Farmers press on with CWB class action

Four western farmers allege Ottawa shortchanged farmers $720 million after CWB dismantled.

Four western farmers allege that Ottawa shortchanged western Canadian farmers $720 million after the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) in 2011/12.

A statement of claim by the farmers was recently amended to provide more detail in their case against the federal government. One claim made by the group is that approximately 93 per cent sales revenue was returned to farmers between 1998 to 2010/11, as compared to the 83 per cent in 2012/13.

“There is no justification for the government-run CWB to return just 83 per cent of sales revenue to farmers in 2011/12. The difference between 93 per cent and 83 per cent is in the order of $720 million. It should be noted that 2011/12 sales recorded the third highest revenue since farmers were put in charge of the Board in 1998,” said Stewart Wells, chairperson of the Friends of the CWB, in a July 13 press release .

One of the issues the farmers want resolved is that the 2012/13 financial report of the Canadian Wheat Board has never been released.

Anders Bruun, counsel for the Friends of the CWB, said the next step for the Friends was to wait for a judge to determine if the class action by farmer plaintiffs Harold Bell of British Columbia, Andew Dennis of Manitoba, Nathan Macklin of Alberta and Ian McCreary of Saskwatchewan is justifiable.

Bruun said there are several requirements in creating a class action lawsuit and a judge has to be satisfied that the proper steps have been followed. He expects that a judge will review the case sometime in September.

The four clients want to see the financial statements for the 2012/13 period, explained Bruun, adding that they are putting out a call to the auditor general for assistance.

In their press release, the Friends of CWB state having access to the financial statements would help them determine if their claim that money was used to cover restructuring costs is correct.

“However, it appears that while the majority of restructuring costs were already met by 2012, the government-run CWB decided not to use all of the taxpayer money in 2011/12 in favour of accessing those funds in subsequent years. In fact, it appears that the government-run CWB even used money from pooling accounts to cover some of the restructuring costs,” explained Wells in the release.

“There’s usually not a reason to keep it secret unless there’s something wrong,” added Bruun in an interview.

He added that after the class action lawsuit began, the federal government paid western farmers $24 million.