The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon), Monday, April 2, 2007
Wheat board vote a ruse: Dion
Liberal leader addresses farmers in Saskatoon
by Janet French
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion called Sunday for the
Conservative government to toss out the results of a
Canadian Wheat Board plebiscite he described as
"tainted" and dishonest.
Speaking in a Saskatoon hotel ballroom packed with
more than 250 farmers and spectators, Dion characterized
the plebiscite asking barley farmers about the future of
the Canadian Wheat Board as a ruse orchestrated in a way
that the Conservatives could manipulate the results to
support their goals.
"You deserve an honest question, a clear question,
asked through a fair process (that's) binding," Dion
said. "Let's tell (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) to
stop forcing his ideology down your throats. Let's tell
him to show some respect for farmers and show some
respect for democracy."
In last month's plebiscite, barley farmers were asked
to vote for one of three options: To retain a single
desk for barley marketing, to have the option to market
to the Canadian Wheat Board or another buyer of their
choice or for the wheat board to have no role in
About 38 per cent of 29,000 farmers voted to retain a
single desk, 48 per cent wanted the choice to market to
the wheat board or other buyers and about 14 per cent
wanted the wheat board out of barley marketing.
Speaking in front of a screen depicting a rustling
wheat field under a sunny prairie sky, Dion said the
option of "choice" is based on a false premise, since
the wheat board would likely crumble if it lost its
monopoly on marketing grain. A fair vote would have just
two options, he said: Single-desk grain marketing or an
"The wheat board is under assault — an assault more
brutal than anything we've seen before," Dion said,
backed by Liberal MPs Wayne Easter and Ralph Goodale and
supporter and trade critic David Orchard.
"Because of ideology, Prime Minister Stephen Harper
is determined to kill the wheat board. That is his plan.
That is his goal, and I think he must be stopped."
The phrasing of the question wasn't the only problem,
Dion said. A gag order on the board directors is
troublesome, and a traceable ballot system is "for
livestock," Dion said. "This is a government that wants
to know who its opponents are."
The demise of the wheat board will jeopardize railway
links in rural areas, putting small towns at risk, Dion
If the wheat board is dismantled, it will benefit
American farmers and "the greatest rejoicing will happen
in Washington," Goodale said. Such a move may also be
irreversible, he said.
"It is very difficult to put humpty dumpty back on
the wall again."
Dion added the Conservatives are untrustworthy
because they broke their promise to Saskatchewan to
remove natural resource revenues equalization formula.
Although he wouldn't specify what Saskatchewan's
equalization deal should be, Dion said a Liberal deal
would not impose any cap on the value of resource
Although many of the people crammed into the
Bessborough Hotel on Sunday were cheering and clapping
for Dion, there was a vocal group of supporters for
choice in marketing their grain.
Charles Anderson, with the group Market Choice
Alliance, said under the wheat board, farmers are
missing out on the chance to process their own grain,
which costs them "millions of dollars every year."
Dion's stance that the plebiscite question was too
complex for farmers to comprehend is insulting, he said.
"It's disrespectful to farmers to think they weren't
intelligent enough for those questions."
Even if the votes to eliminate the wheat board from
barley marketing were excluded, the majority of farmers
voted for choice over a single desk, he said. Although
some farmers may have received more than one ballot, the
ballots were audited and the vote was fair, Anderson
"No matter how you look at it, we were winners and
democracy has got to move forward," he said.