by Stewart Wells
The Manitoba Co-operator 6 | October 2, 2014

W.C. Fields’ line, “Never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump,” has never been better executed than by the Conservative government and its farmer-disenfranchisement policies.

Its first move upon election in 2006 was to tear up the farmer-rail car agreement. While it wouldn’t have solved all the marketing problems from last year it would have at least given farmers a look behind the curtain.

This move was followed by taking away the community pasture network that farmers have relied on for decades, destroying the PFRA and the tree nursery, vaporizing the support that farmers had through the margin-based AgriStability program, and weakening the Canadian Grain Commission.

In parallel was the defunding and destruction of the grain varietal development and research capacity — and this at a time when the world’s population has never been higher and the climate has increasing variability.

Decimation of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) was next — farmers were disenfranchised and not allowed to vote on the matter according to the existing law, taxpayers were billed an unnecessary $349 million in 2011, and the $16-billion world-leading exporter was reduced from a business to a political manoeuvre with a few hundred million in assets.

Predictably the destruction of orderly marketing through the real CWB cost farmers $4 billion in lost income for the 2013 crop (money that ended up in grain company pockets, lost sales and demurrage charges), and the government now refuses to publish any financial reports for the Ritz-run CWB since 2012.

With financial cover ups and fast-tracking the giveaway of farmer-paid CWB assets, it looks like the government is trying to bury a dead skunk as fast as it can.

An agriculture minister from Ontario or B.C. could not have accomplished this much destruction. No, the minister had to be a short-term thinker from the Prairies where Conservative votes could be taken for granted.

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