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Liberals want Governor-General to block Tory wheat-board legislation

The Canadian Wheat Board building is shown in Winnipeg on Dec. 7, 2011.

Trevor Hagan/Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press

The Liberals are urging Governor-General David Johnston to refuse granting royal assent to the Harper government's bill to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.

The third party's last-ditch attempt to preserve the agency's monopoly came Monday in an open letter delivered to Rideau Hall. It cites a Federal Court ruling last week that found the Conservatives broke the law by not putting their legislation to a plebiscite among farmers.

"The government has indicated that it will appeal this decision," Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae writes in the letter. "Despite this ongoing dispute about the legality of its actions, the Government is proceeding with the consideration of Bill C-18 in the Senate."

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"The government will almost certainly seek Royal Assent for this legislation in the coming days. As Leader of the Liberal Party, I would ask most respectfully that full consideration be given to awaiting final disposition of this matter by the courts before the legislation receives Royal Assent," he writes.

A Federal Court judge ruled last week that the while the majority Conservative government has the right to pass legislation it " must still follow rules established in law set by previous Parliaments," according to The Globe's Paul Waldie.

The Canadian Wheat Board Act allows for a plebiscite by farmers before any major changes are undertaken. The government is appealing the decision and appears to be dismissing what the judge has said.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz's office told The Globe Monday morning the ruling "does not call into question the validity of the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act or the ability of Parliament to pass this legislation."

"In fact, in the judge clearly notes that 'the Applicants themselves confirm that the validity of Bill C-18 and effects of any legislation that might become law as a result of Bill C-18, are not in issue in these Applications,'" the minister said through his communications director, Meagan Murdoch.

In an emailed statement, Mr. Ritz added that the Harper government "will never allow an expensive survey to trump the rights of individual farmers and instead we will give every single western Canadian farmer control over their own wheat and barley."

And he couldn't resist a swipe at the Liberals: "While the Liberals prefer to jail western farmers for marketing their own crop, our Government remains focused on creating more economic opportunities for western Canadian farmers by passing the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act."

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The government has been aggressively pressing forward with the act using measures such as time allocation to limit debate in the House and the Senate. It now appears that the bill will go to a vote in the Tory-dominated Red Chamber on Thursday.

"I haven't heard of a government saying it would ignore a court ruling before," Mr. Rae told The Globe, explaining his appeal to Rideau Hall. "I would have expected them to at least pause a while so long as the courts are considering the matter. We didn't see any other option given their determination to ram it through the Senate."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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