Canada's barley battle moves into Parliament

Fri Feb 29, 2008 5:49pm EST
 
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By Josh Page

REGINA, Saskatchewan (Reuters) - Canada's minority Conservative government will introduce on Monday a bill to end the Canadian Wheat Board's barley monopoly by August 1, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said on Friday.

Ritz gave few details about the bill on Friday, but said he hopes to get cooperation from opposition parties to move the bill through Parliament on time for the next barley harvest.

"If we have to use a hammer, we'll get out a big one," Ritz told reporters on the sidelines of a rally with farmers who want the ability to sell barley directly to buyers.

To become law, the bill must survive a vote in the House of Commons, where the governing Conservatives hold only a minority of seats, and also pass in the Liberal-controlled Senate.

The three opposition parties have said they support the farmer-run CWB, which controls sales of Western Canadian barley to maltsters and export markets.

Ritz said his government may consider the option of making the vote on the barley bill a matter of confidence. A defeat on a confidence vote would bring down the minority government and trigger an election.

"I don't think anybody looks at this as a ballot question, but if the Liberals are stupid enough to make it one, then by all means, bring it on," Ritz said.

The main opposition Liberal Party, which has declined to bring down the Conservatives on other confidence motions, has not said what it would do if the government took that route.   Continued...

 
<p>Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz stands to speak during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 27, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>