Sask., Manitoba join forces on wheat board plebiscite
The premiers of Manitoba and Saskatchewan say they'll conduct their own farmer plebiscite on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board if Ottawa doesn't hold the vote itself.
Manitoba's Gary Doer and Saskatchewan's Lorne Calvert made the joint announcement in Saskatoon Friday.
"We have faith in farmers," Doer said. "We're asking Ottawa to have a similar faith in the democratic process."
TheWinnipeg-based wheat board has a monopoly on the marketing of wheat and barley.
Farmers must deal through theagency to sell their grain. However, the Conservative government wants to give farmers the choice of where they market their grain.
Doer and Calvert, who both lead NDP governments,said their first choice would be for Ottawa to immediately call a plebiscite of farmers to determine which option they prefer.
Absent from the Saskatoon meeting was Alberta's ConservativePremier Ralph Klein, who in the past has said he could support changes to the wheat board that would end the monopoly.
Calvert said the Saskatchewan and Manitoba plebiscites might be conducted by mail, so the costs would not be "significant."
On the other hand, if the Canadian Wheat Board dies, the economic lossesto the farm sector could be hundreds of millions of dollars, he said.
Federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl announced last month that Ottawa will hold a plebiscite, but only for barley farmers.
Calvert and Doer said their plebiscites would include wheat farmers, too.