Thursday, June 30, 2011

When is a plebiscite not a plebiscite?

When it’s a survey.

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard the arguments almost every day – the CWB Act requires a producer vote to make any changes to the CWB and not allowing farmers to vote in a plebiscite is taking away their democratic rights. 

Take a close look at Section 47.1 of the Act:

Minister’s obligation

47.1   The Minister shall not cause to be introduced in Parliament a bill that would exclude any kind, type, class or grade of wheat or barley, or wheat or barley produced in any area in Canada, from the provisions of Part IV, either in whole or in part, or generally, or for any period, or that would extend the application of Part III or Part IV or both Parts III and IV to any other grain, unless

(a) the Minister has consulted with the board about the exclusion or extension; and
(b) the producers of the grain have voted in favour of the exclusion or extension, the voting process having been determined by the Minister.

This says that if the Minister wanted to exclude any grain from the control of the CWB, there are things he must legally do, including provide a vote for producers.

The CWB and its friends keep harping on this “requirement” for a vote.  But they’re either misinformed or misleading.  The Minister has made it clear; he is not excluding anything from the Act, he is not making a change to the Act, he is shutting down the Act completely.  This is what governments do from time to time; they change the law.  Nothing in the Act can supersede the government’s authority to change the law.

Let’s be clear; this “plebiscite” is nothing more than a survey.  Not only is it not required, it doesn’t even comply with the Act that it’s relying on; according to Section 47.1 of the Act, the voting process has to be determined by the Minister.  You can be certain that he is not determining anything here except that this plebiscite is irrelevant.

Besides that, there are some serious problems with the CWB’s own plebiscite:

1.       The voter’s list will be defined by the CWB.  Even with the CWB elections, the voters list is fraught with problems.  This one will be no different.  If you’re not a CWB supporter, you may not even be on the list.
2.       The CWB has said it will be a vote of wheat and barley producers only.  All crops suffer from the single desk, and therefore, if you must have a vote, all producers should have a voice – not just wheat and barley producers.  If you don’t support the CWB and show it by what you choose to grow, there’s a good chance you’re not on the list.
3.       The questions presented by the CWB do not even contemplate a role for a voluntary CWB.  The CWB’s own surveys over the years have shown that many, many producers believe there is a role for a voluntary CWB.  Excluding this option disenfranchises all those farmers that would look forward to a voluntary CWB.  Because some of the board members don’t believe in a voluntary CWB, those producers that do, don’t get a voice.

Fundamentally, the whole idea is counter intuitive.  What the CWB is saying is the majority of farmers should decide for everyone.  Even if 90% of farmers want the single desk, it makes no sense that they should dictate how the other 10% manage their affairs.

Bottom line: the CWB’s “plebiscite” is nothing more than a survey, is not binding and fraught with bias. It is a complete and utter waste of time and money.

If you like what Minister Ritz is doing, if you are looking forward to the open market – with or without a voluntary CWB – then show your support of an open market by NOT voting in the CWB “plebiscite” (survey).  In the infamous words of Allen Oberg, “Why bother?” 

The most powerful statement a producer can make is to say nothing at all.


  1. Glad to see some concrete, factual remarks regarding the current CWB sandbagging tactics. I'm completely sick of this organization's approach to everything. Marketing, payment, elections, and now change have all been a study in mediocrity and incompetence with this group. If other farmers wish to pay someone to market their grain, then by all means do so, just don't force me and others who feel no trepidation towards that increasingly important aspect of farming to underwrite those efforts. There are plenty of private enterprises that offer just that. Most grain companies already offer different pricing options geared towards hedging risk for the farmer for a price. The only difference is they don't force it upon you like some other antiquated agencies I can think of. Just because certain producers have the asinine notion that if nobody else is doing better than them in their marketing means they aren't doing poorly is not good enough for me. This website has already illustrated the numerous ways in which the CWB literally takes significant amounts of money from farmers' pockets. Believing anything else is both delusional and dishonest. Freedom from tyranny; give it to me now.

  2. If it were me that was under the gun,I would fight kick and cry too. Or does that make things better?

    there like my old dog deaf and halve blind and in the road most of the time. Time for the cwb to take the bullet.