The Fall Out When the CWB Loses the Single Desk

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By Shaun Haney

With the Conservatives winning a majority it took very little time for the speculation to begin on how long it will take the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk responsibilities on wheat to be extinguished.  It was interesting to watch the live discussion on twitter while the election results were being posted on CBC.  While some farmers thought the single desk would be gone by breakfast a few people thought it might not even happen.   Well I am here to tell you that the single desk is going to vanish from the clutches of the CWB which will make the next four to five years very interesting.  Here are some random thoughts I have had about this topic since the majority was announced.

  • According to Gerry Ritz that we aren’t even going to get to vote on it.  Although I think a vote would make some sense for farmers to provide an official position, I understand why the Conservatives are taking their solid support in rural ridings as the same thing.   Did some single desk supporters vote Conservative in the election?  Probably some, but enough to swing the single desk vote the other way, I have no idea.
  • One of the things that tweaks my curiosity is what we will see happen with the key domestic and international employees at the CWB.  I would expect that Viterra, Richardson’s and Cargill will be taking a very keen interest in which CWB employee will be advantageous recruits once the CWB loses the single desk or even before.
  • What are some of our grower associations like the Grain Growers of Canada and Friends of the CWB going to do when the single desk is removed.  Considerable time and energy from these groups has been committed to either preserving or dismantling the single desk.  It will be interesting to watch what becomes the next key topics for these groups as change happens.  I would think the rail service within the country will be the next key target.
  • If the CWB does not have a single desk will it still view the lakers as a key strategic investment?
  • Is there anything that could happen to stop this move by the federal conservatives.  Will legal action by the CWB supporters put any stop to this?

All in all I think that we will have no more single desk within three years which will dramatically change the landscape in Western Canada.  The challenge will be for many farmers to try and steer their way through this change.  I think that many farmers are licking their lips but at the same time it will be more different than anticipated.  The key is that this is not the death of the CWB but a dramatic change.  Just like farmers have to be up for new challenges, the CWB and its leadership must do the same.

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