Wheat Board mulls appealing gag order

The board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board will discuss whether to take the issue of a government gag order to the Supreme Court, likely at a meeting next month, its chairman said Saturday.

EDMONTON — The board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board will discuss whether to take the issue of a government gag order to the Supreme Court, likely at a meeting next month, its chairman said Saturday.

Larry Hill, speaking from his grain farm near Swift Current, Sask., said he’s disappointed with the latest ruling from the Federal Court of Appeal.

It has overturned a decision that struck down a gag order imposed on the board by the Conservative government.

Last year, a federal court ruled that the Harper government had contravened the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it ordered the board not to publicly defend its barley marketing monopoly.

Earlier this week the federal Appeal Court overturned that ruling.

“The appeal court decision runs contrary to the views of western farmers, I think. In my opinion, Western Canadian farmers believe that they’re electing directors to operate the CWB, not to have the government make decisions about how the organization is operated,” Hill said.

The court ruling just “muddies” the water in terms of who is really in charge of the board, he said.

A board survey in 2008 found that 77 per cent of farmers believed the future of the board should be determined by farmers, not the federal government, Hill said.

He dismissed criticism that the board has spent farmers’ money advocating for its single-desk marketing board.

“It’s just a matter of principle that farmers should be in charge and that producers have factual information to make their decisions on . . . I think that the board of directors should be free to give producers information.”

He said the board will respect the gag order and make sure its directors work within the law.

Kevin Bender, president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers, said they’re satisfied with the latest ruling.

“We don’t feel that the wheat board is justified in promoting the monopoly and basically spending the dollars of farmers who don’t want to deal with them, but have no choice,” he said in an interview from Rocky Mountain House where he was attending a farm sale.