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Decision reserved in CWB voting case

A decision is expected by the end of this week on a Prairie farm group’s application for a quick court date on its suit against the federal government over the active voters’ list for Canadian Wheat Board director elections.

Friends of the CWB, a group supporting the CWB’s single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley, filed suit in Federal Court in Winnipeg last month, asking a judge to declare unlawful a July 23 order by federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz that limits the number of CWB permit book holders who will automatically receive a ballot to vote on or around Oct. 20.

The group earlier this month applied to the Federal Court for an “expedited hearing” of its case. Its motion was deferred to Oct. 21 at an Oct. 6 court appearance.

Federal Court Justice James O’Reilly has reserved his decision on the Friends’ application for an expedited hearing, but is expected to rule “before the end of the week,” the Friends said in a release Tuesday.

“The federal government has opposed an expedited hearing in order that the government interference with the election procedures cannot be corrected until well after the elections are over,” the group said in its release.

Tuesday was also the deadline for candidates to submit their nomination papers in the five districts up for elections this fall.

“It is obvious that the government fears another loss in court on this issue — the government has already lost three times in federal court on similar attempts to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board,” said Friends member Stewart Wells, a Saskatchewan farmer and also president of the pro-single-desk National Farmers Union.

“This government’s direct interference with the voting process has already created a lot of confusion and tainted the election outcome.”

Under the CWB Act and regulations, the group said previously, the voters’ list is to include producers who are named in a permit book on the day the list is sent to the CWB election co-ordinator, or who were named in a permit book during the previous crop year.

But election rules laid out on the CWB election website for this fall limit the ballots to be sent automatically only to those who delivered wheat or barley to the CWB in the 2007-08 or 2008-09 crop years. Other growers, or those who grow other grains, will need to apply for a ballot.

Ritz, the group said, “has also directed the CWB to include in the voters’ list a number of persons who do not come within the definition of ‘producer'” as laid out in the CWB Act.

The group also said Tuesday that the application form Prairie farmers must fill out for a ballot “does not allow permit book holders to apply.”

On the application form, the group said, applicants must swear that “The land described above does not appear on a CWB permit book for the crop year 2007-08 or 2008-09.”

Permit book holders who grew peas and canaryseed in recent years may also be affected, the group said, because peas and canaryseed are not considered to be one of the six major grains.

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