Prairie farmers have voted to keep the same level of support and opposition for the Canadian Wheat Board’s single marketing desk at its board table.
Accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny (MNP) announced the results Sunday from its counting of 16,384 eligible ballots for director elections in the board’s five even-numbered districts.
After a campaign loaded with accusations of government interference and improper campaign tactics, along with the removal of spending limits for third-party intervenors, voters returned the two incumbent directors who were eligible to run again and introduced three new faces.
The three new directors, who take office for terms of four years starting Dec. 31, and will come to their first directors’ meeting at the CWB’s head office in Winnipeg Jan. 26-28, are:
– Jeff Nielsen, an Olds, Alta. farmer, a former farmer-director with UGG and Agricore United, and current president of the Western Barley Growers Association, in District 2 (southwestern Alberta).
Nielsen, an outspoken opponent of the single-desk marketing model, won handily in the first round of counting, drawing 1,494 of 2,379 first-place votes on the preferential ballot against Gerald Pilger of Ohaton. Nielsen will replace single-desk opponent Jim Chatenay of Red Deer on the board.
– Bill Woods, who farms at Eston, Sask. and is a founding member and current director of the West Central Road and Rail producer car loading organization, in District 4 (east-central Alberta, west-central Saskatchewan).
Woods also won in the first round of voting, with 2,456 first-place votes on 3,875 ballots, defeating Sam Magnus of Luseland, Sask. and Walter Suntjens of Hanna, Alta.
Woods will replace Ken Ritter of Kindersley, overcoming a controversial public endorsement Magnus received from MP David Anderson, the federal Conservative government’s parliamentary secretary for the CWB.
It’s not yet known whether single-desk supporters will now follow through on their complaints to MNP (in its role as election co-ordinator) and to the federal privacy commissioner about Anderson and other Conservative MPs’ endorsement of pro-deregulation candidates.
– Cam Goff, treasurer of the Allan South Rural Water Utility and one of the proponents of a producer car loading site for his home community of Hanley, Sask., in District 6 (central Saskatchewan), replacing Ian McCreary of Bladworth.
The preferential ballot system meant three rounds of counting before Goff earned 1,788 of 3,187 ballots, defeating Gerrid Gust of Davidson. Wayne Bacon of Kinistino and Doyle Wiebe of Langham were knocked out in the first and second rounds of counting, respectively.
The two incumbents who keep their seats on the CWB board are:
– Rod Flaman, an organic farmer at Edenwold, Sask., and a defeated federal Liberal candidate in his Regina-area riding, in District 8 (south-central Saskatchewan).
Flaman has drawn the ire of single-desk opponents in past elections by first winning on a pro-deregulation platform, then becoming a single-desk supporter. In this election, however, pro-deregulation groups publicly complained of the federal Liberal Party’s ties to Flaman and to another candidate, Lonny McKague.
It took four rounds of counting for Flaman to take 2,039 of 3,722 ballots cast, defeating David Schnell of Lampman. Candidates Phil Lewis of Moose Jaw, McKague, from Ogema, and Paul Beingessner of Truax were knocked out in the first, second and third counts respectively.
– Bill Toews of Kane, Man., a director with Keystone Agricultural Producers and the Canadian International Grains Institute and member of the Manitoba Farm Products Marketing Council and Agri-Food Research and Development Initiative, in District 10 (southern Manitoba).
Toews drew fire from pro-deregulation supporters for his alleged use of the CWB’s official logo on both campaign signs and campaign literature, a use they noted was not allowed under CWB election rules.
But Toews also won in the first round of counting, earning 1,735 of 3,221 ballots cast and defeating Rolf Penner of Morris, Curtis Sims of MacGregor, Barry Reimer of Killarney and Harvey Vaags of Dugald.
“Central to principle”
This election’s response rate sits at 52.8 per cent, beating the 2006 turnout of 51.5 per cent in the odd-numbered districts and the 2004 turnout of 32.7 per cent in the even-numbered districts. The original 2008 voters’ list named 30,530 eligible voters, followed by 714 more who applied for ballots, minus 40 cancelled ballots, plus 40 reissued ballots, for a total of 31,244.
Out of 16,497 ballot envelopes returned, MNP rejected 113, leaving 16,384 eligible ballots. Of those envelopes, 83 were found to contain spoiled ballots, 12 had ballots giving no preference at all, nine had cancelled ballots that were returned when reissued, eight had no ballot at all, and one was submitted with a “removed or unreadable” bar code.
“This democratic process is central to the principle of farmer control over the CWB as their grain marketing corporation,” said Larry Hill, chair of the CWB board of directors, in a separate release Sunday. “Farmers’ voices have been heard. They have chosen who they want to sit at our board table and help chart the future direction of this organization.
“I look forward to working with the successful candidates in the best interests of the farmers we all represent,” said Hill, who farms near Swift Current, Sask.
The election results allow avowed single-desk supporters to keep an eight-man edge in decision-making at the CWB’s board table. The four winners Sunday join Hill as well as Allen Oberg, Kyle Korneychuk, and Bill Nicholson in backing the single desk.
Nielsen, meanwhile, has the company of farmer-elected director Henry Vos along with the Conservative government’s appointed directors, David Carefoot, Glen Findlay, Bruce Johnson and Ken Motiuk in backing deregulation of Prairie wheat and barley marketing. CWB CEO Ian White, the 15th board member, was also appointed by the Conservative government.
The pro-deregulation Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association noted that “marketing choice” candidates had boosted their total share of first-round votes to 43 per cent, up six per cent from 2006 and up nine per cent from 2004.
Nevertheless, “the odds are stacked against us when CWB records are used as the basis for determining the initial voters list,” Wheat Growers president Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel said in a release Monday. “The election rules should be changed so that all bona fide grain farmers automatically receive a ballot, regardless of whether they deliver grain to the board.”
On the other hand was Stewart Wells, president of the pro-single-desk National Farmers Union. “Farmers have spoken, and if (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) believes in the will of the majority he must now stop attacking the CWB, and the prime minister must also protect the CWB at the World Trade Organization talks.”