In 1996, farmer Andy McMechan of Lyleton, Manitoba, was charged with selling wheat to the United States without a CWB permit. A grassroots group, Canadian Farmers for Justice, took up his cause, and McMechan received a great deal of community support.
From their newsletter: "Late September saw a huge turnout for an old fashioned farm bee on the McMechan farm. Organized by friends of the McMechan family, people turned out from all around to help combine the fields and bring in the harvest. Still others were helping out on the garden, mowing the lawn and trimming trees. Even CTV's W-5 turned out with some cameras to record the event. And to make me wish I was there even more, there was a "huge table of food, baking, sandwiches and pickled preserves."
The National Citizens Coalition was always looking for causes like this to get behind, if it meant they could fundraise, garner media attention and/or discredit the Liberals, and this cause earned the triple crown.
So in July 1997, they started running attack ads against Liberal Ralph Goodale in the West, and beginning September 22, 1997, also in Ottawa. According to David Somerville, then president of the NCC (Stephen Harper his vice-president): "Our plan is to run a radio ad blitz in the West where Goodale lives and in Ottawa where he works. One way or another he will get the message."
And in the process, the campaign also helped Harper's Reform Party.
Goodale had proposed changes to the CWB that allowed it to be run by a board of directors, 10 elected by the prairie farmers themselves, and the other five appointed by the government; so Reform Party MPs joined the chorus, with then MP Jay Hill promising to do what he could to delay the vote on the bill.
The NCC had their well funded political cause and it paid off for Reform. From the July 1997 newsletter of the Canadian Farmers for Justice:
Who Speaks for the Western Farmer? Prairie farmers in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are now represented almost entirely by Reform MPs who stand for farmers' choice in grain marketing.Of course the NCC cared little for the farmers. Their concern was for the corporate sector, and some believe that their expensive campaign may have been funded by Karlheinz Schreiber, Brian Mulroney's former cash machine, who was planning on starting a pasta business.
Ken Larsen, now with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, wrote in February of 2008:
Brian Mulroney's former chief of staff Norman Spector advised the Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. He suggested the committee's most important work was to find where and to whom Karlheinz Schreiber distributed around $10 million in so-called commissions. In December Schreiber told the same committee, "So forget the pasta thing. That came much later." At the time, many thought he was just talking about a machine. However, Mr Schreiber went on to testify that he and Mulroney discussed what to do about pasta in 1994, and he then went on to say "it started somehow in 1996 or 1997." Perhaps it was entirely coincidental, but less than a year later Steven Harper's National Citizens Coalition had generous funds to attack the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).Harper is nothing if not determined to get his way, so with the same glee as his cancelling the Kelowna Accord, the Kyoto Protocol and a National Childcare Plan in 2006, he was kicking up his heels recently, when with the stroke of a pen, he axed the Canadian Wheat Board.
For Mr Harper it seems it was all about the pasta. He justified his attacks on the CWB with help from a couple of small groups, by claiming the CWB was preventing investors from opening pasta plants. For those who understand food processing, and the overbuilt pasta industry, these proposals were about as credible as a kindergarten class announcing they could build a working nuclear reactor if only Federal regulations were removed. However they did serve as a convenient stick for Harper to use on the CWB. Indeed, Harper became infamous for attacking the CWB using lavish electronic and print advertising. (1)
And if Canadians go hungry because of his agenda, he'll shriek "Let them eat pasta".
I've often suggested that if you want to know what Harper's next move will be, check out the Republicans or the Tea Party. But if you want an overview of his agenda, I suggest Gerry Nicholls' book Loyal to the Core: Stephen Harper, Me and the NCC and Murray Dobbin's The Myth of the Good Corporate Citizen: Canada and Democracy in the Age of Globilization.
Dobbin sums up the agenda nicely, while Nicholls reveals the devious ways they sell it to us.
1. Who funded Harper's Wheat Board vendetta? PM has been after Wheat Board since he was at National Citizens' Coalition, By Ken Larsen, Southern Alberta, February 12, 2008