Friday, July 3, 2009

Harper, the NCC and the Initial Assault on the Canadian Wheat Board.

When investigating Stephen Harper's political career with the Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party (C.R.A.P.), all roads ultimately lead to the National Citizens Coalition, and his decades long battles with the Canadian Wheat Board, are no exception.

It started when the NCC launched a heavily financed campaign against the board, supposedly on the behalf of Western farmers.

Straight Goods believe that the campaign may have been funded in part by Karlheinz Schreiber, because of a reference he made to pasta machines (pasta, wheat?), but it seems more likely that the American based National Association of Wheat Growers, were the driving force. They were the ones who would benefit the most, and indeed even today are praising Harper's initiatives.

Clearly somebody was providing a lot of money for Stephen Harper and the NCC to fight the government agency tooth and nail.

When trying to uncover the truth, it helps to know their MO. First they choose a cause, usually on behalf of some industry, who no doubt provide a lot of the funding, (though it doesn't stop the NCC from soliciting contributions. In fact they are still milking it today), then start up 'grassroots' groups to simultaneously launch their own campaigns, which are also professionally run and well funded. These groups then back up the Conservative/Reform/Alliance, who naturally take the side of the 'little guy'.

We've seen this recently with Ridley Terminals Inc. and the 'grassroots' groups that sprang up overnight, all represented by the same lobby group, to maintain the heavily government subsidized operation, on behalf of the coal industry. In fact a staffer immediately left John Baird's office to lobby for the largest beneficiary of the subsidies.

Now back to the Canadian Wheat Board, the National Citizen's Coalition and Stephen Harper.

In 1987 the president of the NCC, David Sommerville, while attending a policy meeting of the Reform Party, asked those at the table, including Harper, if any of them belonged to the National Citizens Coalition. Everyone raised their hand, (Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada Pg. 76) so we know that our current PM has been involved with the organization for more than two decades.

Harper had drafted policy for the Reform Party, and Somerville says that most of it was cribbed from the NCC handbook.

In 1993, when Stephen Harper was running against his former boss, Jim Hawkes, the NCC spent $ 50,000.00 to run attack ads against Hawkes, over his Bill C-114, the amendment to the Elections Canada Act to limit the amount of money spent by third parties during an election campaign; dubbing it the "election gag bill".

It worked and Stephen Harper became the Reform Member of Parliament for Calgary West.

Then four years later, he stunned the media when he announced that he would be resigning and joining the National Citizen's Coalition as Vice-President. Seen as the heir apparent to Preston Manning, many people wondered why he would instead work for a contentious right-wing advocacy group.

When asked if he was just stepping aside until Manning retired, he made it known that he had no interest in running for the party leadership (certainly not his last lie).

He would soon get his feet wet in the first of many attacks on the Canadian Wheat Board.

At the time there was a strong sentiment coming from the West about what they deemed to be the arbitrary nature of the CWB. The recent trial of prairie farmer Andy McMechan, who was jailed for 'border jumping', (unlawfully selling his grain in the U.S. for more money than he could here), had people hopping mad.

A new legitimate grassroots group, Canadian Farmers for Justice, had taken up his cause, and Mr. McMechan received a great deal of community support.

From the Canadian Farmer's 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."

I love that story.

The resulting media attention peaked the interest of the National Citizen's Coalition, and obviously one Stephen Harper, because it wasn't long before they got involved. With the emotional backing of the Canadian Farmers for Justice and a victim, Andy McMechan, they were good to go.

In July 1997, the NCC started running attack ads against Ralph Goodale in Saskatchewan, and beginning September 22, 1997, also in Ottawa. According to Somerville: "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."

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; but the Reform Party MPs would have none of it. They wanted the Wheat Board gone and Jay Hill promised that they would try to delay the vote on the bill, though it did pass.

The July 1997 newsletter of the Canadian Farmers for Justice let their supporters know: '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.'

The stage was set.


  1. Here's a good answer to your BS!

  2. Neat video. Thanks for entering the debate.