Legal action to force Ottawa to hold a plebiscite on whether to keep or end the Canadian Wheat Board s (CWB) single desk will be heard in Federal Court.
On Sept. 9 a Federal Court prothonotary rejected the federal government s application to dismiss the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board s (FCWB) application filed in June. That means the application will be heard in court, possibly in November, FCWB lawyer Anders Bruun said in an interview last week.
It s not a frivolous, meaningless case as the government has tried to suggest, he said. We ve got a real case with a real argument here and we re going to push it as hard as we can and I think the other side found that out today.
When asked if the case will delay the government s plan to end the CWB s monopoly over the sale of Western Canadian wheat and barley destined for export or domestic human consumption next Aug. 1, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz replied: Parliament created the monopoly and it will take Parliament to remove and move beyond it.
Parliament created the CWB in 1935, but Bruun said in 1998 the CWB Act was amended putting the responsibility of its operation in the hands of a 15-member board of directors, 10 of whom are elected by farmers. Section 47.1 of the act also states before adding or removing crops from the CWB s mandate the agriculture minister must consult with the CWB s board and get farmers approval through a vote.
Ritz says the election of a Conservative majority May 2 gave the government the mandate to act without a plebiscite.
Farmers expected a vote regardless of the election outcome, according to the FWCB. It says Conservative candidates James Bezan, Robert Sopuck and Ritz indicated publicly before the election farmers should decide the CWB s mandate.
In a Jan. 16, 2007 news release, then-agriculture minister Chuck Strahl promised a vote on wheat. I am announcing today that Canada s new government will hold a further plebiscite on the marketing of wheat at an appropriate time, he said. Western Canadian farmers have the government s commitment that no changes will be made in the Canadian Wheat Board s role in the marketing of wheat until after that vote is held.
While Parliament reigns supreme, according to Bruun it relinquished part of its authority when it added section 47.1 to the CWB Act. Bruun said the FCWB will drop its litigation if Ottawa complies with the CWB Act and holds a farmer-vote on whether the CWB should keep its single-desk.
Meanwhile, the two sides will meet Oct. 3 to set a schedule for the proceedings. Bruun said he hopes the case is heard in November. The stakes are high $500 million a year is the estimate as to what the wheat board generates for farmers, he said. I can see us or the other side taking this case as far as it will go, including to the Supreme Court. [email protected]