Western Producer, April 5, 2007
Liberal leader Dion backs retention of single desk
By Adrian Ewins
Before a standing-room crowd of more than 300
cheering supporters in a Saskatoon hotel ballroom last
week, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion gave his audience
exactly what they came to hear: a spirited defence of
the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk and a stinging
attack on the government of Stephen Harper.
Standing in front of a backdrop depicting a golden
wheat field under a bright blue prairie sky, the leader
of the opposition vowed that his party will do
everything in its power to derail the Conservatives from
dismantling the single desk.
"Because of ideology, prime minister Harper is
determined to kill the wheat board," said Dion.
"That is his plan, that is his goal, and I think he
must be stopped."
In a speech interrupted alternately by applause as he
praised the wheat board or cries of "shame" as he
described actions taken by the government in recent
months, Dion described the barley vote result as
The three-option question was dishonest, he said,
designed to muddy the issue, mislead voters and allow
the government to interpret the results any way it
"I know a little bit about clear questions in
referendums," he said. "I know a little bit about
clarity and Stephen Harper's plebiscite just doesn't
pass the test."
As minister of intergovernmental affairs in the
previous Liberal government, Dion was responsible for
passage of the Clarity Act of 2000, which set out
conditions for a plebiscite on independence for Quebec.
Dion urged the government to hold a new vote that
offers farmers a clear two-way choice between the single
desk and the open market.
The results of the vote showed 38 percent voted for
Option 1, the single-desk, 48 percent voted for Option
2, marketing to the CWB or another buyer, and 14 percent
voted for Option 3, the open market.
In announcing the results, the government said 62
percent of farmers (options 2 and 3 added together)
support marketing choice.
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, speaking after Dion's
speech, said it's dishonest to put three options on the
ballot and then count the votes as if there were two.
Fellow MP Wayne Easter said one could just as easily
add options 1 and 2 together and conclude that 86
percent of farmers voted to retain the CWB.
When it came time for questions from the audience,
the first person at the microphone was Charles Anderson,
a Rose Valley, Sask., farmer and spokesperson for the
Market Choice Alliance, a pro-open market group.
He urged Dion to accept the results of the plebiscite
and said any suggestion that farmers didn't understand
is an insult to their intelligence, a comment that
earned a chorus of boos from the audience.
Dion responded that while he wasn't questioning the
intellect of farmers, he knows from experience how easy
it is to manipulate a plebiscite to get a desired
"That's what happened here," he said.