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NEWS: Harper government defies court ruling, pushes passage of C-18

The Winnipeg Free Press reports, “Ottawa intends to strip the Canadian Wheat Board of its exclusive marketing powers by year’s end, despite a Federal Court ruling Wednesday that Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz broke the law by failing to put the matter to a farm vote first. A defiant Ritz said the Harper government will continue to push passage of Bill C-18, which is currently before the Senate. He told reporters the government will proclaim it into law before the new year. Ritz said the ruling will not change the government’s plans to create an open market for Prairie wheat and barley by next Aug. 1.”

“‘The majority of grain farmers want the wheat board. Their voices should prevail,’ (said) Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians, which participated as an intervener in the federal court applications.” In a media statement released yesterday, she said, “In light of this decisive Federal Court ruling and the serious criticism it contains, the federal government should kill the bill immediately.”

“On Wednesday, Judge Douglas Campbell sided with the wheat board and a group called Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, which had applied to the court to declare that Ritz had violated the Canadian Wheat Board Act. Section 47.1 of the act requires that the minister consult with the wheat board and hold a farm vote before making substantial changes to the agency’s marketing powers, they argued. Campbell agreed. In his ruling, he termed Ritz’s conduct in denying farmers a vote ‘an affront to the rule of law’.”

CBC adds, “Justice Douglas Campbell wrote in the court decision that repealing the Wheat Board Act without consulting producers ‘is threatening and should be approached with caution. …Generally speaking, when advancing a significant change to an established management scheme, the failure to provide a meaningful opportunity for dissenting voices to be heard and accommodated forces resort to legal means to have them heard. Had a meaningful consultative process been engaged to find a solution which meets the concerns of the majority, the present legal action might not have been necessary.'”

The Winnipeg Free Press article notes, “The wheat board and Friends did not ask the court to quash Bill C-18, which was introduced in the House of Commons only seven weeks ago. They asked for a simple declaration that the minister had broken the law by introducing it without consulting farmers. That’s what the judge found.” The federal government has also said it will appeal this ruling. “However, if Campbell’s ruling stands up on appeal, it will be Canadian taxpayers who will have to cover the wheat board’s $100,000 legal bill since Ottawa lost the case.”