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Wheat board declared dead

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OTTAWA -- A final bid by Canadian Wheat Board supporters to have the courts reject the end of the agency's monopoly has failed.

The Supreme Court of Canada Thursday denied leave to appeal in two separate cases, both dealing with the same issue.

Former CWB chair Allan Oberg and the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board separately filed appeals to the highest court, asking it to assess whether Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz broke the law by ending the CWB monopoly without a vote of farmers.

In December 2011, a federal judge ruled Ritz had done just that but the ruling was not an actual challenge of the law itself and therefore it did nothing to stop it. A Manitoba judge later refused to grant an injunction against the legislation, based on the federal court decision.

Last June, the federal court of appeal overturned the original finding, saying Ritz had in fact not broken the law. The appeals' court judges said the provision in the CWB Act which required a vote among farmers was likely unenforceable because it took away the power of Parliament.

Oberg and the Friends' group went to the SCC to challenge that decision.

Stewart Wells, chairman of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, said the Supreme Court refusing to hear the case has no bearing on a class action lawsuit seeking to restore the CWB or sue for $17 billion in damages. That is the amount the group says farmers will lose by having the monopoly eliminated.

Ritz said he was pleased with the decision Thursday.

"The overwhelming majority of prairie grain farmers are already taking advantage of the benefits of an open market," he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2013 A9

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