Investigation and Dissidents

Dean E.D. MacPhee held the first hearing of his Royal Commission on the Tree-fruit Industry of British Columbia at Kelowna on January 30, 1957. It was immediately evident that this would be no once-over-lightly investigation, and that no report could be expected for some time. Therefore, the agitation among disaffected growers did not die down with the commencement of the Commission; instead the complaints of the "ginger group" agitators grew louder as they endeavoured to sway the Commissioner to their viewpoint.

Returning empty boxes from B.C. Fruit Processors' Plant #2.Courtesy IOA

The objections of the "ginger group" centred primarily around three demands for changes. Firstly, they felt that B.C. Tree Fruits pursued too narrow a policy by selling only to wholesalers, and called for the agency to sell directly to retailers, co-operative associations, clubs, and other groups or individuals who wished to purchase fruit. Secondly, they wanted all officers elected directly by secret ballot of all growers rather than by delegates at the convention, and called for publication of all salaries, expenses, and allowances. Finally, they wanted the pooling scheme revised so that each variety, and even grades within the variety, would be pooled separately; some from the Kootenays also wished regional pooling to overcome what they felt was "unfair treatment".

In 1958, the agitators furthered their efforts by forming an amorphous organization, called at first, the Canadian Fruit Growers' Association and later the Okanagan-Kootenay Co-operative Growers' Association. It was never made clear whether this organization was intended to replace the B.C.F.G.A. or simply to be a parallel pressure group for those dissatified with B.C.F.G.A. official policy. Alfred Biech of Oliver, spokesman for the rebel group, claimed in June, 1958, that it had a membership of 280 growers (out of a total B.C.F.G.A. membership of 3650), but he admitted that he was, to the best of his knowledge, the only one who had resigned from the B.C.F.G.A.

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