Against the wishes of most western farmers, and in defiance of laws that they are sworn to uphold, Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are poised to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board. In truly Orwellian fashion, the Tories describe this as “democracy,” all the while invoking closure on Parliamentary debate and refusing to hold the farmers’ plebiscite that is required by federal law before any such major change can be made to the status of the CWB.
The CWB has been a bone of contention in farm policy circles for decades. While a loud minority of western grain producers have been clamoring for an end to the CWB monopoly on wheat and barley exports, most farmers continue to support the Board, as evidenced by several CWB Board of Directors election results and a recent CWB-sponsored plebiscite. The reason for the Board’s enduring support is that it works for farmers, as opposed to private grain companies who exist to maximize profits for their shareholders.
Urban Canadians have yet to wake up to this issue, though this is starting to happen. The Council of Canadians is prominent in the coalition of organizations leading the fightback. What we city slickers need to get our heads around is that this is, first and foremost, a battle for democracy. It is a struggle against growing corporate control of our food and the relentless corporatization of agriculture that is destroying rural communities.
One one level, the issues are complex. You can get a crash course by watching the video I produced along with my WCTV colleague Ken Harasym. Follow that up with visits to the web sites listed below and you will be well on your way.
On another level, it is very simple: like us, farmers are part of the 99%. We gotta stick together. Occupy that, Stephen Harper!