Monday, September 19, 2011
The group called Friends of the CWB are preparing for their upcoming day in court fighting the Government of Canada over the future of the CWB. Their goal is to have the courts force the Government to hold a binding plebiscite prior to repealing the CWB Act. This is one more distraction creating even more uncertainty through the transition to an open market.
It all has to do with Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, which says the Minister shall not introduce in Parliament a bill that would exclude wheat or barley from the single desk, or extend the single desk power to any other grains, unless he holds a binding plebiscite first.
The Friends of the CWB have their own interpretation. They say: "The provision in the Canadian Wheat Board Act, Section 47.1 says the Minister shall not introduce into Parliament any legislation altering the mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board without having held a plebiscite of farmers approving the change".
Truth is, this isn't what Section 47.1 states. The Friends are trying to convince a Federal Court judge that “excluding wheat or barley” or “adding grains” to the provisions of the single desk is "altering the mandate" of the CWB. The next step in this mind game is to convince the judge that even repealing the Act is "altering the mandate" of the CWB, and therefore requires a producer vote.
According to Anders Bruun, lawyer for the Friends of the CWB, "The Minister has said he's not changing the Wheat Board's mandate, he's repealing the Act as a whole. What that does is change the Wheat Board's mandate..."
This is how the Friends of the CWB have contorted the intent and language of the Act in order to thwart the will of Parliament.
How can ending the life of an organization be seriously seen as changing its mandate? A changed mandate means there is still a mandate. But how can there be a mandate if there is no longer an organization to execute it?
Imagine there's a regulation that says you can't castrate a bull without approval of others through a vote. You have a bull that will not satisfy your needs, so you plan to end its life. There is no need to call for a vote because you’re not changing the mandate of the bull (by castration); you’re ending its life. Would it be right for a small group of dissenters to get a judge to order you to hold a vote because they feel what you are planning doesn't comply with their interpretation of the rules? Would a judge reasonably think that killing your bull is the same as castrating it? (One ends its mandate while the other only alters its mandate)?
Minister Ritz has made it clear that he is not castrating the CWB. He is ending its life as the only bull in the herd.
If the Friends win this case, it would mean the Act has effectively made the voice of some farmers more powerful than Parliament itself. It would force the government of the day to ask farmers for permission before it could be effective in its job as government. I doubt that is what Ralph Goodale and the Liberal government of the day had in mind.
Imagine what would happen at WTO negotiations.
WTO: “All parties agree that Canada must give up the single desk of the Canadian Wheat Board in fulfillment of its commitments to these negotiated agreements. Canada – any comments?”
Canada: “We agree in principle. However, before we can comply, we are required to hold a vote of Western Canadian farmers to get their approval. If they don’t agree with repealing the Act, I’m afraid we can’t go any further with these negotiations.”
Clearly, that would be absurd.
The CWB's idea of a vote is based on a very suspect voter's list of CWB Permit Book holders. The apparent logic is that Permit Book holders have a vested interest in the CWB. But the flip side of that argument says those without Permit Books don't have a vested interest in the CWB.
Really? Alberta farmers who grow barley for the local feeding industry don’t count, simply because they don’t take out a CWB Permit Book? What about the people that work in the value added industry, like those that were laid off recently at Prairie Malt? Do they not have a stake in this industry? What about all the local employees of the grain companies? What about fuel and fertilizer dealers? Implement manufacturers and dealers? The list goes on; shouldn't they all get to vote on issues that impact their livelihood, such as the CWB?
The CWB Act gives farmers the right to vote on whether a commodity is included or excluded from the single desk. I get that. But when it comes to the CWB and its impact on the whole Western Canadian rural economy, farmers aren’t the only ones with a stake in it. We elected a federal government that has the responsibility to ensure the health of the economy for the sake of all stakeholders (citizens). That's why Minister Ritz's plan to end the life of the current CWB without a plebiscite is the right thing to do.
Hopefully, the Federal Court judge hearing the Friends' case can see the difference between castration and ending a life, even through the wool that’s been pulled over his eyes.
Posted by John De Pape at 11:44 AM