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Single-desk supporters appeal to Supreme Court

The group Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board is seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada regarding a Federal Court of Appeal ruling overturning a Dec. 6, 2011 ruling by Federal Justice Campbell.

It will be joined in its bid to challenge the federal government’s decision to end the CWB’s single desk by the eight former elected directors to the board, who have launched their own Supreme Court appeal proceedings.

In the December ruling Justice Campbell found that the federal agriculture minister had broken the law by introducing legislation ending the single-desk selling responsibilities of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The court can agree to hear the challenge or it can deny permission.

“This case is bigger than farm policy and has important implications for all Canadians,” noted Stewart Wells, chairperson of the Friends group “because it raises fundamental questions about whether government is above the law.” In his ruling, Justice Campbell quoted Alberta’s Chief Justice Fraser that “The rule of law is not the rule by laws where citizens are bound to comply with the laws but government is not.”

“The law seemed clear and the minister of agriculture had reinforced the expectation that any changes to the wheat board would be subject to a farmer vote when he assured a March 2010 public meeting in Minnedosa, Manitoba that a vote would be held before any changes were made,” noted Bill Gehl, a board member with the Friends of the CWB and chairperson of the non-partisan Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, a group of farmers who supported single-desk candidates in elections for wheat board directorships.

“We believe that this case raises issues that are important to all Canadians and is worthy of careful consideration by the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Allen Oberg, farmer and former chair of the CWB.

In 1998, Parliament passed a law (Section 47.1 of the CWB Act) which crystallized the previous practice, used several times over the years, of letting farmers vote on changes to the marketing mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board. But in 2011 the minister of agriculture deliberately ignored Section 47.1, effectively stripping farmers of their democratic right to vote regarding a substantial degradation of the CWB’s marketing abilities.

The changes made by the government in December of 2011 mean that farmers will be taking home a smaller share of the rising world prices, the opponents of the change say.

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