Results of CWB vote delayed till Monday

Prairie farmers waiting to see the results of the Canadian Wheat Board’s producer plebiscite, due out Friday, will need to wait until Monday (Sept. 12).

Vote counting, tabulation and scrutiny of producers’ ballots have been underway since Thursday, according to plebiscite co-ordinator Ian Craven of MNP, the accounting and consultancy firm operating the plebiscite on the CWB’s behalf.

“As it is now apparent that results will not be finalized until late this evening or early Saturday, a decision has been made to delay the release until the next business day,” the company said in a release late Friday.

The non-binding mail-in plebiscite ballot asks eligible Prairie grain growers to choose one of two statements for wheat and/or barley:

  • “I wish to maintain the ability to market all (wheat and/or both malting and food barley), with the continuing exception of feed (wheat and/or barley) sold domestically, through the CWB single-desk system,” or
  • “I wish to remove the single-desk marketing system from the CWB and sell all (wheat/barley) through an open-market system.”

The plebiscite voting period closed Aug. 24, with two weeks allocated for Canada Post delivery of mail-in ballots from farmers.

MNP didn’t say Friday how many farmers submitted ballots in the plebiscite, but did say over 68,000 producers were provided with plebiscite voting packages.

“Cumbersome”

While the CWB has said it will respect the results of the plebiscite, the result is considered by some to be a moot point. The federal government already plans to strip the CWB of its single desks by next summer and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has said he will ignore the plebiscite, calling it an expensive and self-serving exercise by the board.

Ritz was also quoted this week as saying a number of non-farmers received plebiscite voting packages and some were mailed to dead farmers.

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, a pro-deregulation group, also criticized the plebiscite and urged the government to ignore the results.

“The CWB boasts that ballots were sent to over 68,000 voters, even though Statistics Canada numbers suggest there are no more than 20,000 commercial grain farms in Western Canada,” the group said in a release Thursday. “The large number of eligible voters shows that multiple ballots were sent to some farms, and/or a significant number of retired or hobby farmers were allowed to vote.”

The design of the CWB’s vote was “badly flawed,” the group said, claiming the process made some farms eligible to obtain several ballots while many “bona fide farmers” did not receive a ballot or had to go through a “cumbersome process” to obtain one.

“Many farmers, on principle, refused to obtain or mail in a ballot,” the group said in its release, noting it had also urged farmers to boycott the vote.

“The entire design of this vote was geared toward producing a result in favour of the monopoly,” WCWGA president Kevin Bender of Bentley, Alta., said in the release.

Related stories:

CWB to conduct farmer vote on monopoly, June 28, 2011

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