Pride-And-Prejudice Country Dance(February 18, 2016)  On Tuesday we were treated to the usual Parliamentary Question Period dance.  Unlike those classic dance scenes in costume drama movies like Pride and Prejudice where the whole community works in synchronization, Question Period is more like crazed zombies interrupting a square dance while the Speaker of the House tries to keep order.

It was like that when the Leader of the NDP rose to ask the Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay when he would re-establish the Canadian Wheat Board.

Mr. Mulcair was doing his job by raising a very serious issue for western grain farmers.  The evidence is now in that the private grain companies have taken $6.5 billion from grain farmers in the last two years.  As usual in Question Period the Conservatives were heckling.  It was not much of a surprise to see the former Harper Ag Minister sneering via Twitter about the effrontery of western grain farmers wanting natural justice to be done by restoring what was seized from them without due compensation or the vote he promised.

It would not have been unreasonable to expect Minister MacAulay, whose Prime Minister is already noted for un-muzzling scientists and promising evidence based policies, to respond positively to making it so farmers get back the roughly 60% of their grain cheque now being taken by the private oligarchs.

One sure sign the grown-ups are back in power is the ease with which the Agriculture Minister confounded the questioners on both sides of the issue.  Yes, he said, the Wheat Board had been sold  – apparently reminding the Conservatives that for this Minister a contract is a contract and he would not be seizing assets, no matter how they were disposed of, from G3 which is the combo of Saudi Arabia and Bunge one of the world’s giant private grain companies. But that is really all he said.

In the past, when confronted with the same economic structure as we see today both the Liberals and the Conservatives tried every conceivable combination of regulations and reforms to make the defective international grain market work without bankrupting western farmers.  After many things were tried and failed the single desk was the only thing that remained viable.  The Wheat Board’s marketing responsibility was renewed every five years by Parliament. Finally in 1967 all parties unanimously endorsed and supported a permanent single-desk, orderly marketing organization known as the Canadian Wheat Board.  It was the only way for farmers to have a level playing field in the international market.

Since then nothing has changed and the evidence is the same today as back then.  The only question is how long will it take for Minister MacAulay and the Liberals to look at the evidence?  How many farmers must get hurt?  How many domestic processors will be driven out of business by subsidized off-shore production and how long will Canadians tolerate eating bread and pasta from grain grown in parts of the world that are amongst the most heavily polluted on earth?

If we are talking about evidence based policy, a new single-desk marketing agency can be created.  We can name it whatever we want.  What we care about is that it gets premium prices for Canadian grain and supports local food.

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