Canada court won't suspend Wheat Board law for now

Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:04pm EST
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By Rod Nickel and Randall Palmer

WINNIPEG/OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Manitoba judge rejected a request on Friday by former directors of the Canadian Wheat Board to suspend immediately a new law ending the board's grain marketing monopoly.

While Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz celebrated the newly opened market for sales of western wheat and barley, the CWB's former chairman and farmer directors launched a court challenge.

"You're asking for a fairly draconian remedy," Judge Shane Perlmutter said of their request to have the law suspended.

The judge ruled that he was not convinced there is sufficient urgency to suspend the law based on the fact that grain handlers and farmers can now sign forward contracts for delivery of crops starting in August.

The former directors ultimately want the judge to strike down the law on the grounds that the former legislation governing the Canadian Wheat Board required Ritz to hold a farmer vote before changing the 68-year-old marketing monopoly.

In his ruling on Friday, the judge decided against granting an immediate suspension of implementation of the law until hearings January 17-18. At those hearings, he will again consider whether to suspend the law until he decides the broader question of whether the new law should be struck down.

Federal lawyer Joel Katz said that in any case, a stay of the law would only apply in Manitoba and not the rest of Canada, since the appeal was before a provincial court.

Despite the considerable uncertainty created by the legal challenge, Canada's biggest grain handler, Viterra Inc, began offering forward contracts for the next crop year.   Continued...