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article imageUpdate: Canadian Wheat Board to sue Government of Canada

By Andrew Reeves     Oct 26, 2011 in Politics
Ottawa - Allen Oberg, head of the farmer-operated Canadian Wheat Board, has announced that his organization will be suing the government of Canada over its decision to dismantle to board by August 1, 2012.
Canadian Wheat Board head Allen Oberg has announced in a prepared statement that in response to the bullish tactics of the Conservative government, he has no choice but to lead his organization in a lawsuit against the federal government.
“The Harper government has acted illegally and unethically in its attacks on the Canadian Wheat Board, and it must be stopped,” Oberg said in the Toronto Star. “As it charges ahead, the government is mowing down everything in its way. The casualties will be democracy, due process, Parliamentary debate and Canada’s agricultural economy.”
The CWB charges that the government acted illegally in introducing Bill C-18, the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, without conducting a plebiscite with all member-farmers. The Canadian Wheat Board Act requires that any major alterations to the structure of the board must be ratified by the members, some 40,000 farmers from across the country.
Before the government tabled Bill C-18, the CWB held its own plebiscite and found that 62 per cent of farmers voted to keep the board in place as it stands with regards to wheat, while 51 per cent voted in favour of keeping the board's regulations over barley. Oberg accuses Prime Minister Stephen Harper of running a "dictatorship," and in allowing farmers to sell directly to bulk purchasers is effectively handing control of Canadian wheat and barley to U.S. multi-nationals.
Wilf Harder, a former director of the Canadian Wheat Board and chairman of its former farmer advisory committee, told the Winnipeg Free Press that the government's decision imposes "a corporate takeover of agriculture...[and] a vertically-integrated system."
Vertical integration, Harder continues, means farmers will soon have no choice but to buy everything, from seed to fertilizer to marketing services, from one of the big private agribusiness giants. At that point, they lose control over their input costs, their negotiating power and ultimately, their livelihoods.
“The Harper government is handing it to them on a silver platter,” Oberg said in the Globe and Mail. He adds that this type of behaviour “should alarm us all.”
Agricultural Minister Gary Ritz is dismissive of Mr. Oberg's lawsuit, claiming it is nothing more than a part of his "scorched earth policy" before Oberg is out of work when the board shuts down. Ritz does not believe that the government had any obligation to conduct a plebiscite on the matter because the Conservatives hold a majority of seats not only in the House of Commons, but in the area of Canada under Wheat Board control.
This reasoning, to Oberg and others, is rather specious. Despite the Conservatives controlling 52 of 57 seats in the region, Oberg noted Wednesday that this factor “does not confer absolute power or create a dictatorship.”
Oberg: “Winning a majority of seats in the House of Commons does not bestow the right to sidestep rules created by previous governments in the interests of fairness, democracy and due process."
More about Canadian Wheat Board, Stephen Harper, Agriculture, conservative party of canada
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