Vote for choice.

Industry associations can provide great services for businesses at times. They can do research, lobbying and marketing on a scale which would be difficult for individual business owners. They can provide networking opportunities between fellow business owners and offer supports for business owners. 

That said, sometimes industry associations do not provide enough value to their members. In that case, the association has to either endeavor to provide a better product to its membership or fall by the wayside. Businesses can vote with their wallets and it is effective. 

I own a pub and café. For my industry, there used to be an association called the Alberta Restaurant and Foodservices Association. 

I say “used to be” because members of the ARFA made a choice 11 years ago to dissolve the association and give any remaining assets to the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association. 

Clearly the association did not provide enough value to its members. Not enough restaurants felt it was worthwhile in taking part in the association and they left. 

The Hotel and Lodging Association provides little to no value to me and they are cheerleading for initiatives by Nenshi & Notley on their front page. Why on earth would I want to dedicate my scant business dollars to an association that wants to use them to campaign for politicians that I am opposed to in principle? 

Thankfully I have a choice.

Cattle producers in Alberta may not have that kind of choice soon. 

Agriculture has some heavy market controls that we are slowly but surely shedding for the benefit of all. The Wheat Board monopoly was finally ended. Supply Management is finally making the news and support for ending it is growing. 

Mandatory contributions to industry associations are fading but the associations are fighting this hard. 

Cattle producers in Alberta take part in what is called a refundable checkoff. For every animal they take to market, they must pay $4.50 towards associations. There is no choice in this but at least for some years now, a portion of these checkoffs has been refundable which allows producers a degree of choice and control in what their associations may or may not be doing on their behalf. 

The Alberta Beef Producers want to remove the refundable option of the checkoff. They want it to be mandatory for every producer in Alberta to pay into their association whether they actually support the actions of that association or not. Performance of the association would no longer matter as they would essentially have a gun to the head of producers. Producers could speak up but could not vote with their wallets as other business people can. 

There is a plebiscite being held right now where producers can vote on whether or not to embrace mandatory association dues. At least producers are getting that choice. 

Like most business people, cattle producers are busy folks. They only have so much time to take to go out and vote. 

It needs to be stressed how important this is. 

Folks who want to reduce individual freedoms in favor of state control are well versed in the frog in water method. They erode our freedoms little by little while most don’t even realize that it is happening. 

Initiatives such as this to erode or eliminate producer choice are dangerous and trend setting. Statists become ever more emboldened with every victory and we can rest assured that they will not simply stop here if they manage to take away the choice of cattle producers in participating with associations. 

Free association includes the freedom to not associate should one choose not to. 

Cattle producers can vote at Agriculture Financial Services Corporation offices or by mail until the Nov. 27 deadline.

While I am not a cattle producer, I understand how these things effect us all in the long run and in the broader picture. I ask those who have not already voted to go and cast their vote against removing the refundable nature of their provincial portion of the checkoff. 

The association will still remain and hopefully will do good work. Nothing ensures good work more effectively than giving stakeholders a choice in funding them. Once the choice is gone, we all will lose. 

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