Western farmers to blitz senators over wheat board legislation

WINNIPEG — Nearly two dozen Prairie farmers will blitz the Senate to put a personal touch on the arguments to save the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly.

WINNIPEG — Nearly two dozen Prairie farmers will blitz the Senate to put a personal touch on the arguments to save the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly.

The Canadian Wheat Board Alliance is bringing two dozen Western farmers to meet with as many senators as possible ahead of the Senate taking a look at the legislation the end the monopoly.

In a report from Ottawa, the Winnipeg Free Press says a rally led by Canadian Wheat Board chairman Allen Oberg and opposition politicians is scheduled for Parliament Hill on Tuesday morning.

The bill is expected to pass through the House of Commons next week, and then head on to the Senate.

The legislation was introduced Oct. 18 and was debated over the course of just three days in the House of Commons before the government closed off debate and sent the bill off to committee.

Andrew Dennis of Brookdale, Man., says he hopes the Senate will make good on its reputation as the chamber of sober second thought.

“We’re hoping the senators look at this and determine (the government) is going about this too fast,” he said. “We’re pretty hopeful they will slow this down.”

The legislation was introduced Oct. 18 and was debated over three days in the House of Commons before the government closed off debate and sent the bill off to committee.

Bill Gehl, a Saskatchewan farmer and Canadian Wheat Board Alliance chair, said he believes the Senate has a duty to rein the government in.

At least a dozen senators from both the Liberal and Conservative caucuses have agreed to meet with farmers in Ottawa on Tuesday, said Gehl.

One of the chief complaints of pro-wheat board farmers is the lack of consultation with them on the legislation. The only farmers who appeared at the committee hearings earlier this month were Oberg and another wheat board director.

Winnipeg MP and NDP wheat board critic Pat Martin said it’s time “rank and file farmers” were heard.

But Martin fears this push is “too little too late.”

There are two lawsuits before the courts now alleging the government violated the Canadian Wheat Board Act by not holding such a vote. The first of those cases is set to be heard Dec. 6.

The Canadian Wheat Board has also launched a $1.4 million ad campaign to garner public support even outside of the Prairies.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz last week accused Oberg of “stealing” the money from farmers to run the ad campaign but later retracted the word “stealing” when Oberg threatened legal action.

Ritz said however he still believes the CWB is using money from farmers inappropriately.

Ritz’s office did not respond when asked for the minister’s thoughts on the planned rally and Senate blitz by farmers.

(Winnipeg Free Press)

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