Canadian Grain Act
Bill C-13 privatisation on the march
FTLComm - Tisdale - Thursday, April 9, 2009

Before dealing with the topic at hand, there is a need to discuss some of the side plots and ramifications of the nature of this issue and perhaps the most difficult, is to do so, without becoming grossly mired in the ideology involved.

It is the stated political position of the present government of Canada to do its best to discard the present one desk marketing board approach that is embodied in the Canadian Wheat Board. This is not a secret, the Prime Minister and successive ministers of agriculture have plainly stated they want to see more free market competition in the dealing of grain commodities. Many contributors to this web site have presented their take on this process and the actions taken by the government over the past few years, so that we are pretty much aware of the issues involved.

It is important to state that no matter how objective one may attempt to be over issues that are fundamentally political, there really is no way through such a minefield, without stating, or implying a bias. I state this here because there are times and in this present economic era, there may be little room for political ideology and basic soap boxing.

The Federal government has introduced a bill that is labeled C-13, The Canadian Grain Act which is supposed to be intended to "reduce regulation and mandatory costs to the grain sector." Ideologically this is in keeping with the philosophy of the minority Conservative Government, but it comes at an odd time and that is what we need to see and understand it in context.

It is not necessary to go through all the background on the cause of death of 14 Canadians who died simply because the Federal government dropped the ball on meat inspection at the Maple Leaf meat plant and let contaminated products onto the market, carrying a serious strain of bacteria name Listeriosis.

In the United States there have been a series of wild food recalls and illness from tomatoes, spinach, peanut butter and now pistachios. All of these common foods have been contaminated and caused widespread illness and in some cases death, because of poor inspection and disregarded regulations.

While the United States and Britain have seen their financial institutions in ruin and collapse, this did not happen in Canada because of the tightly regulated nature of Canada's national banking system. Fourteen US banks have failed in 2009 alone, while in Canada none of our banks have even lost much money in this recession.

When it comes to things that all need and require, it is the role of government to provide for regulation and established standards to protect the public and the suppliers themselves, from their own greed.

The alterations to the Canadian Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission are in keeping with the Conservatives political philosophy, but contrary to the way this operation has been carried out successfully for a very long time. Even without passing the bill C-13 the government has already weakened internally the role of the Grain Commission as it has imposed its philosophy on the way the regulatory body does its job, or did its job.

I knew nothing of this issue because I just had not noticed it in the news, it was in fact drawn to my attention by some Conservatives who were disturbed at the disruption, changing Canada's grain handling standards might produce. When I began looking into their concerns, it was no surprise to discover that the Farmer's Union was really upset with the bill, but also the Public Service Alliance of Canada is really worried about what might happen to Canada's world reputation, if the grain handling changes are enacted.

The basic concept of Bill C-13 seems to involve ending the Canadian Grain Commissions inspection of grain. Shipments to the United States would not be checked at all and foreign exports would be checked by the grain companies, or companies hired by the grain companies. Another provision is that grain companies would no longer have to be bonded, this process now covers farmers, should a grain company go broke, but under this bill, the farmers would take the hit in that eventuality. Such things as weight standards, grain appearance, would all be discarded, or muted to save the grain companies money.

Details of the problems with Bill C-13 are spelled out in a thorough paper by Scott Sinclair and Jim Grieshaber-Otto called Threatened Harvest.

On April 2nd the Liberal Party stated in a media release that they would not go along with the dismantling of the Canadian Grain Commission. Although that offers some hope to those who worry about the privatisation of the all facets of the Canadian grain industry, we should be reminded that the Liberal Party has kept Mr. Harper in office throughout his successive minority governments.

Timothy W. Shire

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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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