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NEWS: Canadian Wheat Board law before Federal Court of Appeal

Steven Shrybman

Steven Shrybman

The Winnipeg Free Press reports, “The Federal Court of Appeal reserved its decision Wednesday on whether Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz broke the law when he introduced legislation to eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly.”

“The federal government is appealing last December’s ruling by Justice Douglas Campbell that Ritz contravened the Canadian Wheat Board Act by not holding a vote among farmers to decide whether to keep the monopoly. Campbell’s ruling wasn’t binding on the government, nor did it say anything about the validity of the bill. The government proceeded with the legislation, which was passed and given royal assent in December. In February, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Shane Perlmutter refused to grant an injunction suspending the bill until Campbell’s decision was sorted out. Perlmutter rejected the claim Ritz had broken the law.”

“Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board is continuing with a class-action lawsuit to restore the wheat board’s monopoly and compensate farmers $17 billion.”

The article asserts, “Regardless of the Appeal Court’s decision, the case has little bearing on the movement of the Prairie grain industry to an open market. The appeal, sources say, is about politics since the bill eliminating the monopoly is already in effect and its provisions are coming into force gradually. By Aug. 1, the monopoly will be gone and Prairie wheat and barley farmers will be able to choose whom to sell their grain to for the first time in more than six decades.”

But the CBC notes, “Supporters of the former system argued Wednesday that the Harper government was now trying to ‘have its cake and eat it too’. ‘If the government thinks that the ruling on Dec. 6 was meaningless, why are they appealing this decision here today?’ former wheat board chair Allen Oberg said outside the courtroom. Oberg and the other farmer-elected directors on the wheat board were dismissed by the Conservative government after its law took effect, mere days after the Federal Court’s ruling in Winnipeg. …A spokesman for the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board group said that if the federal government wins its appeal, the group is prepared to take the case to the Supreme Court.”

The Globe and Mail adds, “The federal appeals court’s decision is expected to come at a later date.”

To read more about Council of Canadians involvement in the successful December 2011 court challenge – including representation by lawyer Steven Shrybman, a Council of Canadians factum, and an affidavit by chaiperson Maude Barlow – go to http://canadians.org/blog/?p=12549 and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=12618.