giant American food conglomerates - this will mean the beginning of the end of family farms that form the backbone of Canadian agriculture.
  • Hundreds of millions of dollars in additional, premium returns that the CWB makes for Prairie farmers will be lost. All profits from grain sales will go to owners and shareholders of private grain companies, instead of to farmers themselves.
  • The CWB is paid for and run by the farmers themselves - it receives no public subsidies. Farmers receive all its returns, after costs.
  • The wheat and barley industry will go from being run by Canadians to being run by American and foreign interests.
  • Beyond farmers, the elimination of the CWB will cause economic harm to many small communities throughout Western Canada.

More information is available www.stopthesteamroller.ca 

Image with caption: "Deputy Liberal leader, Ralph Goodale (M), Chair of the Canadian Wheat Board, Allen Oberg (L), and NDP agriculture critic, MP Pat Martin (R), speak out on Parliament Hill in support of the Canadian Wheat Board. Photo by Jana Chytilova for CNW. Narrative Advocacy PR for the Canadian Wheat Board (CNW Group/CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20111115_C5948_PHOTO_EN_6697.jpg

Image with caption: "Drew Baker, 24, a fifth generation wheat farmer, speaks out on Parliament Hill in support of the Canadian Wheat Board. Photo by Jana Chytilova for CNW. Narrative Advocacy PR for the Canadian Wheat Board (CNW Group/CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20111115_C5948_PHOTO_EN_6698.jpg

Image with caption: "Allen Oberg, Chair of the Canadian Wheat Board, joined by Canadian farmers and opposition MPs, speaks out on Parliament Hill in support of the Canadian Wheat Board. Photo by Jana Chytilova for CNW. Narrative Advocacy PR for the Canadian Wheat Board (CNW Group/CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20111115_C5948_PHOTO_EN_6699.jpg

SOURCE CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD

For further information:

or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Tricia Soltys
Narrative Advocacy Media
Direct: 416-644-4128, Cell: 416 509-0955
tricia.soltys@narrative.ca

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