Prairie grain growers who don’t have Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) permit books now have other options to declare their eligibility to vote in this fall’s CWB director elections.
And this round of elections will also see the cap removed on how much “third parties” can spend to advertise on their chosen candidates’ behalf.
“We’ve made it easier than ever for farmers to get on the voters’ list by allowing them to use their crop insurance records or delivery receipts to prove their eligibility,” said federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz in a press release Friday.
The nomination period for candidates to run in the CWB’s electoral districts 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 opened Monday and runs until Oct. 20. Farmers are to then elect one CWB farmer-director from each of those five districts for a four-year-term expiring in December 2012.
Applications to vote will be accepted until 5 p.m. CT on Nov. 14, while the election period will run until the ballot postmark deadline of Nov. 28. Election results are expected to be announced Dec. 7.
Voters must be either actual producers or interested parties as defined by the CWB Act. An “actual producer,” to be eligible to vote, must have grown at least one of wheat, oats, barley, rye, flaxseed, rapeseed or canola within the 2007-08 or 2008-09 crop year.
Eligible CWB permit book holders are automatically included on the voters’ list. For the 2008 election, however, non-Board grain growers may either file a statutory declaration to receive a ballot, or present a crop insurance contract or contract number, or provide a copy of a grain delivery receipt or a cash ticket from a licensed elevator, to give evidence of production in 2007-08 or 2008-09.
Ritz said Friday that he has “written to grain producers all across the Prairies, informing them of their right to vote.”
This fall’s election, he said, “will determine the future direction of the grain industry in Western Canada. It is important that farmers take this opportunity to elect directors that they feel will best represent their interest as a western grain producer.”
Ritz on Friday also announced that the federal regulations on CWB director elections have officially been amended to lift the $10,000 spending cap on advertising expenses that had previously been in place for third-party intervenors.
Third parties who spend money on CWB election ads will still be required to file a statement with the CWB election co-ordinator providing the name of each donor that donates more than $100 as well as the amount of the donation, an accounting of the advertising expenses made during the election, and a statutory declaration as to the accuracy and completeness of that information.
“This change will enable a broad debate and participation in (CWB) elections of directors,” the government said of its controversial move.
The Conservative government, which has pressed unsuccessfully since its election in 2006 for deregulation of the CWB’s single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley, has drawn criticism from single-desk supporters such as Stewart Wells, president of the National Farmers Union.
Wells last month ripped the government’s proposal to lift the third-party spending cap as an attempt “to leverage corporate money to support its pet project.”