No respect for farmers, democracy
2 December 2011 1 19:01 Medicine Hat News Opinon

I was not surprised last week when the current government used its majority in the House of Commons to ram through a Bill to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.

What continues to surprise me, however, is the contempt this government has shown toward the farmers who will feel the effects of the legislation.

The Canadian Wheat Board Act is clear: The Government of Canada has a legal obligation to consult with farmers before making any changes to the way the Canadian Wheat Board currently operates, something they have refused to do.ĂŠInstead of respecting the rule of law, the Harper-led government argues that their majority win in the last election gives them the authority to move forward without consulting with farmers.

Even faced with the result of a plebiscite initiated by the Wheat Board, which found that 62 per cent of wheat farmers and 51per cent of barley farmers wanted to maintain the Wheat Board in its current form, the Harper government remained stubbornly unfazed.
The process is only half over as the Senate is now beginning the legislative review of this Bill. Liberal senators have proposed to bring the Senate’s Agriculture Committee to Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in order to conduct hearings on the ground, where these farmers, their livelihoods and their families will face the consequences of the Harper government’s ideological agenda.

All senators need to hear what the more than 38,000 farmers who voted strongly in support of the Board’s single-desk marketing system have to say. Studies have shown that by selling their grain through the Board, Western farmers receive $800 million more than they would by selling their product on their own. Following the Harper government’s changes, farmers will be at a significant disadvantage, as they will be left to sell directly to a few large multinational corporations that control the market. Western farmers understand the challenges they will be facing from now on, but the government refuses to listen.

Instead of blindly staying the course on this ill-advised policy, Conservative Senators should seize this opportunity to travel to Western Canada to hear from farmers. Grain farming is their business, it’s their livelihood, and they have a right to be heard. More importantly, it is our duty as senators to listen to their point of view.

Sen. Tommy Banks

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