Prairie labour groups defend Wheat Board as Parliament votes;Western Agriculture Ministers acting against the interests of rural communities, says AFL

EDMONTON –The leading labour groups from the Prairie provinces today united in calling on the Harper government to abandon its illegal and undemocratic plan to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).

“Bill C-18, which will be voted on in the House of Commons today, is not about market freedom, despite what the Harper government claims. It is an early Christmas gift to the Conservatives’ corporate friends – at the expense of Canadian communities, families and working people,” says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) which represents 145,000 workers.

The AFL, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and the Manitoba Federation of Labour today issued a joint statement condemning the plan to dismantle the wheat board.

“The plan is illegal, because the government has refused to hold a vote among farmers on the issue. It is undemocratic, because it ignores the wheat board’s own vote, in which a majority voted to keep the board,” says McGowan.

“It is extremely disappointing to see the Agriculture Ministers from Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. today backing this deeply flawed plan. They are acting against the interests of the fragile rural communities they claim to represent,” he says.

The joint statement from the labour federations says: “For more than 75 years, the CWB has worked successfully to help farmers negotiate on an equal footing with the buyers of their products, mainly large multi-national or U.S. corporations. It has also helped small Prairie farmers compete with larger corporate farming operations.”

It adds: “Clearly, the CWB is working for the majority of farmers. The Tory government has not put forward a business case for its decision and it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to wrap up CWB operations. Prairie farmers and rural communities will lose out. Only large corporations and foreign corporate buyers will benefit.”

Says McGowan: “The real truth is that the Harper government believes in a free market only when it’s good for large corporations. It wants to destroy the ability of farmers to freely and collectively bargain to get the best price for their goods. It’s the same ideological attack Harper has made on the rights of workers to collectively bargain to get a fair deal for their work in back-to-work legislation at Canada Post and Air Canada.”

The AFL president also issued a warning: “The Harper government won’t rest here. The dairy and poultry industries are next on the list of targets.”



Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888 (cell)

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