Constitution expert likes FCWB’s chances

There’s a good possibility that the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board will win its case, according to Peter Russell, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto.

“The wheat board is pretty well dismantled, but I think it (the legal challenge) has quite a chance of success,” Russell, one of Canada’s leading experts on Canadian constitutional politics, told the CBC recently.

“There are two sides to it. There’s the illegal introduction of the bill into Parliament and that is Federal Judge Campbell’s ruling, and it’s under appeal. There’s also a charter challenge to taking away the freedom of the expression of the farmers, so their views are before Parliament when the board’s mandate is changed. It’s certainly a very important challenge.”

During an earlier interview with the Manitoba Co-operator Russell predicted the government’s decision to kill the board’s single desk would end up before the Supreme Court.

“It’s a grave public matter,” he said.

Parliament can amend the wheat board act to remove Section 47.1, ending the requirement that farmers approve, through a vote, changes to the board’s mandate, he added.

“But I think there would have to be a full parliamentary debate.”

Debate on Bill C-18, which removes the board’s single desk Aug. 1, was curtailed last fall.

When Parliament passes legislation saying farmers have to vote before changing that law, that’s significant, Russell said. It’s important for democracy that proper process be followed.

“We don’t just have simple majority rule,” Russell said. “It would be very dangerous if it didn’t matter what commitments Parliament makes, because again the honour of Parliament is at stake here.

“When I mention the honour of Parliament people’s eyes glaze over and they think it’s a funny idea, but it shouldn’t be a funny idea. We should take some pride in our institutions and not just boil them down to bare power and the power of numbers. Parliament has always meant more than just a numbers game.”

About the author

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Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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