Public Values

Agriculture minister broke law by killing Wheat Board

Plebiscite should have been held first — Federal Court.

Gordon: This decision shows that Harper is acting against the best interests of farmers, consumers.with Straight Goods News video

A TOP PUBLICVALUES.CA STORY FROM 2011 — December 7, 2011: The Federal Court of Canada issued a declaration this afternoon that the Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz, acted in breach of his statutory obligation to hold a plebiscite of farmers before abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board's 'single desk' mandate for marketing wheat and barley.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the Council of Canadians, Food Secure Canada and the ETC Group (the "Interveners") were given intervener standing in the case for the purpose of addressing important international trade and constitutional questions raised by the Minister's actions. The Court's decision repeats and adopts their submissions on these two key points.

"This is an important victory for democratic rights and the rule of law, and our arguments on trade and the rule of law played a key role in this decision," says Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow. "In light of this decisive Federal Court ruling and the serious criticism it contains, the federal government should kill the bill immediately."

  "Canada's compliance with international rules for exporting and importing grain depends upon the Wheat Board being controlled by farmers, not the government."

Federal Court Justice Douglas Campbell expressed no hesitation in granting a request by the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Wheat Board that "the Minister's conduct is an affront to the rule of law".

S. 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act forbids the Minister from introducing legislation that would exclude wheat or barley from the Wheat Board's exclusive marketing mandate without first consulting the Directors of the Board, and allowing the producers of the grain to vote on any proposed exclusion.

Nevertheless, without doing either, the Minister tabled Bill C-18 to abolish the Board's single desk mandate. The Bill also removes another fundamental democratic right which farmers enjoyed on the Act, which was to elect directors to represent them on the Board.

Pat Martin, NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre, on the Federal Court ruling against the illegal dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board:

In coming to his conclusion, Justice Campbell placed primary emphasis on the rule of law as the guiding constitutional principle in the case, and quoted extensively from the written argument made by the Interveners.

The Court also gave credit to another key point made by the Interveners concerning the importance of maintaining the democratic franchise accorded to farmers under the Canadian Wheat Board Act that the Harper government is now trying to repudiate. As the trade cases reveal, Canada's compliance with international rules for exporting and importing grain depends upon the Wheat Board being controlled by farmers, not the government. It is that control that Bill C-18 would abolish. On this crucial point Justice Campbell stated:

"I give weight to the Council's argument that s. 47.1 applies to changing the structure of the CWB because the democratic structure is important to Canada's international trade obligations under NAFTA. I find that this is an important consideration which supports the argument that Parliament's intention in s. 47.1 is not to alter this structure without consultation and consent."

"The court could not have made its views more clear on the virtual contempt this government has exhibited for the most fundamental constitutional principles of our nation," adds Barlow.

John Gordon, President of PSAC, lauded this decision as a victory for farmers as well as workers at the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Grain Commission.

"This decision demonstrates that the Harper government is acting against the best interests of farmers and consumers by attempting to dismantle the crucial role that the Canadian Wheat board plays in marketing and selling Canadian grain."

Links and sources
  Federal Court says attempt to dismantle Canadian Wheat Board is illegal

Posted: December 13, 2011

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