Tory MPs’ letters in CWB vote probed

Endorsements 'taint' election process: critics


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AN independent official overseeing this fall's Canadian Wheat Board elections is investigating whether several MPs broke the rules in directly endorsing specific candidates in a recent mail-out to farmers.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/11/2008 (5228 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

AN independent official overseeing this fall’s Canadian Wheat Board elections is investigating whether several MPs broke the rules in directly endorsing specific candidates in a recent mail-out to farmers.

“We’re seeking counsel on that,” said Ian Craven of Meyers Norris Penny in Winnipeg.

The election co-ordinator wants a legal opinion on whether the MPs should have first registered with him as third-party intervenors. According to election rules, groups or individuals other than the candidates themselves must register as third parties with the co-ordinator before spending money in a CWB election campaign.

David Anderson, a Saskatchewan MP and parliamentary secretary to Wheat Board Minister Gerry Ritz, is one of at least four federal Conservative members to use their parliamentary mailing privileges to influence the election of wheat board directors, according to farm groups.

In an undated letter with a House of Commons letterhead, Anderson endorsed two wheat board candidates in a Saskatchewan district, praising one in particular. Both support the Harper government’s efforts to end the wheat board’s sales monopoly. The letter made no mention of the third candidate in the district race who supports the CWB single desk. The mailing costs for the letter were paid by taxpayers.

The results of CWB director elections in five of 10 Prairie districts will be announced Dec. 7. Farmers have until midnight tonight to have their ballots postmarked. The results could have a dramatic impact on the wheat board’s future, as single-desk supporters hold only a slim majority on the CWB’s 15-person board. Ottawa appoints an additional five directors.

Real Voice for Choice, a farm group that supports the CWB single desk, said Thursday it has filed a “formal protest” with the Craven over the MPs’ actions.

“We feel the election process has been tainted,” said East Selkirk farmer Doug Chorney, a member of the group, adding that candidates endorsed by the MPs should be disqualified in the election.

Chorney is also wondering how the MPs got copies of district voters lists. “It’s a breach of confidentiality to turn that list over,” he said.

Craven is also investigating whether voters lists were improperly distributed. “We do want to find that out,” he said.

Similar letters supporting specific anti-single- desk candidates were also sent by two other Conservative MPs in Saskatchewan and one in Alberta, farm groups say. They are: Randy Hoback (Prince Albert), Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot) and Ed Kormarnicki (Souris-Moose Mountain).

“I guess I’m uncomfortable with any MP… taking this type of action,” said Ian Wishart, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers. “This (election of directors) is a farmer decision.”

Anderson defended his letter in an interview with the Canadian Press. “We’ve made no secret of the fact we believe in marketing choice,” the Conservative MP said.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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