Minister calls wheat board lawsuits frivolous
The group Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board says it is moving ahead with a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against the federal government despite a court ruling in the fall.
The lawsuit is over legislation that removed the wheat board’s marketing monopoly on western wheat and barley sales.
Board supporters are seeking $17 billion in damages.
In November, a Federal Court justice struck down parts of the lawsuit that alleged expropriation and interference with economic relations.
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has said the ruling underscored the right of western Canadian farmers to market their own grain.
Stewart Wells, chairman of friends of the wheat board, says the appeal will seek to have all the claims reinstated in the lawsuit.
“We are appealing (the) ruling to the extent that we want to, of course, go ahead with all of the class action we had launched before, which was trying to get compensation for the assets that farmers had paid for at the wheat board,” Wells said from his home in Swift Current, Sask.
The assets include rail cars and ships that were bought with money from farmers’ grain sales and a contingency fund that was partially financed by producer fees.
Board supporters argued that they had a proprietary interest in the assets.
“The government, by refusing to let farmers vote on the future of the wheat board ... actually engaged in expropriation without compensation,” Wells said.
On the expropriation issue, Justice Daniele Tremblay-Lamer ruled there had been no transfer of property.
“The loss of a single desk due to the change in the regulatory scheme is not enough in itself to claim a loss of a property interest,” she wrote in the decision.
She also dismissed allegations that the government interfered with the best economic way of securing farmers a premium price for their grain.
Ritz suggested lawsuits involving the wheat board are “frivolous” and the courts continue to strike them down.
“The fact remains that the overwhelming majority of western grain farmers have embraced marketing freedom and are capitalizing on new economic opportunities that were impossible under the old single desk,” he said.