Western Agriculture Ministers acting against the interests of rural
communities, says AFL
EDMONTON, Nov. 28, 2011 /CNW/ - The leading labour groups from the
Prairie provinces today united in calling on the Harper government to
abandon its illegal and undemocratic plan to dismantle the Canadian
Wheat Board (CWB).
"Bill C-18, which will be voted on in the House of Commons today, is not
about market freedom, despite what the Harper government claims. It is
an early Christmas gift to the Conservatives' corporate friends - at
the expense of Canadian communities, families and working people," says
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) which
represents 145,000 workers.
The AFL, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and the Manitoba
Federation of Labour today issued a joint statement condemning the plan
to dismantle the wheat board.
"The plan is illegal, because the government has refused to hold a vote
among farmers on the issue. It is undemocratic, because it ignores the
wheat board's own vote, in which a majority voted to keep the board,"
"It is extremely disappointing to see the Agriculture Ministers from
Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. today backing this deeply flawed plan.
They are acting against the interests of the fragile rural communities
they claim to represent," he says.
The joint statement from the labour federations says: "For more than 75
years, the CWB has worked successfully to help farmers negotiate on an
equal footing with the buyers of their products, mainly large
multi-national or U.S. corporations. It has also helped small Prairie
farmers compete with larger corporate farming operations."
It adds: "Clearly, the CWB is working for the majority of farmers. The
Tory government has not put forward a business case for its decision
and it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to wrap up CWB
operations. Prairie farmers and rural communities will lose out. Only
large corporations and foreign corporate buyers will benefit."
Says McGowan: "The real truth is that the Harper government believes in
a free market only when it's good for large corporations. It wants to
destroy the ability of farmers to freely and collectively bargain to
get the best price for their goods. It's the same ideological attack
Harper has made on the rights of workers to collectively bargain to get
a fair deal for their work in back-to-work legislation at Canada Post
and Air Canada."
The AFL president also issued a warning: "The Harper government won't
rest here. The dairy and poultry industries are next on the list of
Statement on Canadian Wheat Board
From the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba Federations of Labour
The Harper government's decision to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board
(CWB) is illegal and undemocratic. Once again, the Conservative
government is putting the interests of its corporate friends ahead of
the interests of Canadian communities, families and working people.
Illegal: The law requires the government to consult with farmers on any changes
to the CWB, but the government has refused to hold a vote among
Undemocratic: Farmers held their own vote on the future of the CWB and a majority
voted to keep the board. The Harper government is ignoring this vote. Farmers elect directors of the CWB - eight out of 10 elected board
members are strong proponents of the board. The Harper government is ignoring this. While Harper claims his majority in the House of Commons gives him a
mandate, 60 per cent of voters in the last federal election backed
parties that support the CWB.
The real story: The Tory government claims it believes in the free market, but wants to
undermine the ability of farmers to get together to freely and
collectively bargain for the best price for their goods. To Harper,
market freedom extends only to corporations. Any attempt by farmers or
workers to act collectively to get a fair deal for their work is under
attack. We have seen this in back-to-work legislation for members of
the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and for workers at Air Canada. We
are seeing it again now with the CWB. Next on the list of targets will
be the dairy and poultry industries. Ed Fast, the Minister of
International Trade, has admitted that the supply-management systems in
these sectors will be on the table in free-trade talks with the
Asia-Pacific trade group.
For more than 75 years, the CWB has worked successfully to help farmers
negotiate on an equal footing with the buyers of their products, mainly
large multi-national or U.S. corporations. It has also helped small
Prairie farmers compete with larger corporate farming operations.
The CWB has annual revenues of $5 billion to $8 billion, all of which
goes to farmers, less operating costs, as profit. It receives no public
subsidies. Studies show that farmers earn hundreds of millions of
dollars a year more when going through CWB than they would in an open
market. That money is vital to the survival of the small, family farms
that are the backbone of Canadian agriculture - and to the rural
Prairie communities where they operate.
Clearly, the CWB is working for the majority of farmers. The Tory
government has not put forward a business case for its decision and it
will costs hundreds of millions of dollars to wrap up CWB operations.
Prairie farmers and rural communities will lose out. Only large
corporate farmers and foreign corporate buyers will benefit.
That is why the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba Federations of Labour
wholeheartedly support the campaign to save the Canadian Wheat Board
and ask our members to join that fight by signing the petition at www.StopTheSteamroller.ca.
SOURCE Alberta Federation of Labour
For further information:
Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888 (cell)