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Barley to sell on open free market? In Canada? That ain’t liberal!

A vastly downplayed article in the National Post doesn’t give sufficient credence to the great work being done by conservative Conservative Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl, who is trying, against all odds, to bring Canada into the world of free markets and away from its liberal-left-induced Soviet-style ditch. 


CanWest News Service
Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2007

HEADINGLEY, Man. -The federal government has announced that Western Canadian farmers will have the freedom to choose how they market their barley beginning on Aug.1.

Speaking at a farm roughly 20 kilometres west of Winnipeg yesterday, Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl said the government has amended regulations to allow farmers to choose whether they want to market barley through the open market or the Canadian Wheat Board(CWB). “Today is about freedom for our farmers,” Mr. Strahl said. “Today is about empowerment for our farmers and today is about opportunity for our farmers.”

Jim Janzen, who hosted the Minister’s news conference, said he has not grown barley for 15 years but plans to do so in the future and sell it on the open market. Mr. Strahl suggested farmers would make more money in an open market. “It’s time the farmers made a buck and it’s time they made it on barley,” he said.

The Harper government has been talking about abolishing the CWB ever since it took office. Back in March, the government held a non-binding vote of barley growers that found 62% wanted the CWB’s barley monopoly to end. Mr. Strahl moved ahead with the open barley market despite calls from Canada’s two largest malting companies to delay the change until 2008, to give them time to wind up existing CWB contracts. The CWB has also suggested it could file a legal challenge over the loss of its barley monopoly.

More work to do.  Like finishing the work on this particular file, then moving to eliminate the other agriculture-related price and supply and marketing boards that run under the auspices of various Canadian governments and departments, which will lower the price Canadians pay for products through competition and efficiency. 

Like the federal-provincial supply management marketing scheme for dairy farmers.  A 2002 report by the good Fraser Institute on Canada’s crazed dairy industry and its government supports ends on this sarcastic note, written when the Liberals were in power for nearly a decade: 

“The [Liberals’] federal Minister of Agriculture calls these supply management schemes “a unique Canadian achievement.” Heaven help us—Ottawa won’t.” 

Well heaven, Chuck Strahl, whatever.  But that “a unique Canadian achievement” quip being used to describe an abhorrent socialist scheme reminds me of all Liberals when they refer to, for example, free unlimited abortion—and deem that a (quote) “Canadian value” that we must protect by electing more liberals. 

The report further says: 

Canada’s milk policy costs consumers $2.5 billion per year and is focused on helping political parties gain or retain office rather than on the needs of consumers, according a new electronic publication The Politics of Milk in Canada released today by The Fraser Institute.

This new study shows that through a combination of a government-mandated cartel for milk and tight constraints on imports of milk and the products made from it, Canadian milk producers have persuaded federal and provincial governments to create policies that forcibly transfer about $2.47 billion per year (in 2000) from Canadian consumers to them. 


“It is in the best interest of politicians to create policies that benefit vocal groups like milk producers because it increases their chances of election or re-election.”

Another study speaks to how much more we pay for milk than our American brothers and sisters—25% more or even more—as anyone who buys their dairy products (and poultry and…) across the border knows. 

Another report—a 2007 political document written by Preston Manning and Mike Harris states:

  …As one US pundit put it: “The task of weaning various people and groups from the national nipple will not be easy. The sound of whines, bawls, screams and invective will fill the air as the agony of withdrawal pangs finds voice” (Bowles, 1994, p. A6). But weaned these special interests must be, if our productivity and standard of living are to improve. And Canadians need not believe that every squeaky wheel represents a fibre of the national identity. The Wheat Board, agricultural supply management, ownership restrictions in financial services, transportation, energy, telecommunications, business subsidies, and tariffs, all may once have responded to perceptions of compelling public purpose. Today, they serve as little more than a drain on Canada’s economic wealth.

Supply management in grain, dairy, and poultry farming offers a good example. Marketing boards were originally introduced in the 1920s and 1930s as voluntary organizations to strengthen the hand of farmers in dealing with customers. They proved useful. But then governments made them compulsory. Committees and bureaucrats pushed farmers and their customers aside and took control of the supply of everything from wheat and barley to milk and eggs. Political considerations, not market forces, determined prices. The result was inevitable distortion. And when governments restricted imports of competing farm products to protect these schemes, the distortions multiplied. As a result, today, almost every Canadian is worse off, while a very few continue to benefit. Consumers pay more than they should for milk, eggs, bread, and other products, leaving less to spend on other things. Efficient farmers earn less than they could in a free market. Inefficient farmers stay in business, even when the market would tell them they could earn a better living in another line of work…


Send Chuck Strahl a message congratulating him for his excellent work. 

Riding Office:

Ottawa Office:
Chuck Strahl
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Phone: (613) 992-2940
Fax: (613) 944-9376

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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