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CWB court battle rages on

The ongoing legal battle over the removal of the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly is starting to resemble a courtroom version of ping pong.

The federal government is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to put an end to the legal wrangling, but the group of farmers known as the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board has vowed to fight to the bitter end.

So far, the Federal Court has ruled Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz breached the Canadian Wheat Board Act by not putting his single-desk-killing legislation to a vote by farmers, the Federal Court of Appeal has overturned that ruling, and the Friends have asked the Supreme Court to overturn the appeal court’s ruling. Now Ottawa is asking the top court to not even hear that appeal.

For that to happen, the government must demonstrate that the Friends have virtually no chance of winning its appeal, said Anders Bruun, one of the lawyers representing the group.

The class action suit demands either Ottawa restore the single desk, or pay farmers $17.5 billion in compensation. Both the principle and money are important, and that’s why he hasn’t “moved on,” as some have suggested he do, said Stewart Wells, one of the farmers in the court battle.

“I’m not going to apologize to anybody for supporting a group of people who have done their due diligence, and tried to figure out how they can get the most money from the marketplace,” said the Swift Current, Sask. farmer.

“If a partnership had been struck in the oil patch by two independent companies and then one company decided a couple of years later to tear up the agreement and walk away with all the assets, it would be challenged in court just the way we’re challenging the federal government.”

If the Supreme Court refuses to hear the Friends appeal, it will be game over. If not, observers say the legal wrangling could last years.

But it could make for good watching. Among the issues the court would likely look at would be the value of the single desk — an issue farmers argued about for decades but without ever getting to see the books. The court could also call on senior wheat board staff to testify what sort of premiums they were able to extract by having a monopoly on wheat, durum and export barley sales.

About the author

Reporter

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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