Alberta government ignores democracy

Submitted

With the Alberta Government’s action to replace Alberta Beef Producers’ (ABP) non-refundable service charge (check-off), the expressed wishes of this province’s cattle producers have fallen on deaf ears. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development George Groeneveld today announced legislation making service charges for ABP and three other marketing commissions refundable. Although the announcement suggested that the proposed legislation will provide more choice to producers, ABP thinks that this action actually reduces choice for producers.

ABP had requested that before the government took any legislative action to make the service charge refundable, the government exercise its authority under the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act to have Marketing Council conduct a plebiscite to allow producers to make that choice.

We are extremely disappointed that the government would choose to overrule the democratic process and the producers of Alberta by intervening in the operations of ABP and the three other commissions through the imposition of a refundable check-off.

This action will aggravate the divisions that already exist within the cattle industry and will compromise the positive intent of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Strategy and the efforts of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency.

A refundable check-off has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of industry funding that is available for marketing, research and promotion activities. ABP does not think that this action makes sense at a time when governments are facing severe budgetary constraints and are looking to industry to provide more funding for these activities.

There is a bitter irony in having democratically elected MLAs arbitrarily change the manner in which the marketing commissions are funded without first consulting the delegates and directors elected by the producers to be their representatives or using the mechanisms available in the Act to consult with the producers directly. The imposition of a refundable check-off shifts control of the commissions from a democratic system where each producer has an equal vote to a system where very large producers will have more influence as a result of controlling a greater amount of check-off dollars.

The nearly 28,000 beef producers in this province have an organization which represents their collective interests – the Alberta Beef Producers. Run by producers for producers, ABP is dedicated to supporting a truly sustainable, competitive and profitable cattle and beef industry for the benefit of all Albertans.