OTTAWA (Reuters) - An opposition attempt to derail government legislation to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s grain marketing monopoly failed in the Canadian Senate on Thursday.
Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella ruled the chamber should proceed with the legislation, which had already passed the House of Commons, despite a court decision on Wednesday that the Conservative government should have consulted farmers first.
The Liberal opposition had argued that the bill, to end the monopoly on marketing Western Canadian wheat and barley as of next August, should be put on hold in light of the decision.
The Federal Court judge held that Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz had breached existing law by not consulting with the Canadian Wheat Board or holding a farmer vote beforehand. But he did not order the new legislation to be killed.
Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, grilled in the House of Commons over the issue, had taken the position that laws passed by previous parliaments could not prevent later parliaments from enacting or changing legislation - such as the current bill to end the monopoly.
The opposition leader in the Senate, Jim Cowan, said it would be inappropriate to proceed in light of the court decision, which the government says it will appeal.
“How ironic it is that the self-styled law-and-order, tough-on-crime Harper government should be urging us to thumb our noses at the rule of law,” Cowan said in seeking the delay of the legislation.
Kinsella decided that if he went along with Cowan’s request, it would impede Parliament’s ability to debate legislation freely.
“The court ruling has no bearing on our parliamentary proceedings,” he said.
The government hopes to have the legislation passed by the end of the year, and the Conservative majority in the Senate should make that possible.
Grain handlers are already set to sign farmers to forward price contracts for their 2012 crops once the bill passes, and the ICE Futures Canada exchange is preparing to launch new wheat and durum derivatives in January, based on the monopoly’s end.
Editing by Peter Cooney