By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 0 Comments
The National Farmers Union looks at an ad based on a classic pin-up, and its interpretation is that the new, competitive Canadian Wheat Board must be struggling in a liberalized agricultural market:
Glenn Tait, NFU board member, says: “We’ve heard that the CWB is having problems filling its pools. This ad seems to show the desperation that would suggest evidence of just that. Farmers have also reported that the agreements that the CWB made with other grain companies are being pushed to the back of the line. Elevators are favouring their own delivery contracts first, and only accept CWB deliveries if there is excess capacity.”
Tait says “Many long-time CWB supporters are deliberately marketing outside of the CWB as a statement of principle rather than a lack of loyalty. The choice signifies their rejection of the undemocratic process used to dismantle the CWB and the Harper government’s appropriation of our resources—farmers’ resources.”
I guess the “appropriation of resources” phrasing refers to the legal theory that the Liberals placed the old monopoly Wheat Board permanently beyond the reach of statute, making its powers a “resource” that was supposed to be the inviolable property of permit-book holders. At least I think that’s what Tait is getting at here. One of the NFU’s mandates is to fight stereotypes about farmers, so it’s not really too cool for him to be spreading goofy notions of precisely the sort one would expect to hear from an angry yokel in a cartoon.
My own interpretation of the ad, if I may dare advance one, is that the CWB, having been obliged by the government to compete for farmer business, is going out and competing for it. They had a “Still on the fence?” message to convey, and someone found an image to go with it—one that happens to work pretty well with an old-school brand. And while I wouldn’t expect an irony-phobic socialist to understand, any normal farmer is perfectly capable of grasping that objects originally considered merely functional or ephemeral can graduate with time into the category of fine art. (I assume, anyway, that farmers’ universal habit of collecting and restoring old farming equipment has something to do with this instinct.)
Heavens, what sort of literalist doofus cavils at the sauciness of a Gil Elvgren painting in the year 2013? Even in their original setting the point of these pin-ups was innocent flirtatiousness, as opposed to pornographic frankness; now, unexpectedly, the NFU finds an Elvgren classic to be a disgraceful departure from the ordinary standards of advertising. “They must be in dire straits to stoop so low,” huffs the Women’s Vice President of the union. Couldn’t the same be said of the NFU itself?
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 3, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Jim Chatenay, one of the pardoned farmers, acknowledged Thursday that he had not sought out a pardon for himself; the government approached him. But when he got the call a few days ago from the prime minister’s staff, he said he felt as if a “black cloud” had been lifted away. “I had a piece of toast yesterday. It tasted pretty sweet without honey or jam on it,” said Chatenay, who served 23 days of a 64-day sentence in 2002.
Apparently, the pardon these farmers will receive is something like a conditional pardon, which will result in a record suspension.
Susan Delacourt notices an interesting sequence of phrases in the Prime Minister’s explanation.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 4:12 PM - 0 Comments
Stephen Harper announces that farmers who protested the Canadian Wheat Board will be pardoned.
“Their acts were purely symbolic of course,” Harper told a gathered crowd. Sometimes “just a few loads of grain were driven across the border. Sometimes, just a token shaft of wheat in the back of a pick-up truck.”
Harper said he was granting the pardon under a rarely invoked power. “To the authority of the Crown falls an ancient power; the Royal Prerogative of Mercy,” Harper said. “It is a rare and significant thing for this power to be exercised. But ladies and gentlemen, today I am pleased to announce it will be exercised. The group of farmers convicted under the old unjust legislation of the Wheat Board monopoly will be pardoned by the government.”
Update 5:34pm. Here is a rough guide to the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. The Harper government changed what was known as the “pardon” system into a “record suspension” system with its omnibus crime bill. The CBC explained the difference between a “pardon” and a pardon in this backgrounder. According to the CBC, four requests for the Royal Prerogative of Mercy were granted in 2008-2009.
Update 5:54pm. Bob Rae is unimpressed.
Harper doesn’t personally grant pardons. Nor is the decision about a pardon supposed to be partisan. They’re corrupting the process
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 11:38 AM - 0 Comments
Farmers’ costs will go up, for such things as administering cash advances and financing grain payments on delivery. Farmers will also have to pick up part of the tab for initial payment guarantees. Logistically, without the Wheat Board as a watchdog, grain companies and the railways are now in full control of the handling and transportation system. They have no incentive to service farmer-owned terminals, community-based short-lines or producer-loaded rail cars. There’s no one in the system with either the will or the clout to challenge excessive rates or charges.
Internationally, without the Board, Canada’s distinctive “brand” in world grain markets is slashed. This is compounded by the totally predictable sell-off of domestic firms like Viterra to foreign commodity traders like Glencore. With the Wheat Board out of the way, global grain buyers expect they’ll get Canadian grain at cheaper prices. Value-added processers expect the same. Railways and grain companies expect to extract higher margins. If that’s all true, you can imagine who gets stuck with the short-end of the stick.
By Colby Cosh - Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 12:54 PM - 0 Comments
Because it’s a little difficult to find on the Web, I’ve uploaded a PDF copy of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench decision on the former CWB directors’ application for an injunction against the demise of single-desk wheat and barley marketing. It contains setbacks within setbacks for the directors’ case: their constitutional argument that the dismantling of the single desk violated the rule of law isn’t serious enough to be considered, says Justice Shane Perlmutter, and even if it were, it doesn’t meet the urgency test for injunctive relief. Perlmutter’s take is, needless to say, very different from Federal Court Justice Douglas Campbell’s.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 12, 2011 at 12:21 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberals want the Governor General the block the Canadian Wheat Board bill.
The government will almost certainly seek Royal Assent for this legislation in the coming days. As Leader of the Liberal party, I would ask most respectfully that full consideration be given to awaiting final disposition of this matter by the courts before the legislation receives Royal Assent.
Though long before the Federal Court ruling, David Johnston has actually already been asked about the possibility that he would deny royal assent to a bill concerning the Canadian Wheat Board.
After pausing and then saying he couldn’t say much without “definitely crossing some lines,” Johnston said he felt it would no longer be appropriate for the Governor General to veto a bill that had passed in both the House of Commons and the Senate. “To take it away from that particular matter, and put it in a more general context, we do have responsible government,” Johnston said. “Canada really is the birth of responsible government…. They may have had it in the States, but it took a civil war between 1860 and 1865 to solve some of those issues. Canada’s had responsible government since 1842, and that’s really what’s at stake” if a Governor General were to veto a bill.
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 9, 2011 at 10:54 AM - 21 Comments
Move mirrors strategy adopted in the House
The Conservatives said they plan to cut off debate in the Senate on a bill to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly on foreign grain sales so that it can be turned into law by next week. The decision to invoke closure came as Liberal senators were attempting to freeze the debate, and it mirrors how the Harper government cut off debate on the Wheat Board bill in the House of Commons in November. Earlier this week, a Federal Court judge found that the Harper government broke the law because it failed to hold a plebiscite for farmers affected by the bill before tabling it. Since the Conservatives have a majority in the Red Chamber, the approval of the bill is a foregone conclusion. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, speaking with reporters in Toronto, maintained that the government could pass the bill despite the court ruling. “I’m confident that the legislation that we introduce to Parliament conforms to the Constitution and is within the powers of the Canadian parliament,” he said. Meanwhile, some Liberals senators argue that passing the legislation would amount to being in contempt of court. “It’s a matter of whether we respect the laws of the land or we don’t,” Liberal Senator Robert Peterson told the Globe and Mail.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, December 9, 2011 at 7:53 AM - 85 Comments
Canadian judges are rightly protective of their independence. It takes no more than a whisper of political interference in their work—indeed, arguably much less than a whisper—to raise their hackles and bestir them to the clamorous defence of this most sacred principle. But this principle ought to cut both ways, yes? Mischievous interference in politics by judges should be castigated just as seriously, if we are to preserve the proper relationship between elected institutions and the bench—if only because involvement in law-making by judges invites reaction, pushing us toward an open contest of force between the branches of government. The branch that doesn’t command fighter jets probably shouldn’t want that.
This is worth considering, I think, after Hon. Douglas Campbell’s Wednesday afternoon decision in the Federal Court case of Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board et al. vs. Canada. Campbell’s decision has inspired an immediate loathing and derision from lawyers of a sort I don’t remember seeing since the Miglin case (2003).
Campbell was presented by the government with the argument that section 47.1 of the Wheat Board Act, which Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz pretty obviously violated, contravenes parliamentary sovereignty. 47.1 was added in 1998; it forbids the minister from introducing a statute to take grains out of the single-desk marketing regime without holding a plebiscite of growers. As I wrote earlier, the section has never been considered quite kosher. Parliaments can bind their future successors by means of “manner and form” procedural rules, but (leaving aside some quibbles and wrinkles and impish theoretical contrarianism) they can’t put a fence around their legislative legacy by making it harder to repeal individual statutes than it was to pass them in the first place. This is as much a matter of rudimentary logic as it is of the “constitution” per se, for whose will would we expect and desire to prevail in a contest between the Parliament of 1998 and the Parliament of 2011? Continue…
By macleans.ca - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 12:29 PM - 27 Comments
Federal Court called the legislation illegal
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says the Conservative government will pass legislation dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly, even though a Federal Court ruling on Wednesday found that he broke the law by not consulting grain farmers first. Ritz said the government is “disappointed with the decision,” adding that it will appeal the ruling. “This declaration will have no effect on continuing to move forward for freedom for western Canadian farmers,” he told the Winnipeg Free Press. Opposition MPs and senators are slamming the government for pushing through Bill C-18, despite the ruling. “The Government of Canada can’t say ‘I’m disappointed in the decision, but I’m going to barrel on anyway,’” Liberal Senator James Cowan told Postmedia news. “Even this government isn’t above the law and the court decision.” The Conservative legislation, which has long been part of the party’s platform, will end the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly over the foreign sale of wheat and barley by Prairie farmers. On Wednesday, Ritz pledged to push the bill through before the end of the year.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 3:50 PM - 69 Comments
The Federal Court has ruled that the government’s attempt to reform the Canadian Wheat Board violates the legislation that governs the board.
In a ruling today, Federal Court Judge Douglas Campbell said the government violated the Canadian Wheat Board Act by not holding a vote among farmers before introducing legislation eliminating the Wheat Board’s monopoly position. Judge Campbell admonished the government for not consulting with farmers and “simply pushing ahead” with plans to essentially abolish the board. “Had a meaningful consultative process been engaged to find a solution which meets the concerns of the majority, the present legal action might not have been necessary,” the judge ruled. He added that the government had to be “held accountable for [its] disregard for the rule of law.”
During QP this afternoon, the NDP’s Pat Martin suggested that perhaps the Goldring precedent—removing oneself from caucus on the allegation that one broke the law—should apply here.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 10:37 AM - 25 Comments
Last week, Tom Lukiwski rose to express the government’s side shock and dismay at a demonstration that had taken place in one of the visitors’ galleries during a vote on the Canadian Wheat Board. In particular, Mr. Lukiwski was disturbed that opposition MPs would be anything less than appalled by the disturbance.
So yesterday, Bob Rae rose after QP to note that the night before there had been demonstrations in the visitors’ galleries again, only this time the disturbances were encouraged by the government side (which, in this case, applauded itself throughout another vote on the Canadian Wheat Board). I wasn’t in the press gallery, but apparently there was some degree of clapping from the spectators. Whatever the precise volume of that applause, visitors are not allowed to put their hands together in any way for any reason.
Either way, Mr. Rae posited that fair should be fair and that all sides should be equally opposed to all disturbances. In response, the Prime Minister dismissed the complaint and commended Monday night’s spectators as “peaceful, law-abiding people, which is all one would expect from people seeking their basic freedom and rights.”
The Speaker promised to come back to the House with an analysis of recent events.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 25, 2011 at 10:29 AM - 20 Comments
On Wednesday evening, during a vote on the government’s Canadian Wheat Board legislation, a protestor in one of the visitors’ galleries began shouting his objections. He apparently held a sign that read “lies” and yelled out that “this government does not represent me.” One way or another, the individual was removed from the chamber.
Yesterday after QP, deputy government House leader Tom Lukiwski rose on a point of order to say that this individual’s protest had been facilitated by the NDP’s Niki Ashton and to complain that various opposition MPs had not shown sufficient disapproval when the disruption occurred. This led to a discussion about the extent of Ms. Ashton’s involvement and the justification one might have to protest. And that then segued into a general debate over decorum.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, November 14, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 25 Comments
The suit argues the agriculture minister doesn’t have the authority to shut it down
“Pierre Trudeau said there was no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,” recalls Henry Vos, a grain farmer from Fairview, Alta. “So I ask, should the government be in the grain fields and the grain bins of the nation?” The private sex lives of Canadians and cultivating wheat might make for an unlikely comparison, but Vos, a former director of the Canadian Wheat Board, believes the board should start preparing to lose its grip on the export trade in Prairie wheat and barley. In late October, he quit the board in protest.
Vos is angry over a last-ditch attempt by the board to maintain its monopoly by taking the radical legal step of suing Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. The suit, announced Oct. 26, would thwart Bill C-18, the Harper government’s legislation to end the “single desk” monopoly. (C-18 is at the committee stage in the House of Commons.) But critics say the CWB is fighting an uphill battle against constitutional principles.
As a minority government, the Conservatives were blocked by the courts when they tried to change the wheat board’s mandate by order-in-council and without a parliamentary vote. Now the Conservatives have a majority and can presumably make whatever direct changes they want to the Canadian Wheat Board Act. But the board says, “Not so fast.” Section 47.1 of the act, added by the Liberals in 1998, says that the agriculture minister cannot alter single-desk arrangements without first consulting the board and holding a vote of grain producers.
By Colby Cosh - Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 11:43 AM - 79 Comments
In parks and public squares across the land, Occupy protesters are bivouacking in the name of social justice as the mercury dwindles. On Parliament Hill, MPs are battling in comfort over the fate of a bill to chop up the Canadian Wheat Board’s “single desk” control of wheat and barley exports.
Unrelated phenomena? Maybe. But it’s worth remembering that the moral case against the CWB was driven home by civil disobedience—in particular, by Manitoba farmer Andy McMechan’s 1996 cross-border protest trip with a wagonload of his own wheat. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 6:39 PM - 0 Comments
Martin Singh touted himself as the pro-business candidate. Thomas Mulcair touted himself as Stephen Harper’s nightmare and a man who can say no to organized labour. Paul Dewar unveiled his urban agenda and worked the room in Toronto. And Peggy Nash joined the race with two objectives.
There was yet another reason to question the purchase of new F-35s. David Anderson tried to explain the Canadian Wheat Board with a cartoon. More emails meant more questions for Tony Clement, which Deepak Obhrai and Pierre Poilievre promptly threw themselves in front of. Stephen Harper worried about the global economy. And the government pledged to destroy all traces of the long-gun registry, while the Victims Ombudsman defended the registry’s usefulness. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 1:34 PM - 9 Comments
The Conservatives have invoked time allocation on C-19, the bill that eliminates the long-gun registry. Of the ten government bills debated in the House since Parliament reconvened in June, the Harper government has now invoked time allocation on five of them: C-3 (budget implementation), C-10 (the omnibus crime bill), C-13 (budget implementation), C-18 (Canadian Wheat Board) and C-19.
The young Stephen Harper would no doubt be concerned.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 2:22 PM - 7 Comments
Lawsuit attempts to halt Tories’ efforts to dismantle board
The Canadian Wheat Board is launching a lawsuit against the federal government, arguing Ottawa broke the law by neglecting to hold a plebiscite of affected farmers before tabling the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, the Toronto Star reports. In a plebiscite conducted by the board last summer, 62 per cent of 40,000 participants said they would prefer to keep the existing system. Farmers from BC to eastern Manitoba currently have to sell their wheat through the board, but the new bill would make it voluntary, so producers could market straight to processors.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 8:45 PM - 1 Comment
Picking up where the House left off last Wednesday, Gerry Ritz suggested this afternoon, in response to a question from the NDP MP, that Pat Martin had a “lingering case of beaver fever.”
Mr. Martin then suggested that Mr. Ritz probably didn’t know much about beaver fever because he was a “failed ostrich jockey.”
Mr. Ritz then observed that farming ostrich allowed him “the opportunity to get used to working with lesser life forms” much like he sees “sometimes on the floor of the House of Commons.”
The Speaker deemed all of this “unhelpful.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 24, 2011 at 4:40 PM - 13 Comments
Glen McGregor spots an informative cartoon on the website of Conservative MP David Anderson.
The Wheat Board official Mr. Smith (portrayed by a bald character in a tie) responds in monotone, “Slow down, young man. You’re talking Eskimo” — that is, he sounds foreign or makes no sense.
Wheat Board Guy explains how the existing rules govern crop sales, and Franklin replies, “How can such a system exist in Canada? That sounds sort of Communist.” Later in the video Mr. Smith says, There you go, talking Eskimo again.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 24, 2011 at 1:04 PM - 18 Comments
Barrie McKenna explores the government’s attempt to support both the free market (when it comes to the Canadian Wheat Board) and supply management (when it comes to dairy farmers).
If open markets are so clearly in the best interests of grain farmers in Western Canada, why aren’t they also good for the dairy farmers of Quebec and Ontario? The answer, of course, is politics in a country where rural areas are still overly represented in the House of Commons. Supply management has become a proxy for rural entitlement and protection of family farms – a message that helped the Conservatives to a sweep outside the major cities in Southern Ontario in the May election. And by retaining the regime, Mr. Harper presumably calculates he will keep those seats four years from now.
There is no sound economic or policy rationale for keeping supply management. The government is sacrificing the interests of 34 million Canadians for the sake of fewer than 15,000 dairy and poultry farmers … Every year the distortions caused by the system grow larger. Canadians may not realize it when they go to the grocery store, but they’re paying twice the world average for dairy products – and up to three times what Americans pay. That’s a hidden $3-billion a year tax on all of us.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 8:47 PM - 48 Comments
The Scene. Time, once again, to yell about the Canadian Wheat Board.
The first sign that this afternoon would not pass without shouting was the Prime Minister’s right fist, bobbing up and down in front of him as he asserted that “Western Canadian farmers have long been looking for the freedom to market their grain, just like farmers in Quebec and other parts of eastern Canada have, and we are going to give them that freedom.”
This was but the end of his first answer and already he was gesturing forcefully. Usually, at this point, he is all shrugs and up-turned palms. But there would be no conciliatory hand movements this day.
Nycole Turmel stood here and insisted on reading what is written on some piece of paper somewhere. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 12:10 PM - 2 Comments
He’s no Adrienne Clarkson or Michaelle Jean, but the Governor General believes a quiet and steady manner suits him, and his job
Standing on the steps of Parliament Hill, behind a thin wooden podium, David Johnston is delivering his 123rd speech as Governor General. The occasion is the Canadian Police and Peace Officers’ 34th Memorial Service. He speaks carefully and deliberately. “I would like to pay tribute to all of the men and women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our communities safe throughout our history,” he says, his words echoing off the buildings of downtown Ottawa. “On behalf of all Canadians, I am grateful for all that you have done for this country.”
He returns, walking purposefully, to his seat. Later he will lay a wreath and afterwards he will greet family members of the fallen, visit briefly the memorial behind Centre Block and then slip inside for a reception in the Hall of Honour. The next morning he will fly to British Columbia, the 10th province to officially make his acquaintance (having been to the Yukon and Nunavut, he has only yet to visit the Northwest Territories). On Oct. 1, he celebrates his first anniversary as the Queen’s representative.
It has been a quiet start to his term. Though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, presented with a chance to rebut that adjective, he declines. “I don’t have any rebuttal,” he said in an interview last month. “I regard myself as a quiet person. As a university president for almost 27 years, [I learned that] quiet and steady and robust in the importance of the institution are good approaches.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 22 Comments
In the session ahead, the PM needs to remember that his mandate ‘has a big old fence around it’
In the early morning hours of May 3, with the ballots almost all counted, he basked in a Conservative majority. The Liberal Party of Canada, his nemesis, was in shambles. The Bloc Québécois was decimated. If the world seemed then to have tilted in Stephen Harper’s direction, his political situation has become only more advantageous since.
The NDP, though now the official Opposition, has lost its uniquely popular leader, removing Harper’s primary challenger from the House of Commons. What’s more, with Progressive Conservatives mounting serious challenges in Ontario and Manitoba, Harper might awake one day next month to find that every single province west of Quebec is led by a right-of-centre government—a resounding endorsement of the Prime Minister’s twin assertions that “Conservative values are Canadian values” and that “the Conservative party is Canada’s party.”
But if it is to be Stephen Harper’s world, what will Stephen Harper do with it? Perhaps only as much as he said he would do. “The challenge will be getting the balance right and not overreaching,” says Jim Armour, who once served as Harper’s director of communications. “If the Prime Minister goes too big or tries to go too fast, then he risks unifying the opposition and attracting the media’s attention. If, on the other hand, he continues with the ‘stick-to-the script,’ ‘no-surprises’ approach to governing that he’s taken for the past five years, then he’ll be fine. As with all things—even once-in-a-lifetime political opportunities—the key is moderation.”