Farmers aim to restart CWB class action with appeal

Four Prairie farmer plaintiffs leading a proposed class-action suit, calling for federal compensation over the deregulation of the Canadian Wheat Board, have launched an appeal of their recent Federal Court loss.

Their proposed class action — first filed in February 2012 and spearheaded by Winnipeg lawyer Anders Bruun and Ottawa lawyer Steven Shrybman — saw most of its pillars knocked down in a Nov. 29 ruling from Federal Court Justice Daniele Tremblay-Lamer in Ottawa.

The appeal, announced Thursday, “moves forward the legal action on the seizure of the Wheat Board’s assets and reputation from farmers by the federal government,” Bruun said in a release from Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB).

The FCWB was formed in defense of the CWB’s single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley before its deregulation in 2012, and now supports the proposed suit.

Filing to appeal, Bruun said, also “shows the resolve of my clients to keep fighting against the expropriation without compensation that the government has visited on farmers.”

“If Ottawa did this to a multinational corporation they would be forced by (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and our other trade obligations to provide compensation,” plaintiff Nathan Macklin of DeBolt, Alta. said in the FCWB release.

“Legal sophistry”

FCWB chair Stewart Wells said Thursday the group believes Tremblay-Lamer “made errors of fact in her judgment.”

The group’s supporters, he said, feel “it is imperative that we continue with our legal efforts to recover the $17 billion of value and assets farmers put into the Wheat Board.”

No amount of “legal sophistry or rationalization,” he said, “can change the fact farmers are owed compensation for what amounts to an unprecedented theft of private resources by Ottawa.”

Tremblay-Lamer had ruled in November that the farmer plaintiffs showed neither “an acquisition of a beneficial interest in the property” nor “removal of all reasonable uses of the property” — that is, the former Wheat Board.

The CWB since August 2012 has pooled and marketed wheat, barley, durum and canola under the abbreviated name “CWB,” through handling arrangements with Prairie grain companies.

The loss of the single desk to changes in the CWB regulatory scheme, she wrote, “is not enough in itself to claim a loss of a property interest.”

Furthermore, she wrote, the government’s previous regulation of the grain sector couldn’t be taken to imply a fiduciary duty to Prairie grain farmers.

“Improper transfer”

Tremblay-Lamer’s November ruling had allowed one pillar of the proposed class-action to stand. She directed the plaintiffs to “serve and file a revised statement of claim consistent with these reasons.”

Specifically, the plaintiffs had claimed the federal government, during the Wheat Board’s 2011-12 pool period, “used monies that should have been paid to producers (under the Canadian Wheat Board Act) to cover substantial costs and losses” relating to CWB’s shift away from the single desk.

The farmers claim the government also “failed to establish a reasonable price for grain remaining unsold after the 2011-12 pool period… (and thus) caused an improper transfer from the amount to be distributed to producers.”

On that claim, Tremblay-Lamer wrote, the federal government’s lawyers had presented “no arguments… to demonstrate that the claims are untrue or could not succeed at trial.” — Network

Related story:
Feds claim win in farmers’ proposed class action over CWB, Dec. 12, 2013

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