Ag Policy Connection Ep. 5 — The dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board

After decades of debate among farmers and politicians, it took less than 15 months for the machinery of the federal government to dismantle — some might describe it as steamroll — the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk following the Conservative majority in the 2011 federal election.

The behind-the-scenes of how former federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz made ending the CWB’s single desk by August 2012 a top priority inside the Harper government, the reason it was done so quickly, and why the Liberals haven’t revisited the Wheat Board issue are all discussed in this new episode of the Ag Policy Connection podcast.

The Wheat Board is a topic that was litigated for decades in coffee shops across the Prairies, with farmers — and their personal identities in some cases — entrenched on both sides. As evidenced in this episode, the argument over how many farmers were in favour/opposed to the single desk might have faded, but continues to this day.

There are many angles to explore when it comes to the end of the Wheat Board and its monopoly on wheat and barley in Western Canada — we’ve decided to focus on the political aspects of ending the single desk in this panel discussion, featuring a pair of guests who hold unique political insight and in-the-room experience on what happened with the CWB.

Our panelists:

  • Aaron Gairdner — now with Rubicon Strategy, Aaron was the chief of staff to former agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz, and played a key internal role in advancing the Conservatives’ legislation that ended the CWB;
  • David Herle — host of the well-known Canadian political podcasts, “The Herle Burly” and “Curse of Politics,” David is a long-time Liberal strategist who served as top advisor to Prime Minister Paul Martin. He’s also a professional pollster, and his firm, The Gandalf Group, was hired to run the CWB’s annual producer surveys back in the day.

On a personal note, I can say much of what I learned about reporting — including some lessons on how to handle feedback — as a rookie broadcaster based in southern Manitoba was in the context of the Wheat Board debate, so this conversation certainly brought back many memories and stories. Feel free to send me your comments and thoughts (I’m sure there will be some) at [email protected].

The Ag Policy Connection podcast is a partnership between the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) and RealAgriculture where we aim to connect the dots and drive conversations around big policy issues in Canadian agriculture. You can find past episodes here on RealAgriculture or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Related: Marketing freedom a decade later: What has changed for farmers, post-CWB


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