Ottawa seeks to end limit on CWB election spending

Fri Aug 1, 2008 5:58pm EDT
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The Canadian government said on Friday it is proposing a change to the rules governing elections to the Canadian Wheat Board, cutting restrictions that limited spending by third-party intervenors to C$10,000.

The minority Conservative government, which has tried to limit the wheat board's monopoly on sales of Western Canada wheat and barley for human consumption, said the change will encourage more discussion during elections to the farmer-controlled board.

"This regulatory change would encourage broad debate and participation in the directors' elections by removing the current C$10,000 spending restriction on advertising expenses in place for third-party intervenors, and allowing third parties to freely disseminate information during the election period," the government said in a release.

The marketing agency, which had C$4.95 billion ($4.8 billion) in revenue last year, is embroiled in a bitter power struggle with the Conservative government.

In June the CWB successfully went to court to overturn a federal cabinet order directing the CWB to stop spending money to promote its view that its monopolies should be maintained.

The government has been trying to give farmers the option of selling barley through the CWB or directly to maltsters or export markets, ending a monopoly that the CWB and its supporters say gives them marketing clout.

The public has until September 1 to comment on the proposed rule change.

(Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Peter Galloway)