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This article was published 21/6/2011 (3542 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- The mayor of Churchill pleaded with the federal government Tuesday to give some thought to the effect eliminating the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly will have on his town.
Mike Spence, participating by telephone in an NDP press conference on Parliament Hill, said 200 jobs are at stake in Churchill if the grain marketing corporation shuts down or shrinks in size once prairie farmers no longer have to sell their barley and wheat through it.
More than 90 per cent of the shipments through the town's port are from the CWB. The reduction or elimination of that business could devastate Churchill, Spence said.
"I just hope the federal government would take some time to digest how we can be affected."
He said he wants Ottawa to fund an economic impact study before introducing legislation to open up grain marketing in Western Canada.
Opposition politicians have been calling on Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz to produce any such studies his government has done on the subject since Parliament resumed June 2. Last week, Ritz's spokeswoman told the Free Press a number of reports have been done privately over the years, analyzing the option of an open-market system.
"Furthermore, Minister Ritz has asked departmental officials to meet with industry and stakeholders, including the CWB, throughout the summer in order to assist in developing a transitional plan for opening the market and to help the CWB, should they choose, to become a voluntary marketing entity," Meagan Murdoch wrote in an email.
The current president of the CWB recently said voluntary marketing corporations in Australia and Ontario did not do well.
Manitoba NDP MPs Niki Ashton and Pat Martin said the closing of the CWB would have a negative impact on Manitoba -- affecting everything from the rail line to Churchill and the port itself, to the 400 employees at CWB headquarters in Winnipeg.
Martin said he believes major grain companies like Cargill would have no reason to maintain their headquarters in Winnipeg and said even the Canadian Grain Commission's future could be threatened. Winnipeg will lose its position among world leaders in the grain industry and research, Martin said.
The provincial government recently launched an advertising campaign to save the CWB; Martin said the province had to do it because the federal government has gagged the CWB.
Winnipeg Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux said he's working on a petition to urge Ottawa to think more about what ending the monopoly will do to the Manitoba economy.
"There's absolutely no way of stopping this unless farmers take action," said Lamoureux.
The Liberals and the NDP are demanding Ritz hold a vote among farmers to decide the monopoly question, which they say is required by current legislation.
In a statement Tuesday, Ritz said it doesn't matter how many farmers want to use the CWB to market their grain; those that don't want to use it shouldn't be forced to do so.