Ritz’s barley bill derailed from fast track

Federal government plans to “fast-track” deregulation of Prairie barley marketing were derailed by the three federal opposition parties Monday.

In this case, “fast-tracking” the Conservative government’s bills C-46 and C-57 would have seen them circumvent the usual route of debate in the House of Commons and head directly to the Commons ag committee for discussion.

C-46, introduced in March, is Ritz’s “marketing choice” bill, which proposes to deregulate the current single marketing desk for Prairie barley operated by the Canadian Wheat Board and give farmers the option of selling barley either on the open market or via the CWB.

C-57, announced at the end of May, proposes Prairie wheat and barley growers must produce a minimum 120 tonnes of wheat or barley in either of the two crop years before an election of CWB farmer-directors in their districts, in order to be eligible to vote.

The Tories “moved to send Bill C-46 and Bill C-57 directly to committee to expedite their passage but opposition parties obstructed the process and prevented this important legislation from helping western Canadian farmers as quickly as possible,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a statement after Monday’s vote in the Commons.

Citing polling results from the board’s own recent survey of CWB permit book holders, Ritz had issued a statement before the vote calling for unanimous consent from all parties to send the bills to the ag committee, but was rejected. The three parties hadn’t yet made any official statements on the matter late Monday.

With the Commons scheduled to go on summer break from June 20 to mid-September, the bills’ return to the regular track of Commons business makes it unlikely that C-46 would pass in time to take effect for the coming crop year on Aug. 1.

The minority Tory government had said it wanted to see the changes take place by Aug. 1, but “I don’t know if that’s possible now,” said Saskatchewan MP David Anderson, Ritz’s parliamentary secretary on the CWB file, in an interview with the Reuters news service Monday.

The opposition Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois have all expressed support, in varying degrees, for the CWB single desk to continue.

Both bills are relatively low on the projected order of business in the Commons on Tuesday.

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