OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government is confident that it can persuade legislators to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s barley monopoly without having to resort to a confidence vote, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said on Monday.
The three opposition parties say they support the farmer-run wheat board, which controls sales of Western Canadian barley to maltsters and export markets.
The ruling Conservatives, who formally introduced a bill on Monday to end the monopoly, say they want to give farmers more choice. To become law, the bill must survive a vote in the House of Commons, where the Conservatives hold only a minority of seats, and also pass in the Liberal-controlled Senate.
Asked whether the bill was a confidence motion, Ritz said: “Not at this point. We’re keeping our options all open there. We’ll work toward whatever it takes.”
The Liberals, largest of the opposition parties, have not said what they would do if the bill was a matter of confidence.
“The Liberals themselves are couching the degree of opposition to it. I‘m hearing a little bit of a glimmer there that they may decide that this isn’t the hill they want to die on,” Ritz said.
He said he wanted to send a message that the government would stick to its guns.
“I don’t think we physically have to have the bill passed. We just have to have sent the signal that we are going to stay on top of this. Our date is still August 1, 2008 and we will move heaven and earth to make that happen,” he said.
The bill will not touch the wheat board’s much larger wheat monopoly.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway