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Feds appeal for CWB gag order: NFU

The federal government has launched a last-minute appeal of a Federal Court ruling overturning a controversial “gag order” on the Canadian Wheat Board, the National Farmers Union reported Monday.

The appeal was filed “late Friday, Sept. 19, on the last possible date,” the NFU said in a release Monday. Ottawa’s appeal is of a June 19 Federal Court decision that ruled unlawful a government order-in-council which blocked the CWB from spending money on advocacy for its current single-desk marketing powers on Prairie wheat and barley.

Justice Roger Hughes ruled in Winnipeg against the October 2006 order-in-council, issued by then-federal ag minister Chuck Strahl.

Current federal Ag Minister Gerry Ritz had said in June that the government was disappointed and would consider an appeal.

“The government maintains that the Canadian Wheat Board must focus all of its efforts on marketing grain for western Canadian farmers rather than using its money to advocate its own agenda,” Ritz said at the time.

Hughes’ ruling had disagreed, finding that Strahl’s order — commonly referred to as the “gag order” — is “couched in terms of expenditure of funds, however nowhere in the record is there any evidence that genuine consideration was given to the nature or extent of funds that were in issue or at risk.

“It is entirely clear… that the directive is motivated principally to silencing the wheat board in respect of any promotion of a ‘single desk’ policy that it might do,” Hughes ruled, and if cost were the true concern, the ag minister’s order should have dealt with promotion both for and against the ag minister’s preferred position.

The pro-single-desk NFU, in its release Monday, said that Hughes’ June ruling had marked “the third time in 11 months that Canada’s federal court had found the Harper government guilty of breaking the law.”

However, NFU president Stewart Wells, who farms at Swift Current, Sask., said in the release that “courts can only protect citizens for so long” and that “Canadians must speak out at the ballot boxes.”

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