OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA — The Canadian government said on Dec. 7 that it will continue to move forward with changes to the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) despite a ruling by the federal court that the minister acted illegally in not allowing a farmer vote on the issue.
The ruling does not impede the passing of the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, the government said, and the bill will proceed.
"Farmers and our government are disappointed by the court’s decision today," said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "We will appeal this decision as we are convinced that Parliament has the right to end the single desk monopoly. For far too long, Western farmers have been denied the right to sell their wheat and barley as they choose, and our Government will return to farmers the marketing freedom they want and deserve."
The Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, when adopted, will end the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) and give Western Canadian farmers the ability to sell their wheat, durum and barley either voluntarily through the CWB or through an open Canadian grain market.
The CWB said the government should respect the federal court’s ruling.
"We call on Minister Ritz to comply with the spirit of this ruling and immediately cease actions that would strip away Prairie farmers' single-desk marketing system without first allowing a vote by affected producers," said Allen Oberg, CWB chairman.
The ruling issued today by Justice Douglas Campbell of the Federal Court of Canada agreed with the CWB that Minister Ritz broke the law by failing to consult with the CWB board of directors and hold a vote among producers before taking steps to dismantle the single desk.
"We argued strongly that farmers should have the final say over changes to their grain marketing agency," Oberg said. "As farmers, we pay for the CWB, we run it and we should decide what happens to it. We are pleased the court has agreed that the minister acted in violation of laws created in 1998 to empower farmers and give them a direct say in any changes contemplated to the CWB's marketing mandate. In light of this ruling, the government should stop steamrolling over farmers' democratic rights.”