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CWB voters’ list case in court Oct. 17

“It’s just part of their pattern of trying to create as much turmoil and confusion as they can around everything there is to do with the wheat board.”

– Stewart Wells

Arguments for expediting a court case aimed at overturning the federal government’s changes to the Canadian Wheat Board director elections voters’ list are scheduled to be heard by a Federal Court judge Oct. 17.

The Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB), which launched the action, is disappointed the federal government hasn’t agreed to speed up the case given voting information, including ballots, will be mailed to eligible voters Oct. 29.

Instead the government is deliberately trying to delay the matter being heard by a judge, according to FCWB member Stewart Wells, who farms at Swift Current and is president of the National Farmers Union.

“The Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board are digging as hard as we can to get this in front of a judge and get it ruled on as quickly as we can in order that the elections run in a fair and proper manner and we’re not getting any co-operation from the federal government whatsoever,” Wells said in an interview last week.

Wells said the government wants to delay the case because it’s afraid of losing. The courts ruled against the government when it tried to change the CWB’s mandate without going through Parliament and overturned Ottawa’s gag order against the CWB.

“They are trying to do this secretly and when people like us find out they put up every possible road block to make sure it can’t be dealt with before the elections are held,” Wells said, adding that the government is attempting to rig the election so directors that support an open market, which the government also wants, are elected.

“It’s just part of their pattern of trying to create as much turmoil and confusion as they can around everything there is to do with the wheat board.”

Under the CWB Act and regulations, CWB permit book holders, and interested parties such as crop-share landlords named in the permit books, are to be placed on the voters’ list provided to the CWB election co-ordinator and automatically receive ballots. However, in a July 23 letter to the CWB Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz ordered the CWB not to include permit book holders on the voters’ list if they hadn’t delivered grain either this or last crop year. The change to the voters’ list was never made public by the government. FCWB applied to the courts Sept. 18 to overturn the order.

Friends of the CWB will ask the judge to consider sending ballots to all those on the original voters’ list but segregate the two streams of returned ballots until a judge rules on the legality of the federal government’s order. If the judge overrules the government’s change to the voters’ list all the ballots would be counted. If not only the ballots sent based on the government’s order would be counted.

Wells said the FCWB plan gives the judge more time to consider the case without putting the legitimacy of the election at risk.

A government spokesman said counsel has agreed to an expedited hearing October 17 or “as soon thereafter as the court can accommodate.”

Elections for CWB directors are being held in five, even-numbered districts. Farmers who aren’t on the voters’ list have until 5 p. m. CT to submit an “Applications To Vote” to the CWB’s election co-ordinator.

The election period ends at midnight Nov. 28, 2008. [email protected]

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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