Farmers for economic freedom

Updates from the Prairie Centre Policy Institute from Regina, Saskatchewan.

Hot off the press! Don Baron's Jailhouse Justice and
Canada's Great Grain Robbery
are now available at

web posted July 28, 2003

Attitudes and vision for development

By Dr. Graham Parsons

The following commentary is one in a series excerpted from a report published by the Prairie Centre Policy Institute, entitled, “This Year Country: Creating Wealth in Saskatchewan”. Written by Dr. Graham Parsons, former Chief Economist for Western Canada with the Canada West Foundation, the report examines the potential for economic growth in Saskatchewan.

Change is never easy. This is true for individuals, for families, for communities and for provinces. However, change is always easier based on a positive vision of the future.

The immigrants who came to Canada, and I count myself among them, saw the country as a land of opportunity, where hard work would lead to a better future for the next generation. Within Canada people migrating from one province to another are usually attracted by a positive future and sometimes forced out by a negative circumstance.

Positive attitudes matter. The people who built Canada’s West and led its development through the early years of the twentieth century in today's jargon "know no fear". The visions of what the land could hold knew few bounds. And so, on the grasslands grew communities, railways, hotels, car assembly plants, airports, theatres and a whole society. While too many years may have been hard, there was a positive vision of what the future might become - and often it did.

Without a vision there is no path and you don't know where you are going. Accordingly you can't get there. Muddling through may be fine for the short term, but in the longer term others with vision will be further ahead.

Having a positive vision is central to realizing goals. That is not to ignore problems, but it is to keep the end in sight. A preoccupation with negative problems soon translates into "better not even try" and a shift of responsibility from the individual to some outside group.

There are always problems. They are everywhere. When you look for problems you find more of them. It may be easier to avoid problems, set low expectations, rely on entitlements and realize low results. However, this coping strategy is not a sustainable basis for wealth creation. Positive attitudes, vision and tangible success are required.

Knowing the problems and then becoming preoccupied with them are too different things. It is also possible to focus on success. Look for what works, create opportunity, make success. Too many people, however, view success in the economy with disdain, criticizing salaries and profits.

Immigrants who come to new lands can, if they wish, identify many problems in their new society. But for the most part they do not do so. They look for the opportunities and make the most of them. As an immigrant to Canada, I can tell you that my objective was clearly to come to a land of opportunity, and not a land of problems.

In my case, it was the opportunity to provide my children with chances to realize their dreams - a better future for the next generation. Boat people who came from Vietnam came with many problems and burdens from a horrific war, and yet moved quickly to realize opportunities for themselves in their new homes. They created many businesses at a time when the region was supposedly in economic trouble.

A preoccupation with opportunities and a positive vision is central to creating wealth. Without the individual aspirations to grow, change and develop, even the right development frameworks will not matter. Ultimately, it is individual people and not government who will lead change, make decisions, invest, create jobs in the new society, and form the government where they live. In economic terms this equals more jobs, higher incomes and public revenues to pay for social services. These collective attitudes affect expectations and lead people to assume the responsibility to build their collective futures.

Dr. Parsons sits on the Prairie Centre’s Board of Academic Advisors. His report can be found on the Institutes web site at

web posted July 21, 2003

Farm organizations need to re-think their roles

Western Wheat Growers will be missed

By Robert D. Sopuck

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers (WG) is history. The organization proudly advocated free markets and free trade. No doubt their anti-trade, pro-monopoly opponents feel quite gleeful about the demise of this once powerful voice for freedom. But they shouldn't be too happy. What happened to the WG is an indication of the crises facing all farm organizations.

But, as a Chinese sage noted, "A crisis is one part chaos and one part opportunity." What opportunities can rural interests find in the crisis that killed the WCWG? Here's one.

Even in rural communities, farmers are a minority, to be sure an important and vital one. But most rural people don't farm. Many, of course, are employed in businesses that support agriculture and in value-added processing. But the growing trend is towards the creation of non-agricultural businesses in rural areas.

These types of businesses are especially prevalent in the communities south of Winnipeg. They are growing at such rapid rates that they are begging for workers. When was the last time you heard that from rural communities?

I strongly believe that farm groups should take a much larger role in the entire area of rural policy and development. Single-issue groups, commodity associations like the WG, have a role. But in their fight for market share and their own interests, the entire suite of issues facing rural communities becomes lost. Not to mention the enemies they make.

The solution to the farm income crisis in some communities may not be agricultural at all. Look at what the Louisiana Pacific forest plant has done for the economy of the Swan River Valley; many members of farm families work there and the income generated keeps their farms viable. More money in rural communities, regardless of the source, benefits everybody, including farmers.

In 2002, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation surveyed the views held by U.S. legislators of rural issues. Entitled Perceptions of Rural America, the study concluded that, "Policy makers identify improving the economy of rural areas as the single most important thing to do to assure the viability of communities and the people who live there."

Survey participants came up with the following goals that cut across ideological and partisan lines:

* Increasing resources to family farmers and rectifying the inequities in the Farm Bill;

* Expanding access to broadband Internet;

* Improving rural health care;

* Generating incentives for new business starts and job creation in rural communities; and,

* Preserving the rural environment.

In other words, whether you are Conservative, Liberal, NDP or Sask Party, or whether you farm or not, shouldn't matter. These common policy issues provide an opportunity for a wide array of interests and individuals to come together to form a new rural agenda. Without the need for direct government subsidies. Getting the policy right will promote development.

Various community development corporations seem the logical parties to take on this task on. But they rely on government funding, which precludes them from becoming effective agents of change. They inevitably tend to support existing, entrenched interests.

The threats to rural communities are best met by coalitions that will advance a set of common development objectives. Successful communities have created diverse and dynamic economies that can adapt to new realities.

Don't let it happen; make it happen.

Robert D. Sopuck is a natural resource policy consultant with a special interest in rural issues who farms at Lake Audy, Manitoba. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Rural Development at Brandon University. This article is reprinted with permission from the FCPP. For more information on the FCPP, see

web posted July 14, 2003

The "model" is not working

By Ken Dillen

When describing Saskatchewan's economic planning over the past several decades, Dr Graham Parsons points out that the "model" is not working. Well, Saskatchewan isn't the only place where the model isn't working. It's not working in Russia. It's not working in Cuba. It's not working in North Korea. Even China is embracing a free-market economy. The fact is, the propaganda and mythology based socialized economic planning model has not worked in any country that has experimented with it.

Successful countries and governments, of all stripes, have demonstrated that the keys to a healthy and vibrant economy are no secret: taxes must be kept low; trade barriers removed; markets deregulated; infrastructure upgraded; the private sector strengthened; and, government intervention minimized. Growth oriented jurisdictions create a public sector environment that supports, rather than constrains, the economy.

I don't think there is one single politician in Saskatchewan that has any inkling of what it takes to create wealth. Not one New Democrat. Not one Liberal. Not one Saskatchewan Party member. I cannot remember ever hearing any of them articulate a vision that resembles something even close to the economic model I just described. From this, one can only surmise that the same old socialist mythology and feel good messages will continue to dominate coffee shop conversation between now and the next election.

Under the present "model", Saskatchewan has managed to forge a fifteen billion dollar debt and an almost four billion dollar unfunded pension liability. Every year it takes almost eight hundred million dollars just to pay the interest on that debt. All this liability, and we have only 136,000 real income-tax payers to pick up the tab. Let the defenders of the socialist gospel defend that on coffee row tomorrow.

Another hot topic on coffee row is the Government's intervention in the economy through its labour legislation, economic incentives, or its crown corporations. The real tragedy, however, may not be in the intervention, but in the competition for investment capital. What effect does government have on money markets when they line-up with the private sector capitalists looking to borrow the same money? They take investment capital away from entrepreneurs who need it to start or grow their business and create wealth, I submit. Of course, Wall Street would never refuse to lend money to a government (with the power of taxation) over other borrowers.

The socialist model we have adopted also tends to create an aristocracy, almost resembling royalty, out of public servants. They sort of remind me of the players in a game of Monopoly. Wheeling and dealing, buying and selling, but ending up with nothing at the end of the game.

It is time to have another look at what is happening around us and act accordingly. I say that nothing short of a vision, a purpose, and a mission articulated by the political system will suffice.

If we opt for the status quo, we could be headed for disaster. What happens when all the capitalists take their money elsewhere? Look around, it's already happening.

At this rate, there will be no one left to pay for helping the poor and the hungry. No one left to pay for teaching our children, or caring for the sick and the elderly. No one left to pay for building and maintaining the infrastructure of roads, schools, hospitals, sewer and water, power, and other such services we often take for granted.

Yes, we do have our economic problems, but we can also have a bright future. In the words of Dr Parsons, "Solutions to create wealth today are well known. The answer is to follow them."

Ken Dillen sits on the Board of Directors of the Prairie Centre Policy Institute.

web posted July 7, 2003

Restructuring government for the new century: A new model is required

By Dr. Graham Parsons

The following commentary is one in a series excerpted from a report published by the Prairie Centre Policy Institute, entitled, "This Year Country: Creating Wealth in Saskatchewan". Written by Dr. Graham Parsons, former Chief Economist for Western Canada with the Canada West Foundation, the report examines the potential for economic growth in Saskatchewan.

What functions of government are no longer required for the new society and economy? What new functions should government enter into? How can they be best delivered? Day care is, for the most part, delivered by the private sector in response to financial incentives. Why could not travel inoculations be delivered by private nurses? There are many alternatives, but which are the most efficient and best to meet the public interest?

Similar questions exist in the Crown sector of the provincial economy:

1. What is the rationale for public ownership of these assets and services?

2. Are there other ownership approaches that can better meet the public interest?

For example, it is widely agreed that governments no longer need to own and operate a wide range of commercial assets that in the past has included a salt mine, peat bogs, ski hills and computer services.

However, far more complex are the questions as to whether such crown activities as telephones, power, natural gas, and insurance are most efficiently delivered through the state. In most places in the industrial world, many of these public services are delivered through the private sector within a public regulatory framework. Government can often meet its public policy interests through regulation at lower cost to taxpayers, particularly where designed to encourage competition and efficiency.

Current provincial arrangements to regulate utilities are little more than advisory bodies to cabinet. In most provinces regulators are empowered by law to approve or reject price changes and major investments. These approaches can often achieve a full range of consumer benefits without requiring a state investment to deliver utility and commercial services. As utilities across Canada move towards deregulation to increase competition and efficiency, then Saskatchewan will eventually have to make moves in this direction.

Corporate and management accountability has increased dramatically in recent years for private and, in particular, publicly traded companies in Canada. Today, Crown Corporations have much lower levels of public accountability than private companies with respect to management, director liabilities, and transparency. Are there other corporate vehicles that might be a more efficient form of state ownership than the crown corporation model? For example, can the cooperative corporate model present a higher level of public accountability than the current crown corporations?

Could any of these alternative models be appropriate for the delivery of such activities as health care or social services as well as fully commercial services? Access to capital markets could be expanded and competition to increase efficiency.

The importance of the size, scope, efficiency and structure of the public sector in the economy at large is important since it determines, in part:

1. The cost of public services to consumers.

2. Tax levels and Saskatchewan's competitive position.

3. Funds available to individuals and companies for consumption and investment.

4. Access to outside capital to finance long term infrastructure and new technology.

Governments in Saskatchewan have been reluctant to consider new approaches to deliver public services. Yet, Saskatchewan's new society and economy will require significant expansions in public services, infrastructures and institutions. It seems unlikely that the existing model will be able to efficiently and competitively deliver them all. Alternative models are required.

Dr. Parsons sits on the Prairie Centre's Board of Academic Advisors. His report can be found on the Institutes web site at

Press release - It's time to take a lesson in wealth creation from the uranium industry

The Prairie Centre Policy Institute was very pleased to learn that Cameco's McArthur River uranium mine is back in business one month earlier than expected. This is good news for the people of Northern Saskatchewan and the province as a whole.

Cameco Corp, and its partner Cogema Resources Inc., must be commended for this accomplishment. Not only did they restart operations well ahead of schedule, but they did it without inflicting serious damage to their employees, to the environment, and to the economy. Millions of dollars in trade won't be lost, hundreds of northern jobs will be saved, and the environment will be protected in the process.

Often lost in stories like this is the lesson to be learned from the demonstrated ability of the uranium industry to create wealth without the extensive involvement of government. Take job creation, for example. Saskatchewan uranium companies are renowned world-wide for their success in developing a skilled workforce of northern people. This was accomplished by the private sector working with governments and Indian bands to develop education and training opportunities suited to the north. But, it also meant building and maintaining the infrastructure necessary for a safe and secure workplace, good healthcare and recreational facilities. It also required roads and airstrips to get their workers in and ship their product out.

Throughout all this change and development, the industry has also been a world leader in environmental protection. They take their responsibility to the land and the people of the north very seriously.

The Prairie Centre Policy Institute is a Saskatchewan-based prairie think tank dedicated to advancing ideas on wealth creation in the prairie region. We believe that it may be time we looked north to the uranium industry to see what can be accomplished with vision, with initiative, with innovation – then apply some of that thinking to the rest of the province.

For more information on the Prairie Centre, contact Al Evans by phone at 306-242-2981 or by email at

web posted June 30, 2003

Restructuring government for the new century, Part 1

By Dr. Graham Parsons

The following commentary is one in a series excerpted from a report published by the Prairie Centre Policy Institute, entitled, "This Year Country: Creating Wealth in Saskatchewan". Written by Dr. Graham Parsons, former Chief Economist for Western Canada with the Canada West Foundation, the report examines the potential for economic growth in Saskatchewan.

A key factor that directly affects the Saskatchewan economy and its fiscal burdens is the size, efficiency and scope of government. In aggregate the cost of government is recovered through both the individual and corporate tax systems, royalties, user fees and federal transfers. Increases in the costs of government are passed into the economy and society. The exact amount passed into the fiscal systems at large will ultimately depend on the efficiency and scope of government.


Government in Saskatchewan has become increasingly a health, education and social services government offering only limited financial attention to many other areas. The provincial government spends about two-thirds of its money in these three areas, leaving the remaining one-third for all other functions of government.

All of these public services directly target individuals who receive a service delivered through the state in the form of health care, welfare or education. There is no competition in the provision of any of these services and in some cases, laws like the Canada Health Act have been interpreted as requiring state delivery and administration for the use of federal funds. There is also a notable absence of market pricing to allocate the public's scarce financial resources and to allocate them in the most efficient way possible.

In addition, financial and labour agreements in most public sectors limit investment in the new technologies, labour practices, and information management that might increase efficiency and lower costs to be subsequently reflected in lower tax rates.

Many government activities are duplicated in several jurisdictions. Both federal and provincial governments undertake environmental reviews. Many public servants work in health care management in the federal and provincial governments and the local regional health organizations, all supposedly managing a single set of patients. Departments of rural and municipal affairs govern municipalities with declining populations. Departments of Education duplicate curriculums and many functions of school boards.


The scope and approach to the provision of public services in Saskatchewan has essentially remained the same since the 1960s. However, the size of government has steadily grown and delivery through the state is nearly always the first preference. It often takes years for governments to abandon programs and their related administration and to adopt new practices.

Yet there are many options for more efficient public service delivery. These include privatization, contracting, regulation, information technology, formula payments, community delivery as well as no longer providing the service. It is useful for government to frequently ask two basic questions:

1. Is there still a public requirement and benefit for this particular public service?

2. What is the most efficient way of delivering this service at lowest cost to the taxpayer?

Answering these questions will suggest that, over time, some government programs should be abandoned and that others may be introduced. In both cases, the acid test for abandoning, continuing, or introducing a public service must be the public and not the vested interest.

Dr. Parsons sits on the Prairie Centre's Board of Academic Advisors. His report can be found on the Institutes web site at

Prairie Centre Policy Institute
#205, 1055 Park Street
Regina, SK
S4N 5H4

Phone: 306-352-3828
Fax: 306-352-5833
Web site:

The CFEN and CFFJ need your help! The battle against the Canada Wheat Board can only continue with your support.

Canadian Farm Enterprise Network
Box 521
Central Butte, Saskatchewan
S0H 0T0
Canadian Farmers for Justice
c/o Ron Duffy
R.R. #4
Lacombe, Alberta
T0C 1S0

Write the following and demand free market rights for Western Canadian farmers!

The Canadian Wheat Board
423 Main Street
P.O. Box 816, Stn. M.
Winnipeg, MB
R3C 2P5

Telephone: (204) 983-0239 / 1-800-ASK-4-CWB
Fax: (204) 983-3841

Email Address:

Ralph Goodale
Minister Responsible for the Canada Wheat Board
Department of Natural Resources Canada
21 - 580 Booth Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0E4

Telephone: (613)996-2007
Fax Number: (613)996-4516
Email Address:



Site Map

Email ESR

Conservative Site of the Day



1996-2020, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.