Lifting Wheat Board law would sow confusion: Ottawa

Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:28pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Suspending a new law that ended the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly would sow confusion in Western Canada's grain industry, lawyers for the federal government said in court on Wednesday in a hearing on a plea from eight former directors.

The onetime CWB directors, Prairie farmers ousted when the bill to revamp the CWB became law last month, want a Manitoba judge to suspend the law until the court decides its validity.

Judge Shane Perlmutter reserved his decision until an unspecified date.

Government lawyer Robert MacKinnon said such a ruling would create uneven marketing conditions between Manitoba - where it would immediately take effect - and other Prairie provinces, and would undermine contracts that some farmers and grain companies have already signed.

Canada is the world's biggest exporter of spring wheat, durum and malting barley, and legal challenges have already created confusion as farmers price out their crop options for spring planting.

"The uncertainty that has been created was created by the (legal) action itself," MacKinnon told the judge. "An injunction doesn't dispel the uncertainty."

The former directors' case leans heavily on a Federal Court ruling in December that said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz breached existing law by not consulting the Wheat Board or holding a farmer vote before introducing the legislation.

They say that ruling raises questions about whether the new law is valid, so it must be suspended until a court can rule on its validity.   Continued...