"The Harper government has acted illegally and unethically in its attacks on the Canadian Wheat Board, and it must be stopped," said board chair Allen Oberg, a farmer from Forestburg, Alberta, Canada. "As it charges ahead, the government is mowing down everything in its way. The casualties will be democracy, due process, Parliamentary debate and Canada's agricultural economy. We have no choice but to take this last stand on behalf of farmers. We will not be intimidated by bullies."
The lawsuit, being filed in federal court, states the government broke the law when it introduced Bill C-18 on Oct. 18, because it did not first conduct a plebiscite of affected producers, as required by Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, which remains in force. Almost 40,000 producers participated in a CWB-run plebiscite over the summer, with 62% voting to retain the single-desk marketing system for wheat.
"Not only is this government ignoring farmers' wishes, it plans to fire the 10 directors who are elected directly by farmers to run the CWB," Oberg said. "If it can remove a democratically elected board — simply because we disagree with them — Canadians should ask themselves who's next on their hit list. If they can ram this important legislation through Parliament by limiting debate, where does it end?
"A majority government does not confer absolute power or create a dictatorship. Winning a majority of seats in the House of Commons does not bestow the right to sidestep rules created by previous governments in the interests of fairness, democracy and due process."
Oberg said he refuses to give up and "bow to the inevitable" as some have suggested.
"We will continue to do everything in our power to fight back against bullying by the federal government. This is not about saving the CWB. This is about farmers being allowed to decide for themselves whether they want this type of grain-marketing structure. All the evidence shows that they do."