Even if it wanted to, the federal Liberal government couldn’t restore the Canadian Wheat Board and a single-desk marketing system for wheat.
Last week, 50 farmers at a Manitoba meeting voted to restore the board, after which NDP leader Tom Mulcair raised the issue in the House of Commons during Question Period Feb. 16.
“The Canadian Wheat Board Alliance tells us the loss of the single-desk system has meant a whopping $6.5 billion shortfall for grain farmers in just the past two years,” he said.
Mulcair said the Liberals “talked a good game” about the board before the election and asked if it would now help farmers by restoring it. Sheri Benson, NDP MP from Saskatoon West, also asked the government to listen to farmers.
But agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay said the previous Conservative government commercialized the board and it is now fully independent.
“(It) is operating in the competitive grain-handling business with no ties to government,” MacAulay said.
He said the government would focus on priorities such as new trade rules “to make sure that farmers receive proper remuneration for their grain. This government will make sure of that.”
Under World Trade Organization rules, state trading monopolies such as the former Canadian Wheat Board can’t be formed, nor re-established once dismantled.
Mulcair a year ago told delegates to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture annual meeting that the NDP would not restore the board exactly as it once was.
“No one is talking about bringing back that wheat board in that form,” he said at the time.