Posts Tagged ‘Bill C-18’

An open letter to Canada’s Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, and Senators, from a broad and diverse coalition of 46 organizations representing millions of Canadians –

Support Canadian Food, Canadian Farmers, and the Canadian Wheat Board

Bill C-18, if passed, will destroy the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).  Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has repeatedly stated that he will not recognize the plebiscite recently conducted by the CWB, in which results were clearly in favour of keeping the CWB as the sole marketing agent for prairie wheat and barley intended for human consumption.

The CWB was created by an Act of Parliament, and is run by a 15-member Board of Directors, ten of whom are elected by farmers.  The Wheat Board provides fair, equitable, reliable, and cost-effective services to farm families.  It provides stability in uncertain times, and is a foundation of Canada’s grain sector.

Ending the single desk authority of the CWB would throw western agriculture into turmoil and would transfer wealth created by Canadian farmers to big, private, often foreign-owned grain companies—money now returned to farmers, who spend it in their communities.  The Minneapolis Grain Exchange has already changed its rules to allow for speculation in futures contracts for Canadian wheat and barley—a move which will increase price volatility for purchasers without providing any benefit to farmers.

Canada’s political system is built on representative democracy.  This means that the law, not merely the person in power, is to be respected and followed.  The CWB Act is a law made by Parliament, and it requires a farmer vote before any substantive changes are made to the single desk authority.  Our current government is ignoring this law—refusing to hold the required vote—and moving to eliminate the requirement for a vote.  This is deeply concerning, as it strikes at the heart of our Canadian democracy.

We the undersigned:

  • Recognize the billions of dollars of economic value that the CWB creates each year—for farmers, rural communities, short line railroads, and the whole of Canada—as a result of its superior marketing ability, capacity to defend Canadian interests in trade disputes, and commitment to return to farmers all net proceeds from sales.
  • Are proud of the strong international reputation for quality and reliability that Canadian wheat and barley have earned—a direct result of the CWB and its companion institutions, the Canadian Grain Commission and Canadian International Grains Institute.
  • Deplore the government’s disregard for the outcome of the recent plebiscite in which 62% of farmers voted in favour of keeping the single desk for wheat and 51% supported keeping the single desk for barley.

We therefore call upon the Prime Ministers, MPs, and Senators to immediately stop undermining the single desk authority of the CWB.  We further insist that Parliament must comply with the Canadian Wheat Board Act, Section 47.1, which requires a binding plebiscite (vote) of farmers before any substantive change to the CWB’s single desk authority is initiated.

Signed:

  • Agriculture Workers Alliance
  • Bathurst Street United Church, Toronto
  • Big Carrot Natural Food Market
  • Biofreedom
  • Brandon University Students’ Union
  • Briarpatch Magazine
  • Canadian Auto Workers (CAW)
  • Canadian Labour Congress
  • Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)
  • Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
  • Canadian Wheat Board Alliance
  • CCNB Action (Conservation Council of New Brunswick)
  • Centre for Social Justice
  • Coalition On The Niagara Escarpment
  • Council of Canadians
  • Council of Canadians – Moose Jaw, Sask. Chapter
  • Council of Canadians – Prince Albert, Sask. Chapter
  • Council of Canadians – Winnipeg, Man. Chapter
  • CWA/SCA (Communications Workers Union) Canada
  • Food Action Committee of the Ecology Action Centre
  • Food Secure Canada
  • Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board
  • GE Watch Comox Valley
  • GRAIN
  • Grain Services Union (GSU)
  • Greenpeace Canada
  • Growing Food Security in Alberta
  • Health Sciences Association of Alberta
  • Inter Pares
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 529
  • Lardeau Valley Seed Savers
  • Les AmiEs de la Terre de Québec
  • LIFT (Low Income Families Together)
  • National Farmers Union
  • National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
  • New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice
  • Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) – Windsor
  • Organic Food Council of Manitoba (OFCM)
  • Oxfam Canada
  • Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL)
  • Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN)
  • Society for a GE Free BC
  • The Ark Farm, B&B, Vegetables, & Native Plants
  • Union paysanne
  • United Church of Canada
  • United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)

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I received this letter from the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board. I think it speaks for itself.


The Attack on the Canadian Wheat Board: Seven Reasons Non-Farmers Should Care … and Act

Some of the 400 people who rallied in front of the CWB headquarters, Oct. 28, 2011. Photo: Paul S. Graham

On October 18th, Prime Minister Harper introduced legislation, Bill C-18, to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. The majority of farmers oppose the Prime Minister’s plan—farmers have repeatedly voted for a strong, effective CWB. Farmers are organizing and protesting. But to save our democratically controlled marketing agency, farm families need your help, and the help of the organizations with which you work.

The loss of the CWB will hurt every Canadian family. Here are seven reasons why non-farmer Canadian citizens should act to help protect the Wheat Board:

1. Privatization and Loss of Economic Control
Few sectors of the Canadian economy are 100% owned and controlled by Canadians. But one is: our multibillion-dollar western wheat and barley marketing system. If the Harper government destroys the CWB, it will turn over to transnational corporations (most of them foreign) a critical sector of our economy that is now owned and controlled by Canadian citizens. What C-18 takes away from farmers and other Canadians, it gives to grain giants such as Cargill.

2. Genetically Modified Food
In 2000, Monsanto moved to introduce genetically modified (GM) wheat. Farm organizations, environmental groups, and citizens’ organizations banded together to stop Monsanto and keep GM wheat out of Canadian fields and foods. United, we succeeded. The CWB was a crucial ally. Many people and organizations believe that had it not been for the work of the CWB, Canadians would now be eating food made from GM wheat. Lose the CWB and we may lose the fight to stop GM wheat.

3. Food Sovereignty
As an alternative to a globalized, long-distance, corporate-controlled food system, many Canadians are advocating Food Sovereignty, wherein farmers and all citizens collectively shape the food system we want for our families. The CWB is a good example of Food Sovereignty in action: a democratic agency controlled by food producers and citizens. By attacking the CWB, this government is pushing back hard against Food Sovereignty, serving notice that our future food system will be more far-flung, more corporate controlled. A government hostile to the CWB is hostile to Food Sovereignty.

4. National Sovereignty
Today, Canada has its own grain production, processing, handling, and transportation systems. Our Canadian Grain Commission sets and enforces quality standards—equal to the highest in the world. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulates new seed varieties, keeping harmful ones out and ensuring farmers have access to seeds that grow well in our climate.

Most of our grain flows “east-west”, hauled by Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways and loaded onto ships at Canadian ports by Canadian workers. If we destroy the CWB, other parts of our Canadian grain system will be destroyed in turn. As the government empowers US-based grain transnationals, those corporations will chafe against Canadian regulations and push for the destruction of our Grain Commission, seed regulations, and the rest of our quality and regulatory systems. Destroying the CWB accelerates the Americanization of our grain and food systems.

Worse, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Chapter 11 gives US-based grain companies a veto over future attempts to rebuild our CWB. If we destroy it, we can’t get it back.

5. Your Economy
The CWB is the cornerstone of our Canadian wheat and barley marketing, handling, and transport systems. Those systems create jobs:

  • in Winnipeg where the CWB, the Grain Commission, the Canadian International Grains Institute, and other agencies are headquartered;
  • in Thunder Bay, Ontario; Churchill, Manitoba; Vancouver, B.C.; and Montreal, Quebec; where Canadian export grain is cleaned, blended, and loaded onto ships; and
  • across Canada as money is retained in this country and spent in rural and urban centres.

The CWB raises farmers’ revenues by $500+ million annually, money largely from foreign nations that is spent in urban and rural businesses across Canada. PriceWaterhouseCoopers calculated the CWB’s total benefit to the Canadian economy at more than $850 million annually. Without the CWB, citizens and communities across the nation will suffer financially.

6. Our Democracy
The vast majority of farmers want a strong, effective CWB. Farmers have reaffirmed that support in 10 votes—3 plebiscites and 7 sets of Directors Elections. Despite this, the Harper government is pushing forward to destroy the CWB. And it is doing so illegally.

Section 47.1 of the CWB Act requires that farmers must vote in favour of major changes to the CWB. The government is ignoring that law and refusing to hold a vote. Also, the government is ramming its legislation through parliament, using closure to limit debate, refusing to let the Agriculture Committee examine the bill, and instead setting up an ad hoc committee to review the bill, but limiting that committee to just 5 minutes per section. Prime Minister Harper has announced he will “walk over” the farmer majority that support the CWB, and he has called his drive to dismantle the CWB a “train barrelling down a Prairie track.” Our federal government is sneering at democracy, evading due process, and bending the law to the breaking point. If these antidemocratic tactics are not challenged, they will be repeated.

7. Farms and the Land
The CWB raises farmers’ prices and incomes. And the CWB provides equitable access to the market for all farmers, big or small. Losing the CWB will accelerate the loss of family farms. In so doing, it will concentrate farmland ownership in fewer and fewer hands. A blow to the CWB is a blow to family-farm agriculture, and the men and women who produce our food.

You can help protect our food supply, sovereignty, economy, and democracy

Time is short. We need to act fast. But action takes just 15 or 20 minutes. What is needed right now is for Canadians to write two short letters:

  • One to Prime Minister Harper, asking him to scrap Bill C-18, his destroy-the-CWB legislation, and to instead enact policies that foster Food Sovereignty and a strong Canadian nation and economy; and
  • One letter to Canadian Senators, asking them to resist pressure to fast-track Bill C-18, and to instead give careful and adequate consideration to this detailed and far-reaching legislation; to hold meetings of their Agriculture Committee; and to hear presentations from farmers, workers, businesspeople, and other Canadians who will be affected by this legislation.

Contact information for the Prime Minister
Hon. Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
FAX: (613) 941-6900
Email: stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca

Contact information for Senators
Canadian Senators
c/o the Clerk of the Senate
Parliament Building
Ottawa, Ontario


I also think it would be worth it to contact your Member of Parliament. Here are some useful links and a video to round out your resource kit. Don’t delay.