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Wheat board supporters want to take dispute to Supreme Court

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The dispute over whether the Harper Conservatives broke the law last fall when they introduced legislation to rid the Canadian Wheat Board of its monopoly powers may go to the highest court in the land.

Eight former wheat board directors and the farm group Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board are seeking leave to appear before the Supreme Court of Canada to argue that Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz broke the law when he introduced a bill authorizing to curb the CWB’s powers without sufficiently consulting farmers.

Last Dec. 6, wheat board supporters rejoiced when Federal Court Justice Douglas Campbell ruled Ritz failed to comply with his statutory duty under the Canadian Wheat Board Act to hold a farm vote before introducing his Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act in the House of Commons. However, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned Campbell’s decision earlier this year.

"We believe that this case raises issues that are important to all Canadians and is worthy of careful consideration by the Supreme Court of Canada", said Allen Oberg, a farmer and former wheat board chairman.

Under the new legislation, farmers will no longer be required to sell wheat and barley used for human consumption or destined for export markets through the Canadian Wheat Board. The legislation takes effect Aug. 1.

Oberg and others believe the changes mean that Prairie farmers will now take home less money that they would have at a time that world grain prices are rising.

Opponents of the new federal legislation argue that Sec. 41 of the old Canadian Wheat Board Act prevented any government from ridding the CWB of its monopoly without a farm vote.

"This case is bigger than farm policy and has important implications for all Canadians because it raises fundamental questions about whether government is above the law," said Stewart Wells, chairman of the Friends group.

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