National | Media Release

NFU disappointed Supreme Court not hearing CWB class action case

(April 10, 2015, Saskatoon) – The National Farmers Union (NFU) is disappointed that the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear the farmers’ Class Action lawsuit stemming from the Harper Government’s dismantling of the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). Had the case proceeded, the Supreme Court would have been able to determine whether common law property rights apply to collective interests in property, namely the assets farmers paid for and added value to as a result of their management and direction of the CWB. The central question of the case was “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?” The class action also claimed that by dismantling the single desk CWB, the government unjustly broke its trust and interfered with farmers’ economic relations. The legal action also sought compensation for the losses that resulted from the government’s actions.

“The economic damage farmers have suffered since the Conservative government destroyed the single desk Canadian Wheat Board is very real,” said Ian Robson, NFU Board member. “Western farmers have lost more than $7 billion dollars since August 1, 2012 – the equivalent of a full year’s wheat and barley crop. This is money that is not being spent in rural communities, not being invested in our farms, and not circulating in the Canadian economy. Farmers worked long and hard to build the grain marketing system we had, and which benefited the whole of Canada’s economy. It is a shame that the Supreme Court of Canada will not be able to hold the Harper government accountable for this damage.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision is disappointing, but worse is the fact that farmers were forced to go through the judiciary to try to have their voices heard when in the summer of 2011 it was already clear that the majority of farmers supported the single desk,” added Matt Gehl, NFU Board member. “By not holding a farmer vote, as was required under the existing CWB legislation and after promising to do so in the 2011 election campaign, the federal government disregarded its duty to represent the people.”

“Minister Ritz claimed the benefits of individual farmers selling wheat and barley to the private grain company of their choice would be felt immediately, yet the first three years have shown massive losses for farmers,” said Doug Scott, NFU Board member. “With the CWB we got close to 100% of the full world price of grain, and sometimes more. Today, we are getting 60% if we are lucky, and economists predict that will keep going down as grain companies and railways flex their muscle. There is no more final payment – what you get from the elevator is it. The grain company keeps the rest. If this is Gerry Ritz’s idea of great early results, I shudder to think about how bad it will be in a decade.”

“I think it was hard for people to realize just how fundamental the CWB’s single desk was. Now that it is gone we are taking hard lessons in transportation, quality, access to delivery and price,” said Jan Slomp, NFU President. “To bring order and prosperity back to the prairie grain system, we need to reinstate the single desk.”

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For more information:

Jan Slomp, NFU President: (403) 704-4364

Ian Robson, NFU Region 5 (Manitoba) Board member (204) 858-2479

Matt Gehl, NFU Region 6 (Saskatchewan) Board member: (306) 216-6064

Doug Scott, NFU Region 7 (Alberta) Board member: (780) 650-1336 or (780) 358-2376