Eduard Hiebert

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My thanks to Ken Larsen of Alberta and NFU member for the following introduction.


Ending CWB Would Make BSE Crisis Look Like Tempest in a Tea Pot

We have been here before.  A minority Liberal Government, borders closed to Canadian cattle exports and a crisis in agriculture.  But that was 1920-21. At the end of the first world war cattle and wheat prices for Canadian farmers were booming.  1919 cattle prices were $1.68 a pound, wheat was almost $3.00 a bushel.  This at time when a new car was less than $500.00. Then the British and the Americans closed their borders to Canadian beef. We had a Canadian Wheat Board that was doing too good a job selling our wheat.  The Liberals, goaded along by the big wheat consumers, the milling industry and a cadre of local Quislings, disbanded the CWB in the hopes that the borders would open to cattle once again. It didn't happen and this started the depression in western Canada.  Forget the dirty thirties, there were more farm foreclosures in Alberta between 1922 and 1929 than during the whole of the Great Depression.

If those closed borders and the cries to gut the Canadian Wheat Board sound all to familiar and contemporary, they should.  Anyone who cares about the well being of the rural west should be very afraid.  The Canadian Wheat Board, as Ralph Goodale was fond of pointing out, is the biggest single net foreign exchange earner Canada has.

That needs to be spelled out.  The operative words are "net foreign exchange earner."  Your average oil or automobile company brings a huge volume of foreign dollars into Canada, but most of it just flows right back out in the form of dividends to foreign share holders and the non-tendered purchase of foreign parts and equipment.  The final balance, or net, is seldom as great as it at first appears.

In contrast, of the approximately $5 billion dollars the CWB returns to farmers every year, better than 99.5% of that goes directly into the pockets of the farmers who grew that export wheat and barley.  We all know that farmers almost never hold onto that money.  They spend it on things in their community.  Things like fuel, and accounting services, seeds and fertilizers, not to mention  clothing for their kids.  Every farm dollar generates about 7 or 8 dollars of business in the community.   That is a lot of local jobs and business.  Take the CWB away, and most of  that dries up, faster than you can say 1921 or  BSE.

Ken Larsen


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