Pivotal vote on wheat board

Tories cheer as bill to end monopoly passes


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OTTAWA -- A few weeks of debate in the Senate is likely all that's left of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/11/2011 (4136 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — A few weeks of debate in the Senate is likely all that’s left of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a thumbs-up to the Speaker as he cast the first vote in favour of the bill Monday evening as it passed the third and final reading in the House of Commons. His caucus clapped through the entire “yes” vote, upping the noise factor and some gave a standing ovation when Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz cast his vote.

There were many smiles and a standing ovation from the Conservative caucus when the vote was over.

The faces were long on the opposition side of the floor as they voted against the bill, though Manitoba NDP MPs Niki Ashton and Pat Martin got applause from their caucuses for their efforts to oppose the legislation.

The bill passed by a vote of 153 to 120 and marked a significant achievement of the majority government. The Harper government has been trying to eliminate the monopoly since gaining power in 2006 but was never able to because of its minority status.

The legislation heads to the Senate. It will be given royal assent as soon as the Senate passes it.

Earlier in the day, Ritz held a news conference with agriculture ministers from Saskatchewan and Alberta in a show of solidarity for the bill.

“This act is about giving western farmers the right to do what they want with the crop they paid to plant and spent months to grow,” Ritz said.

“Exciting new opportunities lie ahead for farmers throughout western Canada.”

Manitoba Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers was not invited. Manitoba is the only Prairie province opposed to eliminating the monopoly.

“I disagree fundamentally with what the government is trying to do,” Struthers said.

“They have not made a case that works for the farmers or for this province.”

The legislation will allow farmers to sell their wheat or barley to a voluntary wheat board or to any grain company.

Ritz and those who back eliminating the monopoly believe opening up the market will allow farmers freedom to get better prices for their grain and will drive investment in value-added processing plants.

However, some farmers fear private companies will drive the wheat board out of business and ultimately farmers will get less money for their grain.

“I think it’s horrific,” said Ian McCreary, a farmer from Bladworth, Sask., and a former wheat board director.

“The fact is, if they thought farmers wanted it, they’d let us vote. They’re refusing to let us vote.”

The Tories refused to hold a farmer plebiscite before introducing the bill, arguing their majority mandate gave them the right to proceed.

McCreary was among a small group of pro-wheat board farmers who picketed outside Ritz’s news conference Monday. When Ritz emerged, they booed him and followed him down the street yelling “shame” and calling Ritz and the agriculture ministers from Saskatchewan and Alberta “thugs” and “liars.”

The legislation is expected to pass the Senate before it rises for Christmas. To make sure that happens, Senate leaders agreed to add two sitting days to its schedule each week.

The additional days are also to ensure the government’s crime bill and budget implementation bill get through before the end of the year.


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