Monday, August 06, 2007

Put A Sock In It

Harper is rallying the troops, claiming farmers are "sick and tired", in the aftermath of his Canadian Wheat Board defeat. Interesting, Harper made the comments in Saskatchewan, where a full 45% of the hopping mad farmers voted for the clear single-desk question, despite the objectively misleading plebicite. Harper will not cave:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says farmers are "sick and tired" of efforts to block changes that would end the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on barley sales.
Harper told about 300 Conservative supporters in Lloydminster, Sask., that the battle is not over.

Harper says it may have to wait until next season, but the Conservative government will open the market whether the wheat board likes it or not.

The Canadian Wheat Board is a monopoly, but it is also a representative body:
Since 1998, western Canadian farmers have controlled the CWB through the election of 10 representatives to its 15-member governing board, which oversees the organization and sets its policies and direction. Directors are elected for four-year terms, with elections alternating between odd- and even-numbered districts every two years.

Pardon the lack of a link, but I do believe that in the last election, those supporting a single-desk won the day (which explains Strahl's purposely confused vote). Harper is acting like the CWB is some aloof, detached organization, with no relationship to the real farmers in the field. If farmers were as outraged as Harper continually suggests, why then hasn't the "abolish the monopoly" side not gained control of the board, through elections? Sounds pretty fundamental from here, doesn't it? "Whether the Wheat Board likes it or not" is really divisive language, and another glimpse into the Harper "dark side".

There are many issues out there, but if you had to isolate just one to highlight all that is wrong with this government, the attitude, the tactics, the misleading presentations, it all congeals around the CWB. I'm sick of listening to these poor sports, who cry foul when someone points to the rules. In my mind, thank christ that the courts act as a check on this outrageous process.

As an aside, a great piece by Adrian Measner, the man canned by Strahl, who dared to offer resistence in the holy war (seems appropriate, given the zeal).


Oxford County Liberals said...

You are correct: Of the 5 seats that were contested, 4 of the 5 were won by a rep that supported the continuation of the CWB as the single-desk rep. Harper of course won't let that little inconvenient fact get in the way of his propaganda blitz.

I dare Harper to say that type of speech to a crowd of farmers in Saskatchewan, rather then just Tory supporters.. and let's see whether he gets the same reaction.

Steve V said...

Thanks Scott, I couldn't recall the exact results :)

Anonymous said...

I think it's odd that Harper wants to abolish something that many small-time farmers in the US want but can't have due to anti-trust laws.[1] Sadly, those same antitrust laws aren't equally pursued against the corporate farmers as judiciously.

Is he for the corporate monopoly farmers (who would have much to gain from the absence of the CWB, as they do in the US; in addition, US farmers/businesses harshly oppose the CWB[2][3]: is Harper really working for CANADIAN businesses' interests or AMERICAN businesses' interest here? Hmmmm) or small time farmers who gain from the CWB? Since he's going after barley (which according to this[4] is a more corporate crop), I guess it's American corporate interests at the expense of small businesses, which are the actual drivers of an economy.

Also I don't understand the 'monopoly' label Harper is trying out to ring in bad feelings against the CWB. Our phone service, Bell, was a monopoly at one time, for good reason; universal health care is a monopoly, for good reason (universal access, lower costs, moral reasons/health care doesn't work in the normal market b/c HMOs want you to be LESS healthy, single-payer efficiency).

Monopolies are only bad when egregious anti-competitive behavior outweighs the good of the monopoly.

[1] I had a good link for this but I've lost it...sigh. Suffice to say, it (a US farmers' website) basically said that the CWB highly benefitted small farmers and they tried to get the same thing in the 1920s, but antitrust prevented it. They now suffer greatly in response to the market shocks as crops get oversupplied/undersupplied, so that only the big companies can prevail (and the companies themselves also have vertical monopolies that the antitrust depts. haven't gone after)
[3] " National Briefing | Washington: The Wheat Wars
Published: February 16, 2002

Responding to complaints from North Dakota farmers, the United States trade representative accused Canada of undercutting American wheat producers through monopoly practices by the Canadian Wheat Board, a government trading group. "

"Barley production is more concentrated on big corporate farms while wheat is grown on more family operations."

Anonymous said...

If the monopoly is so great, they shouldn't be worried about the miniscule number of farmers you claim want out of it.

So those farmers should be let out.

According to you guys, they'll just go under right? So what's the problem? Farmers should have the freedom to fail too.

Or is it that Liberals simply want to use force on people for the sake of it? Just to let everyone know they can? - that's understandable, and popular among liberals/NDP/BLOC/Greens.

Anonymous said...

Fine, let them out, if that's what's desired by the farmers: but, by an Act of Parliament, not by using some imaginary power that ultimately turns out to be ultra vires. This is, after all, a democracy, not a dictatorship.

After all, farmers have a large voice on the CWB, which of course changed in 1998 to do just that, under Ralph Goodale.

Once again: monopolies are _NOT INHERENTLY BAD THINGS_, just like businesses aren't inherently bad or governments aren't inherently bad. Republicans in the US are all for monopolies too, geesh...and now it's a bad thing because it actually helps *gasp* the little guys instead of the CEOs?

Anonymous said...

"According to you guys, they'll just go under right? So what's the problem? Farmers should have the freedom to fail too."

Yes, they'll fail and big business will swoop in and make their own VERTICALLY INTEGRATED anticompetitive monopolies. Just like in the US. Remember, the Canadian farmers asked for the CWB IIRC, because of what I explained can happen without it.

You might want to look at why Canada has a growing middle class, as opposed to most countries like the United States...we have a government responsible to its citizens, for one.

Anonymous said...

Ya, ya - blame the Liberals - it was the Conservative Party who set up the Wheat Board in the 30's in the first place.

There an interesting site that gives a background of the neo-cons and the wheat board: Actually, this site gives info on all issues and Harper.

I find it interesting that the US has been pressuring Australia to dismantle it's wheat board - and Howard to them NO. Why did Howard say no to the US (Harper's mentor and Bush's other poodle).


Anonymous said...

Great double standard as usual...force the CWB on western farmers but eastern growers get a choice. Typical liberal hypocracy.

Steve V said...

"Great double standard as usual...force the CWB on western farmers but eastern growers get a choice. Typical liberal hypocracy."

It would seem there is a system already in place, that allows for change, if farmers endorse it. That pretty much makes your point nothing more than partisan babbling. Also, if such an overwhelming sentiment exists, why not have a clear question? Why purposely skew the results, if you know the majority supports abolishing? In my mind, the fact that Strahl has to blur the lines speaks volumes about the real climate.

Oxford County Liberals said...

The majority of the farmer's section of the ELECTED reps (10 of em) support maintaining the CWB in its current format, "anonymous", and as mentioned already, 4 out of 5 of the new reps in the last election also supported the CWB in its current format.

That's a pretty inconvenient fact for folks like you and the Conservatives when they try to argue about how beaten down the farmers are with the CWB - it appears a lot of them like it just the way it is.

Oxford County Liberals said...

By the way Steve, I really wish you would turn anonymous comments off... not because I believe it will remove the sockpuppets on here (anyone can make a pseudonym still on Blogger without being forced to reveal their true Identity), but because at least it would give us a handle to reply to rather then having 4 different anon's in a row with 4 different viewpoints, making it hard to reply to and breaking up the flow of convo... know what I mean?

Anonymous said...

"It would seem there is a system already in place, that allows for change, if farmers endorse it."

That answer still doesn't address the double-standard where western farmers have no option but to go through the wheat board, upon penalty of fine or imprisonment if they don't...

...and eastern farmers are free to use whatever selling mechanism they choose.

Steve V said...


You can eliminate the "double-standard" with the mechanisms already available. If you want to get rid of the "double standard", then elect representatives who favor that path. Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? The only relevant question, do farmers have a say in the system? Answer, unequivocally YES, which undercuts all the whining.

wilson said...

''Yes, they'll fail and big business will swoop in and make their own VERTICALLY INTEGRATED anticompetitive monopolies."

Totally b.s. argument.

Farmers in Eastern Canada are not forced by law and threat of jail term, to 'give' their property to the federal monopoly for them to sell, and your fearmongering of : big business will swoop in and make their own VERTICALLY INTEGRATED anticompetitive monopolies
has NOT happened in Eastern Canada.

Why you Libs always look to the US for answers in wierd! The answer can be found here in Eastern Canada.

Barley was brought into the Canadian WHEAT Board by Liberals, and there was no vote in parliament, they brought it in the same way PMSH tried to remove it.
Then Anne McLellands protege said 'can't do it that way'...
so why can't government reverse a policy via the same route that policy was brought in?

Steve V said...

"so why can't government reverse a policy via the same route that policy was brought in?"

That is an avenue, provided you have a MAJORITY. With every whiny compliant, a simple solution, with democratic underpinnings. What a novel idea for a democracy.

Anonymous said...

"the farmers have the right to fail too" - ya, and we taxpayers will have to cover their losses.

Anonymous said...

"If you want to get rid of the "double standard", then elect representatives who favor that path."

Many western Canadians have elected representatives who favour this path, namely Conservative members of Parliament. It is the Liberal and NDP establishments, admittedly among others, who are blocking this.

Canadian Tar Heel said...

Thanks for the articles, Steve. Interesting angle.

Anonymous said...

Eastern farmers have their monopoly too - that's why we pay more than twice as much for milk, eggs and cheese than it should cost.

The 'Marketing Boards' hold eastern consumers captive and allow no competition - anyone who tries to import milk will be jailed, any farmer who tries to sell milk without going through the Board will have his farm raided by the police.

While jacked up prices are good for the establishment - the establishment that throws a lot of money into a party that will keep them in power(Liberals) - keeping the establishment swimming in cash does no good for ordinary people, and it hurts poor people the most, not that the Liberals ever really cared about poor people - Liberals only care about the 'social agencies' they shower with taxpayer's money - because those agencies keep them in power at election time.

There are kids that drink Pepsi for breakfast, but would Liberals ever take up their cause and cut the price of milk in half by eliminating socialist friends on the 'Marketing Boards'? - not a chance.

Oxford County Liberals said...

Whine whine whine.

The fact is, the reforms in 1998 were designed to give farmers not only greater representation on the CWB but elected representation. They have elected reps that support the continuation of the CWB the way it is.

There is a specific part of the Act that says farmers can choose to remove that single-desk option if they choose. The last time they were asked in 1998 I believe, with a fairly worded question, they rejected that by a 2-1 amount.

The government can also remove certain crops out of the CWB jurisdiction by a vote from Parliament. Nothing stops the Conservatives from trying to do so... but they should stop whining about things when they dont have the votes.. and stop trying to do illegal end-arounds of Parliament to try and achieve their narrow ideological partisan goals.

Steve V said...


You haven't a clue when it comes to "marketing boards" in eastern Canada. If you wanted every egg, bag of milk or chicken imported from the States, and the domestic farmer destroyed, then open up the market.

A perfect example is chicken. There is no supply management when it comes to breeder stock (i.e chickens that lay eggs, that become chicks, that become meat). Did you know that every chicken you eat comes from an egg of a chicken that is imported from the States? The domestic genetic strains are obsolete, gone, nadda, nothing, because they simply can't compete with the MASSIVE American corporate machines. That is the one area where the free market rules with regards to chicken. What you advocate is destroying the domestic market, supply management allows for a pre-determined import quota, while simultaneously allowing local farmers a guaranteed market.

If you scan the various commodities, you will find that the supply managed "markets" are the only ones providing a steady, reliable income. I for one, am prepared to pay more for those goods, comfortable in the knowledge that people have jobs, the rural existence has some protection. People like yourself welcome the elephant to sit on the mouse, in the name of some abstract concept called free enterprise. It would work, to the Americans advantage, and the example I provided demonstrates it in spades.