Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB) is asking the Federal Court to block the federal government from abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board’s (CWB) statutory single marketing authority for wheat and barley.
The FCWB, a coalition of farmers and other Canadians in support of a democratic, farmer-controlled CWB, was to apply for a judicial review June 27. The federal government has 30 days to respond.
The FCWB wants the court to order the federal minister responsible to consult with the CWB’s board of directors and conduct a vote of wheat and barley farmers before ending the CWB’s monopoly over the sale of Western Canadian wheat and barley destined for export or domestic human consumption.
The FCWB argues in its application that section 47.1 of the CWB Act requires that before any crops are added or removed from the CWB’s single desk the Minister of Agriculture must consult with the CWB’s board and get the approval from farmers through a vote.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says farmers expressed their views on the CWB’s mandate by voting overwhelmingly for Conservative MPs in the election May 2.
He has also said a vote isn’t necessary because he’s not removing wheat and barley from the CWB, just allowing others to buy and sell those grains.
Ritz has promised legislation to end the CWB’s single desk effective Aug. 1, 2011 will be introduced in the House of Commons this fall.
The FCWB is asking the court to issue a restraining order preventing the federal government from introducing such legislation.
“The minister’s refusal to consult with the board and to conduct a vote of wheat and barley producers is contrary to the legitimate and reasonable expectations of wheat and barley producers, including the individual applicants and represents a breach of the duty of fairness,” the FCWB’s court application states. “The applicants are therefore entitled to the relief sought in this application.”
The FCWB claims based on the current CWB Act farmers expect a vote before a mandate change. The CWB is not an agent of Her Majesty or a Crown corporation. The CWB’s 15-member board of directors, 10 of whom are farmers, elected by farmers, controls day-to-day operations of the CWB.
The FCWB claims the federal government did not state during the election it would end single-desk selling without a farmer vote.
According to FCWB, Conservat ive candidates James Bezan, Robert Sopuck and Ritz indicated publicly before the election farmers should decide the CWB’s mandate.
“The minister’s statements were widely reported and were understood by producers, including the applicants, to mean that the vote required by s. 47.1 would be held in advance of any change to the CWB’s marketing mandate,” the application states
In Canada, Parliament’s will is supreme, unless its laws are ruled unconstitutional. Nevertheless, FCWB’s lawyer Anders Bruun said the group, represented by 16 farmers from across the West, has a case.
“Parliament, in its supreme wisdom, enacted those provisions (for a vote) in 1998 and made a commitment to farmers that they would have a say in the organization,” he said in an interview. “It’s clear that the organization generates additional revenues for farmers and that is being taken away from them. The government wants to do that without the vote that they were promised based on an ideologically driven agenda.”
Some observers suspect the court action is also an effort to focus attention on the government’s plans and encourage farmers to protest.
Earlier this month the Manitoba government launched an advertising campaign and petition in support of a farmer vote before ending the CWB’s single desk.
Eight of the 16 the FCWB’s farmer-applicants are from Manitoba. They are Wilf Harder, Lowe Farm, Larry Bohdanovich, Grandview, Keith Ryan, Winnipeg, Andy Baker, Beausejour, Norbert Van Deynze, Somerset, William Acheson, Somerset, Luc Labossiere, St. Leon, and René Saquet, Laurier.
The FCWB has taken the federal government to court before. It failed to convince a judge that Ritz exceeded his authority by changing the CWB’s election rules in 2008.
However, the courts sided with the FCWB when it argued in 2007 the government couldn’t the end CWB’s the single desk for barley through an order-in-council. [email protected]
“Parliament,initssupremewisdom,enacted thoseprovisions(foravote)in1998and madeacommitmenttofarmersthatthey wouldhaveasayintheorganization.”
– anders bruun