The Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB) and federal government square off in Federal Court Dec. 6. in Edmonton, although there s a chance the case will be heard in Winnipeg.
The FCWB, a coalition of farmers and other Canadians in support of a democratic, farmer-controlled wheat board, wants the court to rule Ottawa can t end the board s monopoly without first getting farmers approval through a plebiscite.
That s how the current wheat board act reads. Section 47.1 of the act says before the government can add or remove crops for the board s single desk it must consult with the board s board of directors and then hold a farmer vote. However, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says the government received a mandate in the May 2 election to make the changes without a plebiscite.
The government says it will introduce legislation this fall to remove the board s single desk creating an open market for western Canadian wheat and barley effective Aug. 1, 2012.
It s expected the government will repeal the current act or remove Section 47.1 through an amendment ending the legal requirement to hold a vote.
The FCWB will argue in court that farmers expected a vote on the wheat board s future given the legislation that s in place and comments from several Conservative candidates before the election, FCWB lawyer Anders Bruun said in an earlier interview.
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.
Ritz has said since Parliament created the wheat board s single desk, Parliament can remove it.
The legislation is coming soon and will be passed quickly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Oct. 7 in Regina. (see related story page 7).
Bruun said the hearing will take a day. Evidence from both sides has been submitted through affidavits.
Bruun also expects a timely decision.
Given that it has some implications for Parliament and its proceedings it will move along a little more quickly than it might otherwise, he said in an interview Oct. 7.
Bruun said the loser will likely seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Certainly from our perspective it s a case that merits going there if necessary, he said.
Given that it has some implications for Parliament and its proceedings it will move along a little more quickly than it might otherwise.