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Tuesday, 15 November 2011 09:48

Canadian Wheat Board directors stand up to Harper on Parliament Hill Tuesday

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(CNW) Today, for the first time ever, all eight farmer-elected Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) directors, representing tens of thousands of farmers, along with members of the Opposition, stood on the steps of Parliament Hill to call on the Harper government to stop its illegal decision to dismantle the CWB by Christmas.

With less than five weeks left until the end of the Parliamentary session, there is still time left for the Harper government to put an end to the legislation that will devastate the livelihoods of many Canadian farmers, said Allen Oberg, chair of the CWB's farmer-controlled board of directors.

"We want a clear answer from the Prime Minister on why he is rushing this legislation through Parliament and why he unlawfully chose to ignore the 62 per cent of farmers who voted to keep the CWB in our own plebiscite," said Oberg. "We are here because we cannot sit idly by while this government sacrifices farmers' interests to those of giant American grain corporations. We cannot stand and watch farmers' democratic rights be steamrolled.  This should be a farmer's decision - not one that is made in Ottawa."

Farmers aren't the only people taking issue with the Harper government's treatment of Prairie farmers. In the one-week Stop the Steamroller campaign, over 25,000 Canadians sent letters to their MPs in support of farmers.

"The response to our campaign was incredible - Canadians are passionate about this issue," said Oberg. "They fundamentally disagree with a government that uses bullying tactics to get its way.  It's time for the Harper government to start listening."

Joining the farmer-elected CWB directors on the Hill were Manitoba wheat farmers Reg Martinet and Drew Baker, as well as NDP agriculture critic Pat Martin and Deputy Liberal Leader Ralph Goodale.

"For my entire life, my family has worked through the Canadian Wheat Board, our own marketing organization, to sell our wheat around the world and retain all the profits ourselves," said Baker, 24, a fifth generation farmer.  "By dismantling the Wheat Board the Harper government is putting western Canadian farmers at risk without even consulting us."

Martin calls the Harper government's treatment of the CWB an "affront to democracy.  The way (the Conservatives) are pushing this bill through is reckless and irresponsible.  It shows their blatant disrespect for Parliament." 

"The Conservatives try to silence their critics by claiming that those farmers who still want the CWB can still have the CWB, voluntarily -- but that`s false," said Goodale. "The CWB's defining characteristic is its single-desk selling system. With no single desk, no capital base and no access to grain handling facilities, what's left is an empty shell set up to fail."

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