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This article was published 9/9/2011 (2087 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- A group demanding Ottawa have a vote of farmers before dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board Monopoly will get its day in court.
A federal court official decided Friday to deny a challenge by the federal government to have the case tossed out without being heard.
The Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board filed the challenge in June, alleging Ottawa was ignoring its own legislation that requires the government to consult farmers before making any major changes to the CWB. It now awaits a case conference Oct. 3 when a court date could be set.
The decision comes just as the CWB awaits the results of its plebiscite, surveying 68,000 western grain growers about what they want to do with the monopoly.
Meyers Norris Penny officials were busy tabulating the results Friday. That count was taking longer than expected and the verdict won't be released until Monday. It is widely expected a majority of wheat farmers will back keeping the monopoly versus selling all wheat on an open market. The vote from barley producers is expected to be very close and could go either way.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz Friday released official statements discounting the results prior to their release.
Ritz has said for months when Canadians voted in a majority Conservative government they voted in favour of eliminating the monopoly. He also argues a majority of farmers shouldn't be able to dictate to a minority where they can sell their grain.
Ritz plans to introduce legislation this fall to eliminate the monopoly by August 2012 and said Friday neither the plebiscite results nor the court case will change what the government does on this file.
"Parliament created the monopoly and it will take Parliament to remove and move beyond it," Ritz said, during a press conference in Saskatoon.
He said the CWB vote was "irrelevant, expensive and was not required."
The Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board argue using the federal election in lieu of the plebiscite is ridiculous because the ballot question wasn't only about the CWB. Several contend Ritz and other Tory MPs said they would listen to farmers prior to the election but now do not want to.
Former CWB employee and member of the Friends group Bob Roehle said Ritz is in a tricky spot because it will look like he is ignoring the wishes of farmers if he doesn't listen to the results.
"If 60 per cent of farmers say they want a wheat board that's a political issue Mr. Ritz is going to have to deal with."
The Conservatives have tried to eliminate the monopoly since coming to power in 2006 but didn't have the support in a minority Parliament. One attempt to make the change by an order of cabinet was overruled by a federal court, which said the change can only be made by a full act of Parliament.
Australian trade minister Craig Emerson was with Ritz in Saskatoon Friday and backed up Ritz's call to open up the grain marketing monopoly. The Australian Wheat Board was privatized just over a decade ago and Emerson said nobody is now seriously calling for it to go back to having a monopoly.
"The transition has been remarkably smooth," he said.
He noted since marketing was opened up, Australian wheat exports now go to 41 countries, up from 17 before and the number of traders of Australian wheat went from one to 26.
"What that says is there is money to be made," Emerson said.
The AWB is now basically a grower-owned company.