Tuesday, 15 November 2011

CBC Radio Explores the History of the Embattled Canadian Wheat Board (Podcast)

Wheat.  It is the most important cereal grain in the world and, along with fur trapping and the railroad, it made Canada.

We are one of the largest wheat exporters on the planet, about 19 thousand tons a year, more than any other crop. There are some 75,000 farmers across the Prairies who make their livelihood from it. And to sell their wheat, they have depended for generations on the Canadian Wheat Board.

The Wheat Board, as we know it today, was established in 1935 to control prices, so as to benefit farmers in the Great Depression.

Now, however, the Wheat Board could be gone by Christmas. The Conservative government has been promising to get rid of it for years, and with its majority in parliament, is making good on that promise.

It's hard to say what it will mean to farmers and the rest of us. If anybody has an idea, it is John Herd Thompson, who has documented the history of the Wheat Board. Winnipeg born-and-bred, he earned his PhD at Queen's University and has taught at McGill, Simon Fraser and the University of Alberta.  For more than two decades, he has been Professor of History at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.  He joins us from a studio there.

Click here, then scroll to the last half of Hour Three.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Of Banksters, Occupiers and Head-Knockers

What to do with the Occupy camps. How about - let them be! 
by Larry Powell
A peaceful camp
It's hardly surprising. 

The mood of Canada's elites is becoming increasingly ugly as the "Occupy" movement continues to "hang in there" for a lot longer than they likely expected. 

It is, after all, what elites do. They simply cannot tolerate those who challenge the very system that keeps them in power.

Cops are already being ordered to start knocking some heads in some Canadian cities, as well as south of the border.

Neither is it surprising that some news media are misrepresenting what the movement is all about. 

A recent editorial in the Dauphin Herald, for example, dismissed the protesters as "whiners," whose support is dwindling. (In fact, the movement has persisted and spread to many parts of the world.)

The editorial also proclaimed, "It was the squandering of tax dollars (by governments) which originally created the movement!"


The newspaper obviously got the Occupiers mixed up with their polar opposites, U.S. "Tea-Partiers," and Republicans, who are unbending in their support of tax cuts for the rich and cuts to health care and other government services which might help ordinary people!

While I have yet to hear a single Occupier defend government "squandering," it was actually the growing gap between the super rich and the rest of us, which motivated them. This is all made worse by the criminal actions of bankers and rich corporations (who still, to this day, run around Scott-free, while countless Occupiers have been jailed for exercising their democratic rights to freedom of speech and assembly!) Meanwhile, those "banksters" and other "upstanding paragons of corporate virtue," like British Petroleum, are given free-reign to exploit our resources and pollute our planet (all, tax-free, of course)!

Many Canadians seem to be under the impression that things are better here than in the 'States - that banks are better regulated, for example. That is true - partly.

But the belief that our big banks have been "soldiering on" without the help of our hard-earned dollars, is also a myth. According to one very capable, investigative columnist, the Harper Government quietly issued those banks a bailout amounting to $75 billion in 2008. Michel Chossudovsky heads the Montreal-based Centre for Research on Globalization. Chossudovsky claims that, taken on a per-capita basis, that is on par with the infamous bailouts the US government made of its own crooked and failed financial institutions a few years ago.  

(Here, our own, "vigilant" corporate media seemed to have missed that story.)

Keep in mind these same banks, all five, invest billions in the Alberta tar sands, helping to destroy our natural world and climate, at the same time.

What is puzzling is how indignant some people are that homeless people are actually moving into the camps. Imagine that! A basic tenet of the "Occupy" movement is that we need a more even distribution of wealth. Why, then would they turn away those who are suffering the most from this imbalance?

I recently had the privilege of visiting the "Occupy Winnipeg"
site, twice in October. Yes, there were homeless there, sitting around the bonfire, drinking the industrial-strength coffee,  and sampling the occasional, meagre bit of food. (Which renders as doubly ludicrous, suggestions that they are there "just to have fun.") To me, their presence just proved that the movement is inclusive and hardly prepared to turn away our poorest, who perhaps themselves best exemplify the inequity with which our wealth is distributed.

It should also be noted that, on the first day of "Occupy Winnipeg" there were also working people, environmentalists, representatives of First Nations, the embattled Wheat Board, and so on. 

One union representative there told me he believed Harper was out to crush the labour movement. He cited recent examples of how the government moved to bring ruthless ends to strikes in both the public and private sectors this year. Its back-to-work decrees, in both cases, came down with unprecedented haste. For postal workers, they imposed a lesser settlement than even the employer would have granted! For Air Canada flight attendants, the government locked in entry-level wages which are below the poverty line, while doing nothing to prevent obscene bonuses for corporate executives. 

Was that labour rep wrong? I don't think so.

One of the speakers told the gathering on opening day, Harper had broken an election promise and abruptly ended funding to the Canadian Environmental Network. That has thrown the future of this group into disarray and uncertainty. The Network has been co-ordinating the activities of various Eco-groups across the country and helping governments implement enlightened legislation to safeguard our air, water and soil, for decades. 

Does this strengthen the argument that, under Stephen Harper, Canada's policies are becoming the most hostile toward the environment of any nation in the world? 

Sounds like!
To suggest that this movement has been controlled by whiners and reduced to squatter camps is to do a great disservice to thousands of sincere, caring people, determined to build a better world.

(All photos by PinP.)


Rick Mercer on the Death of the Wheat Board (Video)

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Annother Tory Outrage

PLT: At least one Tory MP is actually threatening legal action against a retired Alberta farmer, Norm Dyck, who had the audacity to write a letter-to-the-editor, criticizing the government for its attempts to kill the What Board. 
1) First, Mr. Dyck's brief note, 
2) his explanation of what happened,
3) his actual letter
4) and a PLT comment!

1) Friends of the CWB:   I have already spoken to my friend and former farmer neighbor Art Macklin so he knows of my 'offensive' letter and approves of this circulation action.  Please forward to any individuals who are concerned re the threat to Democracy by actions of the Harper Government.  Thanks 


2) Yesterday my Federal MP Chris Warkentin Peace River,  while meeting with him in his office in Grande Prairie accompanied by two members of Kairos, while I was speaking on the subject of the CWB was less than receptive to any input on this topic.  Input specifically as to the requirements of section 47.1 of the Act which I calls for a grain producer plebiscite for the proposed changes of removing single desk selling as per Bill C-18.  Mr. Warkentin has a totally different understanding of this legislation as do Ag Minister Gerry Ritz and the Prime Minister.  

Instead of hearing any further points, Mr. Warkentin visibly agitated, advised me in the company of the other two in the Kairos delegation  that he has considered defamation charges or something of that nature if he did not get an apology via the newspaper for my letter.  (see attachment above.) 

My 'offending' letter has been published in the local Herald Tribune here in Grande Prairie and also in the Peace River Record Gazette.  The Western Producer called me for confirmation last week so I anticipate it will also appear there shortly.  I also sent it off to the Lethbridge Herald and the Red Deer Advocate.

So I would very much appreciate it if you folks would distribute widely this letter and this note of threat to me by my MP Chris Warkentin, Peace River.

I do not know how to attach this to the number of e-mail recipients that have been sent my way of late on this Crucial Bill C-18 now before the Senate.  This unprecedented affront to Democratic process could indeed become law if we remain quiet. Perhaps some of you and your contacts will feel moved to write to one or more members of the Canadian Senate since Mr. Harper and his majority have rammed this through the House limiting debate last week.  

If something should ever come of this I would go to jail before paying a fine or issuing an apology to Mr. Warkentin for expressing my Democratic right to Speak out via the press on the facts pertinent to Bill C-18 in a manner that at least 3 Newspaper Editors have not found libelous .

regards to you all;

Norm Dyck  retired farmer, 72 years of age


                    3) Harper's About Face on CWB and Democracy  

We all recall when House of Commons page, Bridgette Marcelle shocked the staid House during the spring Throne Speech by holding up her sign saying "STOP HARPER" .  At that time, a majority of grain farmers and supporters of the Canadian Wheat Board already knew in their gut what was on the horizon.   An attack on the CWB to remove single desk selling is now well underway in Ottawa by the Harper Government. 

Single desk selling is central to the CWB's marketing strength that benefits all producers equitably regardless of size.  The Board pays out to producers, confirmed by an Annual Outside Audit each crop year, all returns on grain sales less about 9 cents for operational costs.   Can we expect such financial transparency from the grain cartels if Mr. Harper's Conservatives are successful in their efforts to hamstring the Board? 

The Harper Government has introduced a very divisive and devious Bill, notably Bill C-18 presently before the House.  This Bill if passed will by-pass current legislation put into law on Oct 7, 1997 by the then Liberal Government.  The pertinent section is 47.1 of the CWB Act.   

This section is unequivocal in its intent that no Minister responsible to the CWB shall bring in or exclude any grains for marketing outside the jurisdiction of the CWB without first having consulted with the Board and furthermore; any such proposed change can only be legitimatized and implemented by a clear transparent producer vote.  Knowing this is the current law, Mr. Harper supported by Peace River MP Chris Warkentin and other members of their government are knowingly and willfully engaged a a series of procedural House shenanigans to do an end run around the democratic process by ramming through Bill C-18 and subverting the law.  This action is reminiscent of authoritarian regimes, denying farmers the legitimate right to vote on a critical change to their Board at a time of financial instability in already jittery markets that grain sales are affected by. 

Harper's Federal Agricultural Minister Gerry Ritz, who is responsible to the Board, has shown absolutely no evidence despite repeated requests from opposition members of the House, to validate how the Board could function commercially for the benefit of farmers with the loss of its single desk selling mandate.  The proposed changes in Bill C-18 with allowing farmers the option of bypassing the Board on export grain sales will essentially hollow out the Boards marketing strength and ultimately the international grain cartels will be the winners .    

During the election the governments standard response was on CWB policy was 'that farmers must decide the future of the CWB'.  That is all rhetoric and election promise now that Harper has his dubious majority.  With a mere 40% of those who voted supporting him, his government promise on CWB policy has deceptively altered.  Where Harper previously championed governing by the rule of law  we are now witnessing him and his Government flaunting the law!

Prairie and Peace River grain farmers from the 1930's fought for and won the marketing powers that have been granted to the CWB so it can equitably serve them.   The majority of them know what is at stake. The grain cartels will fair just nicely without aiding and abetting by the current Government!  The House page Bridgette Marcelle was right.

Norm Dyck
9257 - 96 Ave.
Grande Prairie, Alta
4) PLT: Go ahead, Warkinton, you anti-free-speech zifhhbab8883x - sue me, too!

Does your place of residence make you immune from climate calamity? I think not! (Opinion)

by Larry Powell I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard one of my fellow "prairie dogs" remark, how "lucky" or...