One of the many pleasant aspects of being a grain farmer was dealing with CWB staff.  I could always be confident they had no secret agendas or axes to grind and their only orientation was to make my life easier.

It was always a contrast to the private grain traders whose only loyalty was to the shareholders of their employer.  The more thoughtful employees of the private trade recognized they were involved in a zero sum game of swindling farmers and exploiting their powerlessness.

Until the Harper pogrom against Canada, CWB employees had the benefit of earning what most saw as a “right livelihood” and their resulting dedication showed not only in their day to day dealings with sometimes hostile farmers acting out of ignorance of a very complex grain trade, but in the continued loyalty of many former employees to farmers and their welfare.

In spite of the fact a Federal Court Judge ruled Agriculture Minster Gerry Ritz’s legislation changing the CWB was illegal, his appointees are systematically purging Wheat Board staff.

The reaction to the news the Wheat Board will lose 70% of its staff by this summer is mixed.  The collection of internet trolls supporting Agriculture Minister Ritz have remarked that now there are fewer people sponging off farmers, and Ritz’s paid collection of cheerleaders in the Astroturf groups are applauding.  This is wholly disingenuous.  Even the most inattentive must have noticed the feeding frenzy as a new crop of private sector sponges line up at the trough to take money from newly powerless farmers.  The majority of western farmers who understand the international grain trade and voted to keep the single desk CWB are appalled but not surprised at this abuse of power.

At this stage, Harper and his collection of useful idiots and sycophants have, to use an appropriate Shakespearian quote, “piled sin upon sin.”  Although it may be too late to avert the misery of the staff being unjustly fired, the Courts will shortly have an opportunity to reverse this illegal nonsense.

As the chaos unfolding in the western grain industry comes home to the rest of Canada, the set of court cases designed to restore the CWB will be a test.  Does Canada wish to succeed as a nation by protecting a resource that is both fundamental to national survival and critical to feeding the world?  Or will it give up western Canada’s marketing and quality control arm, the single desk CWB and settle for less?

More than Medicare and other icons of Canada, the Wheat Board represents not only the lynch pin of western agriculture, but the wellspring of much that is essential to Canada as a nation.  It is no accident that every Member of Parliament voted to make the CWB single desk permanent.

Nations can fail and often do, but if our institutions fail western farmers who depend on the single desk Wheat Board in the great game of global competition, then recrimination lays ahead.  Farmers and CWB staff who dedicated their efforts to truly helping farmers deserve better.

This institutional destruction is something conservatives throughout modern history have worked assiduously to avoid.  What a pity and irony that the vandals of this world now claim the title of those who should most hate such destruction.

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