“OTTAWA – The Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly on western wheat and barley, a mainstay of Prairie agriculture for generations, is over.
Killing it has been on the Tory wish list for years, up there with tough-on-crime laws and an end to the gun registry.
After being stymied by minority Parliaments, the Harper Conservatives flexed their majority muscle Monday night and stripped the board of its legal lock on Prairie wheat and barley crops.
The House of Commons voted by a 153-120 margin to support the bill that ends the board’s monopoly.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it clear last month that the so-called single-desk monopoly was on borrowed time.
“It’s time for the wheat board and others who have been standing in the way to realize that this train is barrelling down a Prairie track,” he said.
“You’re much better to get on it than to lie on the tracks because this is going ahead. It’s time for the wheat board to go out in a dual marketing environment, to cultivate its customers and provide a competitive service because those customers are going to have choice in the future.”
Since 1943, farmers in a belt stretching from the Peace River district of northeastern British Columbia to the Ontario-Manitoba border have had no choice but to sell their wheat and barley through the board.
For decades, the board was simply an iconic part of the western Canadian fabric. But opposition began to grow.
There were complaints, for example, that it was unfair that Ontario farmers could sell grain as they pleased. In the 1990s, some renegade farmers went to jail for selling token shipments of grain outside the wheat board system. They said it was time for change.
With the passage of Bill C-18 through the House of Commons and what is expected to be a quick, pre-Christmas run through the Senate, the western grain industry will change for better or worse, depending on who is doing the talking….”
Now everyone will be wondering which agricultural products marketing board will be next.