By Errol Black
Yesterday, December 7, Justice Douglas Campbell ruled that “Agriculture Minister Gerrry Ritz broke the law by failing to put the matter [of the future of the Canadian Wheat Board – Bill C – 18] to a farm vote first.” The ruling confirmed that the opponents of Bill C – 18 (farmers, directors of the CWB, and the opposition parties) are right and the Harper government is wrong.
Ever since this round of the debate on the future of the CWB was initiated, Harper and Ritz have insisted that they would break the monopoly of the CWB and create an open market for wheat and barley – regardless of the law. In response to Justice Campbell’s ruling Ritz said: “I can tell you that, at the end of the day, this declaration [by the court] will have no effect on continuing to move forward on [grain marketing] freedom for western Canadian farmers. Bill C-18 will pass.”
Ritz’s reaction confirms yet again that Harper and cabinet bullies like Ritz believe themselves to be above the law. This tendency is very worrisome; in the words of the Honourable Justice Campbell:
When government does not comply with the law, this is not merely non-compliance with a particular law, it is an affront to the rule of law itself […].
The question is: what can citizens do to convince the Harper government to comply with the law and put the issue of the future of the CWB to farmers?
Unfortunately, given the Harper government’s contempt for the rule of law and its reckless habit of disregarding the wishes of Canadian farmers in particular and Canadians in general, we should be concerned about the sorts of legislation and policy changes that we’ll be confronted with in the immediate future.
To date, virtually every action of this government is based on promises and commitments that originate with the National Citizens Coalition – under Harper’s leadership – and the Reform Party, including:
- Abolition of the Long-gun registry;
- The omnibus crime bill (Bill C -10);
- Tax cuts for big corporations;
- Anti labour interventions in collective bargaining in the federal jurisdiction; and
- A repudiation of Kyoto and measures to limit the assault on our environment.
The one thing that is common to all of these actions is that they cannot be justified on the basis of factual or analytical evidence. Indeed, the Harper government doesn’t even bother to try and justify these actions. Listen to Minister Toews on Bill C – 10, for example, or Labour Minister Raitt on the anti-labour interventions.
Other matters in the works that are suspect are the austerity measures initiated by Finance Minister, Flaherty, and the expanded role for Canada’s military in combat interventions under the auspices of NATO and the U.S.
The destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board has direct and obvious implications for Manitoba, but we also need to understand the negative impact Harper’s other policies will have on us. Bill C10 will dramatically increase the provinces’ spending on jails and do nothing to make us safer (with the added effect of decreasing spending on essential services); the coming austerity measures will further decrease revenues and provide justification for cutting of all kinds of social programs.
Did those Canadians who voted for Harper understand who/what they were voting for? Did they knowingly bestow such power? What were they thinking?
For the sake of us all, I hope they are having second thoughts.