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Federal government calling for unlimited third party spending in CWB elections

The Harper government is proposing regulatory changes that would repeal a section of the regulations for the election of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The move would throw open the door for unlimited spending by third parties in the debate by, “… removing the current $10,000 spending restriction on advertising expenses in place for third-party intervenors, and allowing third parties to freely disseminate information during the election period.”

The announcement came late on the afternoon of Friday, August 1, just before the start of the long weekend, thus ensuring little media attention from both the farm press and general media.

The National Farmers’ Union says the move is tantamount to encouraging unlimited propaganda against the CWB single desk during this fall’s CWB director elections. “If the proposed regulations take effect, however, it would allow unlimited spending by government and corporate players to influence farmers’ votes,” the group wrote in a media release.

“The Harper Government is obsessed with destroying the Canadian Wheat Board and has wasted millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money in that effort already,” stated NFU president Stuart Wells. “Now the government is trying to leverage corporate money to support its pet project.”

Wells said it is no secret that money influences elections. “Cargill, ADM, Monsanto and other corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising every year, so they clearly believe it works.”

This isn’t the first time Prime Minister Stephen Harper has fought with the CWB over election spending and dissemination of information during director elections.

As president of the National Citizens Coalition (NCC), Harper was vocal about his dislike of the CWB single-desk and the organization ran ads against the CWB during the CWB board of directors’ election — a contravention to the third party election-spending ban?. The group claimed the ban was “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

??In 2006 the Harper government placed a gag order on the CWB, preventing the CWB’s farmer-elected board from spending money defending or promoting the single desk, a move which led to a very public struggle with the CWB board of directors and chair Adrian Measner that ultimately ended in Measner’s dismissal.

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