Wheat board battle not over, Harper says
Published Monday, August 6, 2007 10:45PM EDT
LLOYDMINSTER, Sask. - Farmers are "sick and tired'' of efforts to block changes that would end the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on barley sales, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday on a visit to the Prairies.
Harper told about 300 Conservative supporters in Lloydminster, which straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary, that he isn't giving up on making the change.
"Mark my words, this battle isn't over,'' said Harper, prompting applause from most of the crowd.
"We may have to wait until next season, but we are going to get this market open whether the wheat board likes it or not.''
Last week, a judge quashed the government's attempt to end the monopoly, saying the federal cabinet didn't have the authority to make the change without the approval of Parliament.
Harper noted Monday that farmers have spoken -- referring to a plebiscite in which the majority of producers voted for a dual-marketing option for barley.
"And farmers are going to eventually win this battle,'' he said.
The prime minister still has not said how the issue will move forward or whether the government will appeal the ruling.
The wheat board message was part of an 18-minute-long campaign-style speech Harper delivered in a room where the tablecloths and centrepieces were decked out in Tory blue and white.
The speech covered a range of topics including agriculture, crime and the military.
Harper also took aim the Opposition and alluded to the feud between Ottawa and the provinces.
In opening his remarks, Harper said that for more than a decade "the Prairies had barely registered on the radar'' of the previous government of Canada.
Liberals in the Senate, he argued, are currently holding up the passage of crimes bills, "defying common sense.''
But Harper also said that "despite the occasional squabbling or the occasional attacks we get between governments,'' Canada has not been this united since its centennial 40 years ago.
The comment comes after the premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan all recently said they were ignored when the prime minister visited their provinces.
The premiers are angry with Harper over the revamped equalization formula in the March budget.