Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Grain war serves no purpose

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Eight former directors of the Canadian Wheat Board are plowing ahead in their bid to reverse the Harper government's decision to eliminate the board's monopoly, or at least to make it pay a price for the way it achieved its goals. Regrettably, their crusade is starting to look personal, even vindictive.

It's a war they cannot win, yet they carry on, apparently hoping for some moral victory, which itself would be hollow.

Before the wheat board officially changed hands earlier this month from a farmer-directed organization to a government operation, it had achieved some success when a court ruled that Ottawa failed to follow the law in the way it dismantled the monopoly. The decision was worthwhile in reminding the Crown that it, too, is subject to the rule of law.

But the time for legal manoeuvring is over. Even if a court were to grant an injunction that suspended the new legislation, which seems unlikely, it would only apply in Manitoba since the application is being heard by a provincial, not a federal, court. Finally, Parliament could merely amend its legislation to make it lawful.

One way or another, the monopoly is finished and farmers are already rushing to sign forward contracts with private grain companies, such as Viterra Inc. and Richardson International Ltd., both of which, incidentally, expect to hire more employees.

According to some reports, the price of high-quality Prairie wheat has already risen to American levels as a result of the new open market, although obviously values will fluctuate over time.

The new Canadian Wheat Board is willing and able to represent farmers who prefer to deal with it, rather than the private sector.

Unfortunately, the continuing legal action may cause some uncertainty among Prairie grain farmers, but there is no need for any hesitancy. The new crop year starts Aug. 1, when the legal landscape will be much clearer. Even if a court were to put a hold on private contracts, the wheat board could simply take them over until the matter is settled.

But the quickest way to end the last vestiges of doubt that may exist is for the former wheat board directors to abandon their lost cause and make peace with the new, open market.

Prairie farmers are intelligent and resilient, and they will succeed.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 26, 2011 A12

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