Thursday, March 29, 2007

Farmers Reject Phony Plebiscite

That should be the headline in the papers today, but it isn't. The headlines are full of government spin on their failed barley plebiscite.

A total of 62 per cent of just over 29,000 farmers who cast eligible ballots said they wanted the board out of the barley market altogether, or for the board to participate in a competitive market. Another 38 per cent said they wanted to maintain the status quo.

Farmers overwhelmingly rejected Chuck Strahl's plebiscite as it was not sanctioned by the Wheat Board. About 86,000 ballots were mailed out based on crop insurance data.

Now at least in some reports those ballots were as high as 89,000. That means if 29,000 farmers voted even with my terrible reputation at math that works out to one third voted not even fifty percent as the government claims.

Strahl said KPMG, the firm that handled the plebiscite for the government, made every effort to ensure only eligible votes were counted. Voter turnout was just over 50 per cent. Strahl said many eligible voters said they didn't bother to vote because they only sell their barley to feed lots, not the wheat board.

So if two thirds of prairie farmers don't vote that means they support the status quo.

The real number that supports the Conservatives opposition to the existence of the farmer owned producer coop; the Canadian Wheat Board they can only muster up amongst their Reform Party base in Southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, 15.2% of the total who voted. Not even the total who could vote.

Contrary to Strahl's math; where he combines pro-choice with anti-Wheat Board,and proudly announces that his side won with 62%, Wayne Easterly the Agriculture critic for the Liberals was justified in pointing out that the numbers could equally show support for the Wheat Board 87.2%. Since those that answered question number two wanted both choice and the Wheat Board.

As Neil Waugh points out in the Edmonton Sun;

Another 15.2% said get rid of the board altogether when it came to the barley business. Still, it was enough to carry the day.

In the four western provinces, where the CWB monopoly rules, the overall result saw only 37.8% back the so-called "single desk," while pro choice hit 49.4%.

But when the Saskatchewan numbers were broken out - where 15,327 farmers voted - 45% chose to extend the monopoly.

In Manitoba, where it appeared a boycott was in the works, 50.6% of only 3,703 barley producer cast ballots saying leave it be.

In B.C., the vote was 49.4% pro choice. But only 156 ballots were in the boxes.

Interesting that Waugh fails to note the Alberta number of votes, in his article.
Well in all the rest of the provinces, total votes other than Alberta; 19,186 That leaves Alberta with less than 10,000 votes and Waugh fails to break them down.

They were 9,881 total votes. It was in Alberta that the plebiscite got 15% support for getting rid of the Wheat Board, the same number as the national result. In fact all of Strahl's numbers are for Alberta.

They are not the reality of the prairie position on the Wheat Board.

Farmer support for Option 1 the Wheat Board was;

Manitoba 50.6%
Saskatchewan; 45.1%
B.C.; 42%

Farmer support for Option 2 market to Wheat Board or on my own;
Manitoba; 34.5%
Saskatchewan; 42.1%
B.C.; 49%

In Manitoba and Saskatchewan the majority of farmers support the Wheat Board, their farmer owned producer cooperative.

Only in B.C. is it the reverse, but the government in its desperation looks at percentages instead of core numbers. B.C. only had 156 votes compared to Manitoba and Saskatchewan's 19,0000 votes.

That's because the Conservatives included B.C. making this not a prairie farm vote but a Western one.

Just as Alberta's vote skews the numbers.

For Option 1: 21.4%
For Option 2: 63.4%

Prairie farmers face their battle to maintain their producer cooperative not with Ottawa, but with Alberta and its party in Ottawa.

The government asked three questions. Period. And there was no clear winner. The government has to resort to arithmetricks.

The reality is that 57,000-60,000 farmers abstained from voting, a boycott was called, and they did not vote in the governments fixed plebiscite. That is twice as many as voted, and a clear rejection of Strahl and the Alberta Reform Party Farm lobby.


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