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Friends of CWB look for quick court date

A farmers’ group hoping to overturn changes to the voters’ list for Canadian Wheat Board director elections wants to have its case heard before the election process moves ahead.

Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, represented by Manitoba lawyer Anders Bruun, said Monday it will ask the Federal Court in Winnipeg for an “expedited hearing” of the group’s application to have “several thousand” farmers reinstated to the active voters’ list.

The Friends had 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.

Under the CWB Act and regulations, the group said, 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 defined in the Canadian Wheat Board Act.”

In a release Monday, the Friends said they plan to argue that “an expedited hearing held prior to (Oct. 20), or as close to that date as possible will provide some degree of certainty as to the validity of the election which is now underway.”

Furthermore, the group said in its application, an early hearing “will also avoid the very substantial disruption which will occur of the matter is not adjudicated until after the election is held, in the event that a new election is ordered.”

The group said in its release that lawyers for the government “refused to take any steps to speed up the process.”

The group said its application for an expedited hearing would be submitted at a hearing Monday morning at Federal Court in Winnipeg.

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