The Federal Court of Appeal reserved its decision May 23 after hearing the federal government’s appeal of a ruling last year that Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz broke the law by not consulting with farmers before ending the Canadian Wheat Board single desk.
The Appeal Court hasn’t signalled when it will render a decision. But its ruling is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.
The arguments put before the Appeal Court in Ottawa last week by the Friends of Canadian Wheat Board, which launched the case and the federal government, were similar to those made Dec. 7, when Federal Court Justice Douglas Campbell ruled Ritz contravened section 47.1 of the wheat board act. In a written decision Justice Campbell said Ritz had a statutory duty to first consult with the wheat board’s board of directors and get farmers’ approval for the change through a plebiscite. His failure to do so “is an affront to the rule of law,” Justice Campbell wrote.
Government lawyers argued Section 47.1 only applies when adding or removing crops to or from the board’s single desk and not when eliminating the single desk altogether.
“We still are convinced that Parliament has the right to introduce, amend or appeal legislation, period,” Ritz said after Justice Campbell ruled.
Despite the decision against Ritz, the legislation became law later in December.
“We are confident that the court will see the merits of our case,” Ritz said in statement May 23.
“The Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act is in force and farmers are already contracting their wheat and barley with buyers of their choice for delivery beginning August 1, 2012.”
“What we’re asking for is (for) the government to either give farmers a democratic vote on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board, which is what they were originally promised, or if they’re not willing to do that, compensate farmers for what they have lost,” CBC reported former wheat board chair Allen Oberg as saying outside the courtroom last week.
The Friends of the CWB has also launched a $17-billion class-action lawsuit demanding that the wheat board’s single desk be retained or western grain farmers be compensated for its loss.