Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Conservative Monopoly

Certain issues encompass all that is wrong with rigid ideology, wherein abstract commitment to certain "principles" fails to incorporate the real world application, blindly soldiers on no matter the evidence or circumstance. The now approaching SIX year battle to end the Canadian Wheat Boad "monopoly" is reaching climax, and it really is quite instructive to review the history and all the egregious moves by this Conservative government. I won't rehash here, but any superficial analysis will see a consistent pattern of oppressing opposing views, using government tools to try and influence the process, ignoring democratic will, failing to put forth a true economic argument that draws on independent support, a DIRTY fight that shows true colours, when push comes to shove..

There is nothing more STUNNING that Gerry Ritz evoking the Conservative mandate as moral justification for ending the CWB. Ritz uses democracy for underpinning, yet democracy is undoing, it more clearly than anything shows ideological zealots bent on achieving some ideal, NO matter what opposition or expression they face. Supporters of killing the CWB can blather on all day long, it will never change a core fact: farmers have democratic rights enshrined within the CWB, the mechanisms are already in place to allow for reforms or outright extinction. Farmers have opportunity after opportunity to elect anti-single desk directors, and YET every time votes are cast, they keep electing CWB status quo defenders, in overwhelming fashion. To my mind, freedom means self determination, western farmers have continually expressed themselves and supported the single desk. The vote over this summer another decisive result, that is being ignored by the Conservatives, shows an arrogance that doesn't respect core pillars of democracy.

There is a pile of misinformation floating around, so it's hard to decipher what is true and what is exaggerated, when trying to comprehend who will benefit, should the CWB cease to exist. For my money, no more powerful "proof" of upside to CANADIAN farmers than the close to TWENTY legal challenges over the years from the AMERICANS, wherein they claim unfair advantage. What we have here is a Canadian government giving American farmers what they've always wanted, and simply intuition should raise RED FLAGS when comprehending true benefits. Sift through all the bull, there is no escaping the clarity our competitors have revealed, a strong united collective is a powerful force which gives certain advantages, not my view, there's expressed time and time again.

The CWB is really a "strength in numbers" proposition, the little guy banding together to create a potent manifestation that has true power. Once you destroy that entity, you are left with small players who will ultimately be at the mercy of multinationals:
The Winners: Richard Gray, University of Saskatchewan agricultural economist, says big grain handlers such as Cargill, Viterra and Bunge should end up better off. They will face a huge new supply of sellers competing to unload their product and make money off the marketing margin, or difference between the purchase and resale price.

The Farmers: Ottawa is not promising farmers will see more money for their grain, but is instead talking up the potential for more investment such as pasta plants to drive demand for the crops. Studies have suggested the average price fetched will in fact drop because sellers will be competing for business with foreign buyers. And as Prof. Gray notes, just south of the border, where grain is already sold freely, there’s not an abundance of pasta plants. Pasta is fragile and plants tend to be built close to large population centres.

When the government announced they would be plowing ahead with CWB extinction (pay no never mind to this nonsensical idea that it can survive with "choice", a naked attempt to appease with no empirical underpinning), Viterra stock rose, because it is commonly assumed the big players will make more money under a true "free market" expression. Isn't it interesting, with all this talk about corporate greed, multinationals marginalizing local interests, gaps between rich and poor, that this government intends to enact new rules which will benefit the very entities under the microscope. This talk of local economic benefit is the stuff of unicorns, other jurisdictions have shown the promised jobs will never come, but we know full well where the loses will be seen. True is, there is really little economic justification for getting rid of the CWB at this time, plenty of ideological stubbornness, but not much in the way of independent backing.

The Conservatives will likely win this battle, but it has been a shameful exercise, they have conducted themselves like thugs during the process, truly embarrassing for a national democratic government. All Canadians should worry, another example of policy being guided by pre-determinded biases rather than evidence based expressions. It's days like these I almost feel we are being run by a single minded cult, rather than being provided the "good government" we generally assume.

23 comments:

Sean Cummings said...

>> Farmers have opportunity after opportunity to elect anti-single desk directors, and YET every time votes are cast, they keep electing CWB status quo defenders, in overwhelming fashion. To my mind, freedom means self determination, western farmers have continually expressed themselves and supported the single desk. The vote over this summer another decisive result, that is being ignored by the Conservatives, shows an arrogance that doesn't respect core pillars of democracy.<<

When you say they keep electing CWB status-quo defenders in overwhelming fashion, do you have any numbers to back up that claim? If 51% of farmers say "keep the CWB" and 49% say they want the right to market their grain, that isn't exactly a strong mandate for keeping the CWB. Even if the vote was 60/40 in favor of keeping the CWB, that means that 40% of farmers don't want them. Moreover, a large number of farmers no longer grow wheat because they want to sell to whomever they please. There is nothing at all wrong with keeping the CWB and giving farmers the right to choose between selling on their own or not.

Why should a grain farmer in Ontario be allowed to sell to whomever he/she pleases but not one in Saskatchewan where I live? For opponents of the CWB, this is a matter of their fundamental right to make a go of it without relying on the CWB. If you can somehow remove yourself from the rhetoric surrounding the debate, the simple fact is that a farmer should be allowed to market his/her own product.

This is going to happen. Farmers should be allowed to sell to whomever they please. Not being afforded a basic right to sell to whomever you please is a thousand times more undemocratic than what the Conservatives are doing.

Steve V said...

Ummm, the CWB regularly has elections and the single desk proponents keep winning. Do some homework, the elections don't lie.

Joe said...

I phoned a Alberta farmer friend of mine and asked him about your contention that the Wheat Board is a bunch of little guys banding together.

Between snorts of derision and thunderous guffaws he managed to tell me that this government at its worst being supported by the few farmers that still raise wheat and barley. Most farmers have been raising off board crops for real money and on board crops only when their land needs rotation. He would love to be rid of the board once and for all but he hasn't raised a board crop in the last few years so he doesn't get to vote on the board's plebiscites.

Sean Cummings said...

And the elections are a farce. Ever check out a CWB voter list? This summer's plebiscite is a shining example of high-end farce dressed up to look legitimate. The fundamental issue is one you still haven't addressed in your claim that the Tories are being so terribly, terribly undemocratic: why shouldn't a farmer have the right to sell to whomever he/she chooses?

I await your learned response.

Steve V said...

Oh, so democratic expressions, even though anti-single desk candidates are regularly running, are a farce. You're the farce Sean.

sharonapple88 said...

When you say they keep electing CWB status-quo defenders in overwhelming fashion, do you have any numbers to back up that claim? If 51% of farmers say "keep the CWB" and 49% say they want the right to market their grain, that isn't exactly a strong mandate for keeping the CWB. Even if the vote was 60/40 in favor of keeping the CWB, that means that 40% of farmers don't want them.

Hey, Conservatives were voted in with 39.62% of the vote.... that means that 60.38% didn't want them. And yet....

As for the vote on the wheat board here are the results:

62% keep the wheat board, 51% to keep the barley monopoly.

There is nothing at all wrong with keeping the CWB and giving farmers the right to choose between selling on their own or not.

It'll be difficult to maintain the wheat board. Here's one report -- check out page 11 onwards.

Steve V said...

sharon

Don't forget all the democratically elected board of directors. It's sad that critics are reduced to questioning the democratic validity, when we have a gov't supported by less than 20% of eligible voters. Get a clue.

Leeky Sweek said...

Let's keep the Wheat Board but with one condition: Ontario HAS to join.

Would that be fair?

Steve V said...

Let's have a vote on that and find out ;)

WEAK.

Leeky Sweek said...

Yeah, it may be weak, but it would level the playing field.

theo said...

@Joe:
“being supported by the few farmers that still raise wheat and barley. Most farmers have been raising off board crops for real money and on board crops only when their land needs rotation.”

One farmer. I talk to my cousin who farms northeast of Saskatoon. Two and half sections. Grows a lot of barley and canola but not a lot of wheat. Borage and the odd feed seed crop round out the mix. Real money, Joe? That occurs when the heavens align for the farmer which isn’t very often and it doesn’t matter what the crop is when that happens. My cousin loves the CWB as do most of the farmers around him. Farming is a tough business, Joe. You gotta really love it. Wheat and barley make a lot of money but only when the selling agent drives a hard bargain. That’s why the CWB exists, Joe. Farming is hard enough as it is without having the additional work of finding buyers for all your crops. When it is only Cargill, Viterra and other multinationals setting the buying price do you really think the average farmer is going to make more money? By the way, a huge number of farmers grow barley and wheat, Joe. Your farmer friend is full of it.

Sean Cummings said...

>>Oh, so democratic expressions, even though anti-single desk candidates are regularly running, are a farce. You're the farce Sean. <<

Why are you getting personal with the insult, Steve. I'm raising a valid point and, again, you're dodging the fundamental questions: why can't a farmer sell to whomever he/she chooses? How is what the Tories are doing in their legislation so undemocratic when the very farmers who produce the crop are told that they can't sell to whomever they please when farmers in Ontario, for example, can?

So are you suggesting we keep the single desk system and extend it to grain farmers nationwide? I mean, hey, that's probably the best thing since the CWB are clearly the best place to sell grain and therefore get the best deal for farmers.

sharonapple88 said...

Don't forget all the democratically elected board of directors. It's sad that critics are reduced to questioning the democratic validity, when we have a gov't supported by less than 20% of eligible voters. Get a clue.

They undercut their own point with that line of reasoning.

Another question that T of KW raised in an earlier discussion the CWB... why scuttle the free market when it came to the Potash deal and yet demand the free market when it comes to farmers?

why can't a farmer sell to whomever he/she chooses? How is what the Tories are doing in their legislation so undemocratic when the very farmers who produce the crop are told that they can't sell to whomever they please when farmers in Ontario, for example, can?

Steve's posts deals with the problems of eliminating the CWB.

Also, here are some differences between the Canadian Wheat Board and the situation in Ontario. Transportation, volume (Ontario's main crop isn't wheat -- corn and soyabean top wheat in the province), storage, the fact that Ontario grows a different wheat from the Prairie Provinces.

Most important -- the Ontario Wheat Board was voted down by farmers.

Steve V said...

Dodging? Your questioning the democratic process is proposterous and you expect a healthy debate. Seriously, who has the time, and if that allows you to say I'm avoiding, I don't really care to be honest. Come up with more than lame questioning on democratic votes and I'll engage, until then you bore me to tears.

Steve V said...

theo

The analysis shows farmers won't make more money, and it's just common sense that multinational giants don't benefit the small farmer, they benefit themselves and the cash they generate isn't reintroduced domestically necessarily.

sharon

They can't deal with the democratic angle, so they're forced to question how representative. It's just nonsense.

Sean Cummings said...

Which democratic process are we talking about now, Steve, the one where the CWB puts out a plebiscite that guys like you now wave around claiming that farmers support the CWB even when the question was loaded and the voting list was flawed or the fact that the Tories who campaigned and won a national election with everyone and their dog knowing they'd kill the CWB if they won a majority government?

Clearly, Steve, you MUST be from Ontario. There's a reason Liberals are the walking dead in Western Canada, you might as well be their poster boy. And again, why can't a farmer sell to whomever he pleases, Steve? Answer the damned question?

sharonapple88 said...

Tories who campaigned and won a national election with everyone and their dog knowing they'd kill the CWB if they won a majority government?

No. Going by their own platform book:

"We will continue to work with Western Canadian grain farmers to ensure that the results of the barley plebiscite are respected and that they are given the freedom to choose whether to sell grain on the open market or through the Canadian Wheat Board." (pg 58).

The barely plebicite in 2007 called to end the monopoly.

Bizarrely, they discuss supporting supply management, which if you're looking for freedom for farmers, why not fight this as well?

Omar said...

Wasn't it Trudeau who once said that if people didn't like his policies they didn't have to vote for them? Harper obviously believes that this move against the CWB isn't going to cost him political capital or I doubt very much he'd be acting upon it. But when it happens and if farmers are truly aggrieved by it then they should get their heads out their collective arses and vote for a party other then the Conservatives. That would be democracy in action.

Leeky Sweek said...

Interesting thought, Omar. We'll see if it comes true.

My thought is that any apprehension coming from Western farmers is stemming from the unknown. Once the WB becomes an option and the dust and routine has settled, I predict there will be no fallout.

As sharonapples88 mentioned, Ontario farms rejected the WB in their province. I think if the concept was that great, they would have endorsed it.

sharonapple88 said...

As sharonapples88 mentioned, Ontario farms rejected the WB in their province. I think if the concept was that great, they would have endorsed it.

Yeah, but then what does it say when the farmers didn't vote down the CWB?

As for the Ontario experience -- posted previously a pdf. that compares the situation in the Ontario and the Prairies. There are a number of real differences between the markets.

Outside of the single-desk, farmers still lose money planting wheat. The volatility in prices is one reason the provincial started up a crop price insurance program.

Jerry Prager said...

organize a sellers co-op, sell to buyers co-opers, frack corporatism

JimmE said...

Shall we cut the Democracy Crap please?
This is about giant Agra conglomerates flexing their muscle with their man in Ottawa. Next we'll have GMO Wheat & Barley, Cargil, Monsanto, & Dow are all salivating.
Oh, & BTW, seems when the Tories did the same thing in Ontario receipts for famers went in what direction again?
Please.

Marpman said...

So, if I understand this...the famers voted to keep the CWB but the government has unilaterally decided that they will scrap it.
I would suggest, as another has posted, that the government has been lobbied by big business and has decided to act accordingly.
I would hate to be a small(er) farmer without the agency, they are going to struggle to sell their crop at reasonable prices....undercut by the larger producer at every step. What will probably happen is that they will form cooperatives, acting essentially like the CWB....funny.
With Canada's economy in the toilet I would suggest that this is small potatoes....but hey, we got lots of cash....$33B in new ships to defend ourselves against something.