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UPDATE: Council of Canadians seeks to intervene in Canadian Wheat Board legal challenge

This morning, the Council of Canadians submitted an affidavit seeking to intervene in the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board challenge.

Bloomberg reports, “The Canadian Wheat Board (filed) a federal lawsuit (on October 26) against the (Harper) government to stop legislation aimed at stripping the agency of its marketing monopoly, said Allen Oberg, the board chairman. The suit contends that the government broke the law because it didn’t first conduct a vote among farmers before introducing the bill on Oct. 18, Oberg said on a conference call.”

“The suit follows a similar federal court challenge filed in June by the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, a farm group. A judge is scheduled to hear arguments in that case on Dec. 6 in Winnipeg, said Anders Bruun, a lawyer representing the group, which is seeking to bar the government from abolishing the monopoly without the approval of farmers. ‘Our argument is that there is a valid basis for a court to declare that a plebiscite among producers should have been held’, he said. ‘Whether a court would go any further than that remains to be seen, but normally one would expect the government to either appeal that decision, or take a step back and comply.”

“The board’s case is ‘somewhat similar’ to the existing lawsuit, Oberg, the agency’s chairman, said.” QMI Agency news reports, “Bob Roehle, a co-ordinator with the Friends group, said it’s likely the CWB directors’ suit will be combined with the existing challenge.”

Both challenges are based on Section 47 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act which reads:

Minister’s obligation
47.1 The Minister shall not cause to be introduced in Parliament a bill that would exclude any kind, type, class or grade of wheat or barley, or wheat or barley produced in any area in Canada, from the provisions of Part IV, either in whole or in part, or generally, or for any period, or that would extend the application of Part III or Part IV or both Parts III and IV to any other grain, unless
(a) the Minister has consulted with the board about the exclusion or extension; and
(b) the producers of the grain have voted in favour of the exclusion or extension, the voting process having been determined by the Minister.

The Canadian Press notes, “National Farmers Union president Terry Boehm says the Harper government is ignoring the will of farmers, who he says have democratically reaffirmed their support for the board in three plebiscites and in seven sets of directors’ elections.” The results of a plebiscite this summer showed that 62 per cent favored the single desk for wheat and 51 per cent for barley.

On October 18, the Harper government tabled a bill in the House of Commons to end the single desk authority of the Canadian Wheat Board by August 1, 2012. According to news reports, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says he wants the bill to be passed by Christmas. The last sitting day of the House will be on December 16 and it is scheduled to adjourn on December 21. According to the Bloomberg report, “Ritz said that the lawsuit is a ‘reckless and baseless legal challenge’, and that the government has the right to remove the monopoly without a vote by farmers. The lawsuit will not delay the plan to end the monopoly by Aug. 1, he said.”

To see a video of Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow speaking at a rally in defence of the Canadian Wheat this past Friday, please go to http://canadians.org/blog/?p=11588.