Wheat Board Plebiscite Results

Yesterday’s Tyee article by Horner and Orchard provides a good historical overview of the Wheat Board, but does not mention the recent plebiscite based on which the Conservatives propose to remove the Board’s barley monopoly. It is worth explaining why this flawed plebiscite does not give the Conservatives much of a democratic mandate, rather than ignoring the plebiscite altogether.

Of 80,000 ballots sent to barley farmers, only 29,000 were returned. As I had suggested, none of the three ballot options received majority support (50%+1) among those who voted:

38% – maintain single-desk marketing for barley

14% – get the Board out of barley marketing

48% – have the Board market barley and allow others to do so

Also as predicted, the Conservatives have added the votes for options 2 and 3 together to manufacture a mandate for ending single-desk marketing of barley. Of course, leaving out the misleading “compromise” option, nearly three times as many barley farmers voted to maintain single-desk marketing as voted to eliminate it.

4 comments

  • I enjoy this site, because regardless of political affiliation the analysis generally solid.

    Statements like “nearly three times as many barley farmers voted to maintain single-desk marketing as voted to eliminate it.” are very shoddy attempts at analysis.

    You may not like the result, but the question was a fair one.

  • The barley question was three fold:

    1. we want collective marketing (keep the CWB)
    2. we want collective marketing AND individual marketing
    3. we want individual marketing.

    Question # 2 was worded to imply that farmers could have both a “strong CWB” which requires collective marketing, AND the ability to market their own product. In labour terminology this question can be seen as “do you want a union and scabs too?”

    Since many farmers (and commentators), do not make the distinction between the export / human consumption market and the domestic feed market, it is fair to argue that many farmers assumed that the second question was an endorsement of the status quo wherein the CWB markets collectively to the export / human consumption markets whilst farmers themselves market into the domestic feed market.

    The Minister, on the other hand, is attempting to spin the result as a repudiation of the CWB. It is equally plausible to spin it the other way, and point out that somewhat less than 20% of farmers voted to get rid of the CWB.

    So the question was an unfair one, that yielded an ambiguous result.

  • The headline on the CBC report to which I linked is “Farmers vote to end wheat board’s barley monopoly.” Clearly, Jonathan’s interpretation of the results is a legitimate one. The problem is that, due to the ambiguity about what votes for the “compromise” option mean, other legitimate interpretations are possible.

  • The grain farmers will find out what we in the cattle industry have found out long time ago: The conspiracy of a few mega corporations will force prices down, while raising them to customers, with the excuse that their only responsibility is to their shareholders.

    This daylight robbery is now called “competition”, incredible profits under hundreds of names, by the same owners, while the cost of living is going up every day.

    Ranchers are forced into bankruptcies and off the land, all over Canada. Their lands are picked up by major and foreign investors, who can sit on them and write them off as “tax deductible business expenses” to get rid of their worthless US dollars, either into land or gold.

    They’re doing it nice and slow, not to cause panic, but they know very well that the end of this fraudulent economy is inevitable.

    Ed Deak, Big Lake, BC.

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