An appeal to the Supreme Court to hear a class action lawsuit against the federal government’s decision to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) was declined.
The Friends of the CWB issued a statement last week expressing their disappointment in the Canadian legal system.
“The legal system has quite simply not been able to afford justice to western Canadian farmers so far,” stated Friends’ spokesperson Stewart Wells.
Dismantling the CWB has resulted in lower prices of grains for farmers, added the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance. A fact sheet is provided by the alliance showing the cost of wheat per bushel in February compared to prices during CWB days.
Of the $11.38 per bushel price at the port on Feb. 26, elevators and railways received $6.69 per bushel while the farmer received $4.69, a share of only 41 per cent , compared to 90 per cent share in 2009. While prices were lower in 2009, $6.82 per bushel at the port, farmers received $6.16 cents per bushel.
Doug Hart has been advocating farmers’ rights for some time and he feels there are two issues:
• Getting the best price for farmers.
• Farmers feel they should have the right to the work that the CWB did.
“They’re failing on both those counts,” said Hart, who also spoke against the controversial omnibus Bill C-18 last year.
While grain prices are up, the farmers’ portions are down, said Hart. Some of the money is going to the brokers who are agents for the farmers and buyers. “And they have no mud on their boots,” he stressed.
He suggests farmers are losing on the deal and feels there is some precedent for them suing the federal government. He referred to Jessica Ernst, who is suing Alberta Environment, the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Encana for negligent investigation of fracking that led to water well contamination.
He said it took three years in determining if Ernst was even allowed to sue.
“I would argue that they’re (the farmers) trying to do the same thing here,” said Hart.
He feels the federal government did not considers farmers’ rights before shutting down the CWB. “The Government of Canada and (Agriculture) Minister Gerry Ritz have a duty of care to farmers.”
The National Farmers Union (NFU) also expressed its disappointment with the decision. In a press release on Friday, April 10 the NFU states if the Supreme Court had heard the case, it would have been able to determine whether common law rights applied to assets that farmers paid for.
“Did the federal government unlawfully expropriate a proprietary interest of grain producers in the CWB by enacting the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act in 2011?” asks the release.
NFU board member Doug Scott states that with the CWB, farmers got close to 100 per cent of the price of grain but that has since changed.
The main appeal was submitted by four farmers representing the western provinces and includes Harold Bell of British Columbia, Andrew Dennis of Manitoba, Nathan Macklin of Alberta and Ian McCreary of Saskatchewan.