Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, Cypress Hills Grasslands MP David Anderson and other dignitaries welcomed the dawn of a new era in grain marketing freedom for western Canadian farmers at the family farm of the late pro-marketing-freedom advocate Art Waldie near Kindersley on Aug. 1.
A crowd of grain producers gathered from across the prairies to mark the end to the 40-year monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board.
“We’ve been able to work together to make farming freedom a reality," said MP for Cypress Hills-Grasslands and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resource and to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food for the Canadian Wheat Board, David Anderson, in his introduction.
“And most importantly today we want to welcome all of the wheat and barley producers who have traveled from every corner of western Canada to be here today.
“Today we’re finally able to celebrate marketing choice for western Canadian farmers for both wheat and barley producers.
“Today is about you. Since the day we came to power, the Harper government has been standing up for Canadian farmers. We want you to succeed because when you do, our economy and all Canadians benefit from it.”
Anderson acknowledged Prime Minister Harper as “a Prime Minister who put it best when he said, and I quote, ‘This fight is about more than just wheat. It’s about the right of citizens to own private property, and that’s an issue that should concern all Canadians.’”
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz noted of Anderson, “David did all this with a smile, with enthusiasm, and worked himself out of a job. How good is that? The Prime Minister’s secretary did a fantastic job for us and without his push none of this would have happened.
“There are people here today who believed so strongly in the cause that they were fined or jailed, yet never lost sight of the end game. There are those who fought for this day that didn’t live to see it.
“There are farm groups that have represented farmers’ desire for marketing freedom for decades. And of course there are farmers from Brandon, MB to Dawson Creek, BC and all across this great prairie who, for decades, did not have a choice in how they sold certain crops.
“This day is for you.”
“Welcome to Grain Marketing Freedom Day,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“They said it couldn’t be done, but we did it. Together we delivered marketing freedom for western Canadian farmers. Never, never, never again will western farmers, and only western farmers, growing their own wheat on their own land, be told when they can and can’t market their product.”
Harper recognized the hard work over many years, through many elections and with the “overwhelming support of western farmers to right this wrong and to see this day come to pass.”
Harper then announced his intention to officially pardon farmers who had exercised their “quiet protest of an unjust law” and endured the constraints of a criminal record, incarceration and confiscation of farm equipment because of their beliefs.
“As you know, the fight to end the CWB monopoly was not one without cost, without a price being paid; people who had the courage to challenge the injustice of the law by placing themselves in violation of it.
“Their acts were purely symbolic, of course; they did not riot, broke no windows, no one was assaulted, no big profits were collected. Just a few loads of grain were driven across the border. Sometimes just a token sack of wheat in the back of a pickup truck. In one case, it was a gift of grain to a 4-H club.
Harper defined those farmers as citizens who “protested injustice by submitting themselves peacefully to the consequences of challenging that injustice.”
Referring to the royal prerogative of mercy, Harper said, “It is a rare and significant thing for this power to be exercised. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to announce that it will be exercised. A group of farmers convicted under the old unjust legislation of the CWB monopoly will be pardoned by the government.
“For these courageous farmers, their convictions will no longer tarnish their good names. Let me just say this to these Canadians: they held firm. Their courage and conviction never faltered and it is to them that much of this victory is owed because it is through them that the consciousness of this country on this issue was really raised.”
Harper then commended both Ritz and Anderson for their key roles in the success of grain marketing freedom.
“Not in 50 years have Canadian farmers had a champion in Ottawa like the Honourable Minister Jerry Ritz, who has your back. It was Gerry who got Cabinet approval for the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act and who tabled it in the House of Commons.
“Right by his side stands another proud Saskatchewan farmer and Parliamentarian, David Anderson, MP for Cypress Hills-Grasslands. David has fought long and hard for marketing freedom for his fellow farmers, and as Parliamentary Secretary for the CWB … he steered the legislature through various stages of Parliament … and the push to formally pardon farmers charged with violating the Wheat Board Act came from none other than David Anderson.”
Harper concluded by adding, “So as you celebrate today’s milestone, let’s never forget that Canada’s best day for and of course a new era of freedom for western farm families lies ahead.”
Kevin Bender, President of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, said, “I’ve been anticipating this for more than 20 years, and I know some of you have been waiting for this for longer than I’ve been on this earth. Your relentless pursuit of marketing freedom for the past 42 years have finally been rewarded. Welcome to a new era of prosperity and freedom.”
Past President of the Western Barley Growers Association, Brian Otto, expressed his gratitude by saying, “I would like to thank your government for passing Bill C-18. By removing the monopoly control of the CWB, western farmers will finally have the freedom to prosper in a truly open and commercial marketing environment.
“My dad would have loved this. Throughout his farming career, he never embraced the CWB monopoly from the day it was forced on him. As the third generation on our family farm … I feel very fortunate to be able to experience the return to marketing freedom that he always wanted but never saw.”
Anderson concluded the press conference with a remark prompted by the line-ups he encountered upon his arrival at the Waldie farm.
“Do you remember the lineups at the elevators? Five-bushel quotas and you got to sit in those lines of 80 or 90 trucks? Those days are finally over. You can deliver when you want, do what you want with your own product.
“This is a great day for western Canada.”