“No way” barley monopoly ends by Aug. 1

(Resource News International) — There’s “no way” the Conservative government can pass Bill C-46 before the House of Commons breaks for summer in mid-June, according to NDP MP Pat Martin.

If Martin’s correct, that means the Canadian Wheat Board’s (CWB) barley marketing monopoly will definitely remain intact at least until the start of the 2008-09 crop year, which begins Aug. 1.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz in early March announced he was introducing Bill C-46, legislation designed to end the CWB’s single-desk barley marketing monopoly in Western Canada in time for the new growing season.

“There is no way on God’s green earth that Bill C-46 is
going to be passed for the start of the crop year as Minister
Ritz committed,” said Martin, the New Democrat who represents Winnipeg’s downtown.

A spokesperson for the federal Conservative party said
the bill has been put on the parliamentary agenda but added
that does not necessarily mean it will be debated. It simply
signals that it is one of the bills that could possibly come
up for debate.

Even though C-46 has been added to the list
of bills to be debated, Martin said May 23 that it’s been placed in an “impossible
low order on the agenda.”

The Conservative spokesperson conceded that C-46 is one
of several other bills to be discussed and only after a
biofuels bill and a free trade bill have first been addressed.

If the legislation does in fact go undebated before
Parliament breaks for summer, it will still be on the agenda
when MPs return to Ottawa in the fall, the spokesperson said.

“When the House of Commons resumes in the fall it will be
just like it is now. We’ll see all the same bills and they
will all be in the same stage of the parliamentary process,”
he said.

If it is discussed, debate can be expected to run on for
some time seeing as how feelings about the CWB’s role in the
barley market run high.

“We’ve guaranteed Minister Ritz a very rough (time) in
Parliament when C-46 does come up. Virtually all of the
opposition parties will throw up speakers to drag the debate
out if he chooses to pick this fight,” Martin said.

Failing
that, he added, the Liberals have committed to holding up the
bill in the Senate, where they form the majority.

Martin said he would not rule out the possibility of
seeing C-46 turned into a confidence motion, meaning failure
to pass the bill in Parliament would bring down the government
and trigger a federal election.

The Conservative spokesperson declined to comment on the
whether or not that is something the government is

considering.

Another way to rush the bill through the parliamentary
process would be for the Conservatives to invoke an allocation
of time motion, allowing the government to limit the amount of
sessions in which a bill is allowed to be debated, Martin
explained.

“That would be a drastic measure and it would stink of
desperation but the Conservatives could go that route,” he
said.

In the meantime, the ongoing debate about the future of
the CWB’s barley marketing monopoly continues to cause
uncertainty for farmers, Martin said.

Producers in Western Canada are already planting their
crops for the new growing season and yet they still don’t know
what the rules for barley marketing will be, he said.

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