OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA — The Supreme Court of Canada said on April 9 that it will not hear an appeal from a farmer-led group that seeks damages from the government for dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) marketing monopoly.
The decision upheld the previous decisions of the Federal Court from 2013 and the Federal Court of Appeal from October 2014, which ruled in favor of the government.
"Today's ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada once again upholds Western Canadian farmers' right to marketing freedom,” said Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "The overwhelming majority of farmers have embraced the new economic opportunities created by marketing freedom and are taking Canadian agriculture to record heights. Marketing freedom is and will remain the law of the land. Our government will continue to defend the rights of farmers and will continue to work with farmers to create economic opportunities across the sector."
A smaller part of the case allowed by the Federal Court, will proceed for certification as a class-action lawsuit in the coming months.
The lawsuit was initially filed in 2012 on behalf of former wheat board members and other stakeholders. They argued that the decision to end the monopoly effectively seized collective assets farmers had paid for over decades. Farmers have called the new marketing system “highly dysfunctional,” and say it cost producers as much as C$5 billion in 2013-14. The price spread between what farmers received and what the grain was ultimately sold at in 2014-15 caused C$3 billion in losses, they said.
"Those price spreads have not returned to competitive levels, so farmer losses continue to mount," according to a press release issued by the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, which has spearheaded the court case. "We have to recognize that Canada's position in the international grain trade has now been severely damaged by Ottawa's ideologically based exercise in grain marketing and quality control.”