By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on November 9, 2018.
PAST CHAIRMAN, ALBERTA BEEF PRODUCERS
It’s crunch time, folks. And as we vote in the Alberta Beef Producers compulsory checkoff referendum, and please do vote by Nov. 13, the issue is what we think the ABP should be: A private organization or a branch of government.
That claim might sound stark. But notice what a big deal the ABP makes about improving their relationship with government. Of course it matters. But their most important relationship should be with producers. And when an organization focuses on lobbying, it generally finds that the only way to keep the ear of politicians is to repeat their slogans. Especially if that organization depends on government for its money, directly or through compulsory fees.
We don’t want the ABP trying to represent us to government and winding up representing government to us. We want it focused on informing and educating producers and the public at large. And we do have to choose.
When we won the “Crow Rate” fight, our organization had done such a good job of communicating with members that we had a host of ordinary farmers who could confidently debate the president of Sask Pool or the president of a railway. And that situation wasn’t just good for producers or “the industry.” It was good for society. When citizens can work intelligently with one another and influence their friends, neighbours and politicians on a daily basis, as someone once said, even the wrong government is inclined to do the right thing.
It’s tempting to take the shortcut, to say the best way to get what we all want is to have a few well-spoken delegates or lobbyists able to influence their friends in government in private meetings. But governments hold all the power in the short run, so the only reliable way to get into those meetings is to shift your own positions slowly but inexorably toward theirs. In the end the “relationship” becomes everything, and principle is lost.
Consider two examples even without mandatory checkoffs.
– Our beef producers organization supported the government’s “climate leadership initiative” in order to “get along” with the government so they could “get along” so they could … continue to “get along.” The means became the end.
– When the environment minister suggested eating less beef as a way of saving the environment, we don’t even know what our organization said, if anything. Every person in Alberta should know the ABP answer. In fact, they should be able to guess.
There are other examples where our organization has dropped the ball. But let’s focus on the core climate issue: the carbon tax. Many of Canada’s premiers are now opposed, but mostly because it is unpopular. The public has led the way here. The ABP has not.
Our organization should have been pushing hard for sound science and sound economics to support sound policy, questioning the claim that CO2 is the “control knob” on global temperature and arguing that carbon taxes will hurt both our producers and our customers without doing anything significant for the environment according to the alarmists’ own models. And they should have been having that discussion in public, with us, so we were all in the position we were in back during the Crow Rate fight, able to make strong arguments on call-in shows and over coffee.
Instead the ABP endorsed bad policy driven by bad economics and no science. If this is how it tries to stay close to government when you can take back part of your payment, imagine what it will be like once you can’t.
Vote “no” to compulsory and keep the ABP private and accountable.
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