"Had a meaningful consultative process been engaged to find a solution which meets the concerns of the majority, the present legal action might not have been necessary." - Justice Douglas Campbell
Winnipeg (7 Dec. 2011) - A Federal Court judge in Winnipeg has ruled Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz breached the Canadian Wheat Board Act by making changes without holding a plebiscite for producers.
According to Justice Douglas Campbell's decision, "The change process is threatening and should be approached with caution."
"Generally speaking, when advancing a significant change to an established management scheme, the failure to provide a meaningful opportunity for dissenting voices to be heard and accommodated, forces resort to legal means to have them heard....Had a meaningful consultative process been engaged to find a solution which meets the concerns of the majority, the present legal action might not have been necessary."
The Conservative government has indicated it will appeal the ruling.
The chair of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) farmer-controlled board of directors, Allen Oberg, is now calling on the federal government to respect today's court ruling. He is preparing to go before the Senate committee reviewing the legislation which would abolish the CWB. If passed the legislation would dismantle the single desk for western Canadian wheat and barley, without first having held a producer plebiscite as required under Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act.
"We argued strongly that farmers should have the final say over changes to their grain marketing agency," Oberg said. "We are pleased the court has agreed that the Minister acted in violation of laws created in 1998 to empower farmers and give them a direct say in any changes contemplated to the CWB's marketing mandate. In light of this ruling, the government should stop steamrolling over farmers' democratic rights"
The National Union of Public Employees (NUPGE) has been working with the CWB in its efforts to maintain the single desk system and produced Mowed Down: Dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board, Who will really reap the rewards to outline the many collective benefits Canadians receive through the CWB, from helping family farmers make a decent living to a reduced environmental footprint to food safety. The only winners if the CWB is dismantled are the big, multi-national grain companies taking over the industry. Transportation costs would sky rocket. Profits would be kept by companies and local farmers would be forced to compete against each other for lower and lower prices.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE