December 12, 2011 / 6:23 PM / 6 years ago

Liberals seek to block Canadian Wheat Board bill

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The federal Liberals formally asked Governor General David Johnston on Monday not to give final assent to the Conservative government’s bill to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s marketing monopoly on Western Canadian wheat and barley.

However, Johnston has already signaled that he does not think it is his place to withhold royal assent, which is required for bills to become law. In September, Canadian Press quoted Johnston as saying that while governors general may have had the theoretical right to veto legislation in the past, those days are gone.

Parliament is expected to pass the bill on Thursday but interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said it would be wrong to let it become law in light of last week’s Federal Court decision that said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz should have held a farmer plebiscite on the issue before introducing the legislation.

“I would ask most respectfully that full consideration be given to awaiting final disposition of this mater by the courts before the legislation receives royal assent,” Rae wrote Johnston.

While the December 7 court decision ruled Ritz breached the law by not consulting with the Wheat Board and in not holding a farmer vote, it did not order the bill to be killed.

“It’s clear the declaration has no effect on our government’s legislation,” Ritz said in an emailed statement to Reuters on Monday. “We will ensure that western farmers have the freedom to market their grain as they choose.”

The government has said it would appeal the court’s decision and push forward with its legislation, formally called Bill C-18, to end the marketing monopoly and restructure the Wheat Board as a smaller, optional grain marketer in an open market, effective August 1, 2012.

The new law would alter the western grain industry as farmers could immediately commit next year’s crops to private grain handlers such as Viterra and Richardson International through forward price contracts.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Peter Galloway and Rob Wilson

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