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Judge backs Ottawa’s bid to break up wheat-board monopoly

A Viterra grain storage facility is shown August 30, 2007 near Regina, Sask. Grain-handling company Viterra Inc. (TSX:VT) has agreed to be acquired by Switzerland-based Glencore International in a deal valued at $6.1 billion. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Troy Fleece

TROY FLEECE/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Federal Court of Appeal has upheld the government's move to effectively dismantled the Canadian Wheat Board, dealing a blow to farmers who had opposed the law.

A group of former wheat-board directors, elected by farmers, argued that by law the federal government had to consult grain growers before making fundamental changes to how the agency operates. The government disagreed, saying it won a mandate in the last election to change legislation.

The farmers won a ruling in Manitoba upholding much of their claim but an appeal court has now overturned that decision, ruling that elected members of Parliament can change legislation as they see fit.

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"I have found nothing in the record which leads to the conclusion that the repeal of the single desk as a whole or of the [Canadian Wheat Board Act] in its entirety were somehow made conditional to obtaining the prior consent of the CWB or of grain producers," Mr. Justice Robert Mainville wrote in the ruling.

"In our system of representative democracy, which is similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom, the ultimate expression of democracy is effected through the elected members of the House of Commons and of the various provincial legislatures acting within their respective spheres of jurisdictions. Democracy in Canada rests ultimately on the participation of citizens in elections to the public institutions created under the Constitution."

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said he was pleased with the decision. The law removing the CWB's monopoly over the sale of wheat and barley grown in Western Canada, "is in force and farmers are moving forward and contracting their wheat and barley with buyers of their choice for delivery beginning Aug. 1, 2012."

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