January 4, 1999
By Edwin Wallace Brendaren Farms

Willard Estey's report on grain transportation is, to put it politely, a compilation of disservices to the grain producer. Recommendations for removal of the freight rate cap, elimination of the harvest delivery quota and the removal of all aspects of grain transportation from the Canadian Wheat Board, are the most obvious examples of such disservice. However, the cruelest disservice is rooted not in any of the recommendations or narrative; not indexed in the report for easy-reading access; and in all fairness, I believe, not intended by the old judge.

In fact, the report's disservice to farmers and therefore, indirectly, to all citizens, is not a function of the judge's cavalier style, his obvious lack of knowledge of the subject, nor, even his inability to defend his recommendations with facts, but by employing anecdotal responses. (A good example of the latter is when CBC's Lindi Thoreson asked: "Why did you make that recommendation?" (I believe in regard to the restricted role of the Wheat Board.) Estey's response: "Why?" (Obvious
pause) "Because after talking to a couple of hundred people that's what they wanted!"

No, the report must finally be condemned for THIS disservice: It has further complicated - without good cause - an already very complicated economic and social environment. For this, the judge and his Liberal Party/Government pals must be held fully responsible. Fellow farmers I talk to are discouraged. They are discouraged not by the vagaries of weather, shifting prices - usually lower it seems - or the other "risks" deemed normal in the farming business. They are discouraged by the Tyranny of Change that has gripped our Industry -Business - Way of Life. Change it seems is being made simply for change's sake.

And so, the ever growing and now critical result of this tyranny is complication. Farmers are confused. There is their confusion over policy now set - Example: a new and untested Canadian Wheat Board. Policy being contemplated - the Estey Report and Recommendations being the latest example of that. But lastly, and most frustrating, their confusion about how they will fit - or if they will fit - into the resulting economic and social environment wrought by what the majority see as largely needless changes.

On the other hand, we might reasonably assume that lawyer-politicians and corporate agriculture planners are not burdened by such mundane farmer concerns. All indicators point to even more complication flowing from our senior governments and the production of agriculture experts - from that "Fount of Youth" the "Net Gen" - is a growth industry. But appearing to be "with it" by advocating and implementing change has its costs. That cost, not yet nearly tallied or even estimated, finds its expression in the fact that frustration, confusion and helplessness cuts right across the differences of opinion held by farmers. The proof of this is in the many farm sales. Farmers from both sides of any issue are selling out with an expression of relief.

What critical point of this exodus will trigger yet another report called "Why farmers Leave the Land" is anybody's guess.

I'm Edwin
Background and Additional Information
  At the time of the establishment of the Royal Commission this is the Alberta Report Article on the situation
  The terms of referrence for the Estey Commision.
  The final report is available to download (pdf format) from this site.
  James Willard Estey's father's background.
  Western Grain Grower's Association comments on report.
  Regina Leader Post's Murray Mandryk's opinion of the report.
  Governments of Western Canada make recommendations to Justice Estey.
  In June,CN was already foreshadowing the reports recommendations.
  Alberta MLA Paszkowski's submission to Justice Estey in Phase II of his report.
  Saskatchewan Wheat Pool's submission to Justice Estey and opinions on grain handling.
  What the Justice was hearing back in April.
  Manitoba's NDP caucus concerns about rail line abandonment.
  Justice Willard Estey's background is found on this site but the English version is not accessible.
  You can download Estey's Phase I portion of his report from this site.
  Government of Saskatchewan submission to the Commission in April of 98.