Canada Wheat Board may ask court to block Ottawa's plans

Fri Dec 9, 2011 3:00pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The Canadian Wheat Board and its supporters said on Friday they may seek an injunction to stop the federal government's move to end the board's monopoly on sales of Western Canadian wheat and barley.

Such a move could create enormous uncertainty for grain handlers and farmers who are preparing to sign deals for next year's crops, with government aiming to open the market as of next August.

A Federal Court judge ruled on Wednesday that Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz had breached existing law by not consulting with the Wheat Board or holding a farmer vote before introducing legislation to end the board's marketing monopoly. But the judge did not order the new legislation killed.

The legislation is scheduled to get final approval in the Senate on Thursday, after which it would need royal assent by the governor general to become law.

Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, the group that initially brought the case against the Conservative government, is considering asking for an injunction to stop the bill from taking effect. But the group's lawyer, Anders Bruun, said it would not do so until after the bill becomes law.

"(An injunction) would prevent the government from acting on that piece of legislation," Bruun said. "We'll have to see what the government does, and it may not be necessary (if) they back up and do things in the proper procedure and have a vote."

The Wheat Board, which is calling on the government to let farmers decide its fate, is looking at all of its options, including a possible injunction, said spokeswoman Maureen Fitzhenry.

The Conservative government filed its appeal of the court's ruling on Friday and said it would proceed with the legislation to end the Wheat Board's 68-year-old monopoly on marketing Western Canadian wheat and barley for milling or export.   Continued...