Free Press Article

Winnipeg Free Press Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Fight goes on for Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board

MARTIN CASH

A RULING last week in the Manitoba Court of Appeal has kept the legal hopes alive for the group called Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, in what has now been almost a decade-long battle to hold the Government of Canada to account for the dismantling of the wheat board.

Five years ago the group lost its chance to appeal in a legal action against the actual act of ending the wheat board, which was sold to a private- sector company, that includes investments from a Saudi Arabian entity, in 2015. But the FCWB continued to pursue a more specific claim that during the 2011-2012 pool period the CWB mismanaged about $150 million that should have been paid into a contingency fund to producers.

The former Conservative government of Stephen Harper wound down the wheat board in a controversial move in 2011.

“Thanks to the decision of the Manitoba Court of Appeal, we can continue our legal process which calls for the repatriation of $150 million to farmers that were marketing wheat and barley through the CWB in 2010/11 and 2011/12,” said Stewart Wells, chairman of FCWB.

The unanimous decision last week overturned a previous decision by the Court of Queen’s Bench in May 2019 that had thrown out the action “on the basis that it does not disclose a reasonable cause of action.”

Anders Bruun, one of the lawyers who has represented the FCWB for many years, said, “The basic impression that most people form of it when they look at the fact is that our claim is a very fair and reasonable one. You don’t need to be a lawyer to reach that conclusion.”

The matter has taken some time to work its way to this point, at least partly because it began in the Federal Court of Canada, which does not have jurisdiction over private businesses.

Bruun said they moved the matter to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench because they risked arguing the case in a court that does not have jurisdiction.

“We are now four years into that process,” said Bruun.

Class-action cases like this one can take 10 years or more to conclude.

Bruun said the Government of Canada now has a limited amount of time to appeal to the Supreme Court.

He said they will wait for a statement of defence and in the meantime they have filed a motion to have the action certified as a class action.

He said the FCWB “absolutely have the staying power” but the matter is far from over.

“We understand the ordinary dynamic that when someone is asked to pay a really big amount of money for something they have done right or wrong… they are going to drag their heels,” said Bruun.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Press Release

Updates & News on farmers’ court actions to restore our Canadian Wheat Board

December 7, 2020

The Manitoba Court of Appeal unanimously gives green light to Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board to Pursue Claim against the Government of Canada

(Swift Current, December 7, 2020) The Manitoba Court of Appeal, in a ruling issued Dec. 2, 2020, decided unanimously that a legal action against the Government of Canada for “malfeasance in public office” in relation to the privatization of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) is valid and proper. Stewart Wells, Chair of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB), stated, “This legal action can now proceed. The alleged offenses occurred during the Harper administration when Gerry Ritz was the Minister of Agriculture and their government was destroying the CWB.”

“Thanks to the decision of the Manitoba Court of Appeal, we can continue our legal process which calls for the repatriation of $150 million to farmers that were marketing wheat and barley through the CWB in 2010/11 and 2011/12. The legal action also calls for $10 million in punitive damages, and with interest accruing since 2012 the total number would be in the $190 million range” Wells added.

In their December 2, 2020 ruling, the three judges of the Manitoba Court of Appeal are unanimous that the Government of Canada must try to deliver a defence to the claim, and that the government will not simply be let off the hook for its actions.

The ruling is crystal clear in asserting that “The claim discloses a cause of action, and it cannot be said in the context of the law and the litigation process that the claim has no reasonable chance of succeeding.”

For the last 8 years, Class Plaintiff Andrew Dennis of Brookdale, Mb., supported by the FCWB, has argued in Court that the Harper government did not have the right to transfer approximately $150 million in cash assets away from farmers and instead direct that money towards the payment of restructuring costs and the government of Saudi Arabia and the grain company Bunge.

The FCWB believes this seizure amounted to a “sweetener” added to the gift of CWB assets that was made to G3 Limited which is owned by the government of Saudi Arabia and the grain company Bunge. Bunge has since sold its shares to the government Saudi Arabia which now owns most of G3.

“Mr. Dennis will now be petitioning the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench for certification as a Class Action and we will be continuing our fight for justice for prairie grain farmers,” concluded Wells.

Background

In 2011 the Harper government forced legislation through Parliament that dismantled the CWB and caused the largest transfer of wealth away from farmers and into the pockets of the grain trade in the history of Canada. This governmental steamrolling was completed in just 43 business days without public hearings and without scrutiny by even the House of Commons Standing Committee of Agriculture. Later the Harper government gave the farmer-paid assets and ongoing business to a group called G3 which was owned by the government of Saudi Arabia and the grain company Bunge.

An annotated version of the Manitoba Court of Appeal ruling can be downloaded at:

http://www.cwbafacts.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Dennis-v-AG-of-Cdn-Annotated.pdf

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May 29, 2019

Farmers in court demanding answers from Ottawa about Wheat Board

(Swift Current, May 29, 2019) Farmers, supported by the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, were back in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Manitoba yesterday.

Stewart Wells, chairperson of the Friends of the Canadians Wheat Board explained: “The Harper government did not treat farmers fairly when it dismantled the CWB in 2012. We contend their irresponsible actions resulted in over $150 million being withheld from farmers in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 crop years.”

“The problem has now been compounded by the Liberal government’s failure to act responsibly and so the issue is still working its way through the Court” Wells said.

The hearing on May 28 was a re-run of a motion that the government lost almost exactly a year ago. “This hearing is another in a series of technical appeals by Ottawa to delay justice and frustrate prairie farmers’ efforts to hold them to account for their stewardship of farmers’ money held by the CWB” observed Wells.

Winnipeg lawyer Anders Bruun, together with Toronto based lawyers Louis Century, and Jordan Goldblatt who specialize in civil litigation and class proceedings are representing plaintiff Andrew Dennis, a Brookdale, Manitoba farmer. Mr. Dennis stated “we hope a favourable ruling will clear the way to the next step which is a hearing to have the action certified as a class action with myself as representative plaintiff.”
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May 31, 2018

Court rules Ottawa must answer for Harper actions on CWB

(May 31, 2018, Swift Current, Sk.) The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench has ruled Ottawa must answer for the Harper administration’s actions against the farmers who participated in the farmer-controlled Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).

In a written ruling released May 28, 2018, Master Berthaudin ruled against the government’s attempt to walk away from a putative class action which claims more than $145 million in damages are owed to the farmers of western Canada along with $10 million dollars in punitive damages.

“This ruling puts the government’s shirt in the wringer,” said Stewart Wells, Chair of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB).

“In the proposed class action farmers contend the former Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz, deprived farmers of monies they should have received from the 2010 and 2011 crop years. Instead of paying farmers, we believe this money was used to sweeten the pot for whoever was going to acquire the Wheat Board” Wells explained.

The government of Saudi Arabia and the multinational grain company Bunge ultimately acquired the Wheat Board from the Government of Canada, and created G3 Global Grain Group to assume the assets of the former CWB in 2015.

Anders Bruun, a Winnipeg lawyer noted: “the CWB’s annual reports for those crop years issued after the farmer elected directors were dismissed show that farmers were short changed by over $140 million even though the CWB Act required that money to be paid to farmers as part of their final payments for those crop years.”

Bruun is representing the class’ proposed representative plaintiff, Brookdale, Manitoba farmer Andrew Dennis, together with Jordan Goldblatt and Louis Century who are Toronto based lawyers specializing in civil litigation and class proceedings.

With this week’s ruling, the Court clears the way to the next step which is a hearing to have the action certified as a class action, with Mr. Dennis as representative plaintiff.

The action was commenced in 2012 with the support of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board on behalf of all prairie wheat and barley farmers.
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April 24, 2017

Class Action moves to Manitoba Courts

(April 24, 2017, Brookdale, Manitoba) Andrew Dennis, a Brookdale, Manitoba grain producer has filed a Statement of Claim seeking certification of a class action on behalf of all farmers who delivered wheat and barley to the Canadian Wheat Board during the 2010/2011 and 2011/12 crop years.

Filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench for Manitoba in Winnipeg, the Statement of Claim names the Government of Canada, G3 Global Grain Group and G3 Limited as Defendants. G3 is the private entity which acquired the CWB following a July 31, 2015, transaction.

“When we were reviewing the CWB’s Annual Reports for 2010/11 and 2011/12, it appeared that $145 million, which should have been paid to farmers as part of their final payment, had been withheld and transferred to the CWB’s Contingency Fund” stated Mr. Dennis.

Stewart Wells, a farmer from Swift Current, Saskatchewan and chairperson of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board noted, “This claim is about establishing accountability for the disposition of the Canadian Wheat Board, allocating financial responsibility to the appropriate parties, and ultimately getting any funds recovered back to prairie farmers.”

Anders Bruun, one of the lead lawyers for the plaintiff went on to note that “Some restructuring expenses were paid from the pooling accounts, but the Contingency Fund appears to be the largest single source of apparently misappropriated funds.”

Mr. Dennis previously asserted a claim against the Government and the Wheat Board in the Federal Court. On May 15, 2017, counsel for Mr. Dennis will be seeking leave to discontinue the Federal Court proceeding in favour of the Manitoba Court Class Action.

Mr. Bruun is representing the lead plaintiff together with Steven Shrybman of Goldblatt Partners, a Toronto and Ottawa law firm specializing in class actions and Jordan Goldblatt of Adair Barristers, Toronto which also has substantial class action litigation experience.

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The statement of claim may be downloaded here: http://www.cwbafacts.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/SOC-Manitoba-Apr-24-2017.pdf

– October 9, 2015 –

Farmers demand accountability on Wheat Board

(Swift Current, Saskatchewan, October 9, 2015) Four farmer plaintiffs representing western grain farmers and their counsel are now in the process of responding to the Federal Court’s timetable outlining the procedure in the class action launched on behalf of Prairie grain producers following Ottawa’s seizure and dismantling of the farmer-owned Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) in Dec. 2011. The seizure of the farmer-run CWB was done without the farmer vote enshrined in the law at the time and without a farmer vote promised by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz during the last Federal election in 2011.

To make matters worse, for the first time in 79 years the Minister of Agriculture decided to withhold the financial results of the CWB for the 2012/13 crop year making it impossible to follow the money as the CWB was transformed from a farmer-run and accountable organization to another foreign-owned and secretive margin trader run by the Harper government. “Harper and Ritz made specific decisions which negatively impacted farmers, and they must be held accountable for those decisions.” observed Wells.

Anders Bruun, co-counsel for the plaintiffs noted “The CWB Act makes it clear that only the actual costs of the CWB’s operations to sell a crop can be deducted from the money to be paid to farmers for that crop.”

The farmer-plaintiffs expect this process will also bring transparency to the secret process which saw millions of dollars of farmers’ assets, along with an undetermined amount of tax-payer money, transferred to a Saudi Arabian government-operated holding company on the promise of future investments being made in the hard assets owned, purchased, and constructed by the Canadian Wheat Board while it was under the direction of the Minister’s office and his appointees.

“We also expect these revelations will give further context to the just published findings of University of Saskatchewan Agricultural Economist Rich Gray (http://ow.ly/Tdnce) which show that farmers have received $7 Billion less than the fair market value for their grain since the CWB was removed from transportation and logistics oversight.” said Wells.

At least one federal candidate has called for an independent audit of the dismantling of the CWB. The lack of farmer oversight at the Board table, together with the Minister’s cover-up of CWB finances makes it imperative that the class action move ahead in order to determine what really happened to the money farmers should have earned from their grain sales in 2011/12. Given the substantial amount of taxpayer money involved we will also be asking the Auditor General of Canada to conduct an investigation” concluded Wells.

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– July 13, 2015 –

Farmers Move Ahead With Wheat Board Class Action

(Swift Current, Saskatchewan, July 13, 2015) Four western Canadian farmers have served their amended statement of claim in the Federal Court of Canada alleging Ottawa shortchanged farmers by approximately 720 million dollars of farmers’ money from the operations of the Canadian Wheat Board in 2011/12 when the government was dismantling the marketing organization. The statement was served Friday, July 10 in Ottawa.

Speaking from his farm near Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Stewart Wells, a former farmer-elected Director of the CWB, and now chair of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, said that the percentage of CWB revenue allocated by the Ottawa appointed Board of Directors during the 2011/12 crop year to farmers was “substantially out of line” with previous years of CWB operations.

“The audited financial statements of the Canadian Wheat Board show that when the elected farmers were running the CWB almost 93% of sales revenue was returned to farmers between 1998 and the 2010/11,” Wells said. “There is no justification for the government-run CWB to return just 83% of sales revenue to farmers in 2011/12. The difference between 93% and 83% 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 Wells.

Also, for the first time in 79 years the Minister of Agriculture decided to withhold the financial results of the CWB for the 2012/13 crop year making it impossible to follow the money as the CWB was transformed from a farmer-run and accountable organization to another foreign-owned and secretive margin trader.

“The costs of restructuring the CWB” Wells noted, “were new liabilities created by the government, and the government announced that $349 million of taxpayer monies were to be set aside to be used to cover these costs. 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.”

Anders Bruun, counsel for the Friends noted “The CWB Act makes it clear that only the actual costs of the CWB’s operations to sell a crop can be deducted from the money to be paid to farmers for that crop. We are concerned that the CWBs expenses more than doubled for the 2011/12 crop year after the farmer directors were removed on Dec. 15, 2011.”

“The lack of farmer oversight at the Board table, together with the Minister’s cover-up of CWB finances makes it imperative that the class action move ahead in order to determine what really happened to the money farmers should have earned from their grain sales in 2011/12. Given the substantial amount of taxpayer money involved we will also be asking the Auditor General of Canada to conduct an investigation” concluded Wells.
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MEDIA: Transcript of CBC Manitoba Radio Noon interview with Anders Bruun
Manitoba Cooperator: FCWB amends lawsuit – Here’s an explanation

– April 9, 2015 –

Farmers Disappointed by Supreme Court Refusal to Hear Case

(Swift Current, Saskatchewan, April 9, 2015) The Supreme Court of Canada has decided not to hear the appeal filed by farmers concerning a Class Action lawsuit stemming from the Harper Government’s dismantling of the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board.

The legal action was started to hold the Harper government accountable for its decision to unilaterally end the CWB’s marketing advantages and seize the farmer-paid assets, and the farmer-plaintiffs have expressed disappointment in the court’s decision. Stewart Wells, spokesperson for the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB) commented “Since 2006, the legal efforts of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board have resulted in over 631 million dollars in extra returns to farmers. However, we are naturally disappointed that Canada’s legal system has been unable to fully hold the Federal government accountable for the confiscation and destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) in 2011. The legal system has quite simply not been able to afford justice to western Canadian farmers so far.”

Wells explained that this part of the Class Action was uniquely important not only to western grain farmers but also to the interests of Canadian society and business in general and it deserved the consideration of the Supreme Court of Canada. “Unfortunately,” Wells said, “we have a double standard now condoned by the Supreme Court of Canada – workers and their unions have a right to collective bargaining and to enjoy the benefits that flow from that, but farmers have no right to keep the results of their own efforts at collective bargaining and the collective ownership of real property which the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board represented.”

Wells went on to observe, “The changes made to grain marketing by the Conservative government have resulted in the largest transfer of money away from farmers in the history of Canada. Over the past three years farmer losses from the federal government decision have exceeded the expectations of even strong board supporters.”

In 2013/14 losses to farmers were estimated at 4 to 5 billion dollars due to the government’s highly dysfunctional marketing system. In 2014-15 alone, the spread between port prices and farm gate prices increased causing losses estimated at 3 billion dollars. Those price spreads have not returned to competitive levels so farmer losses continue to mount.

“With the single-desk Wheat Board farmers retained the beneficial ownership of their grain from the farm gate to the end-use customer and the Board was able to add value at each step of the way and then return that extra money to farmers. The quality and price discrimination advantage which was estimated at three quarters of a billion dollars annually was also likely significantly underestimated as customers are now complaining about Canadian quality and Canadian grain is reported to be lowest price on some international tenders. The dozens of grain ships waiting in Vancouver are only the most visible symptom of this mess. 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” added Wells.

To add insult to injury, the Wheat Board assets, which were paid for by farmers and seized by the Conservative government, may be given away to private interests as the government moves to dispossess farmers of the last elements of the organization which benefitted prairie farmers for almost a century.

“However,” Wells concluded, “the Courts have given farmers a green light to proceed with the parts of the class action case based on the misallocation of CWB Pool account funds in 2011/12 and we will be turning our attention to those details in the coming weeks.”

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Background notes

The farmer-plaintiffs in this case were Andrew Dennis (Manitoba), Ian McCeary (Saskatchewan), Nathan Macklin (Alberta), and Harold Bell (British Columbia). They represented the majority western farmers, which supported the single desk marketing advantages of the CWB. Those same farmers predicted the declining share of export grain sales and other problems which have cost farmers billions of dollars since 2011. The following facts are not in dispute:
1.Since 2011, some Canadian grain prices have actually undercut world prices—“Canadian wheat lowest in Iraq tender”—Manitoba Cooperator, November 3, 2014.
2.The Canadian government has refused to divulge voluntary CWB handlings putting the lie to the “strong and viable” rhetoric—“Show us the audited statement Mr. Ritz!”—The Western Producer November 12, 2014.
3.Canada’s reputation has been suffering –“High standards suffering—A foreign grain buyer lists problems with underweight shipments, uneven protein”—The Western Producer Nov. 6, 2014”
4.Government has to direct rail traffic—Conservative government directs grain logistics by Order-in-Council
5.Farmers losing billions—“World prices have improved since October, but producer returns are down”—Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission.
6.“International buyers say Canada’s reputation as a high-quality provider of top protein wheat is in jeopardy”—The Western Producer March 26, 2015. Government “farm-group cheerleaders” and industry captured organizations like Cereals Canada are not able to provide the leadership required, causing 30 year sellers of Canadian wheat to say “OK, don’t bother me anymore with your crappy wheat.”
7.The Federal government intends to give away the current CWB’s assets—assets paid for by farmers—to an existing grain company.

– December 16, 2014 –

Farmers file Wheat Board case with Supreme Court

(Swift Current, Saskatchewan, December 16, 2014) Yesterday counsel for the farmer Plaintiffs in the Class Action lawsuit stemming from the Harper Government’s dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board filed documents seeking leave to have several key issues of the case considered by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Steven Shrybman of Sack, Goldblatt, and Mitchell of Toronto, co-counsel for the Plaintiffs remarked “this Class Action addresses some fundamental issues surrounding the right of people to democratically choose to work together and to build and hold assets collectively. Our clients feel this aspect of the Class Action is uniquely important not only to western grain farmers, but also to the interests of Canadian society and business in general, and deserves the consideration of the Supreme Court of Canada.”

Anders Bruun, a Winnipeg lawyer and co-counsel for the Plaintiffs stated “The recent Federal Court of Appeal ruling gave a green light for the Class Action to proceed with the parts of the case based on the misallocation of CWB Pool account funds in 2011/12. This part of the Class Action will be going forward regardless of the results of this leave to appeal application.”

Stewart Wells, Chairperson of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, said “There are three levels of loss – the values of the ongoing business, the hard assets including the contingency fund, and the misallocation of funds during the transition. Together these represent about a $17 billion loss to western Canadian farmers. The fact that farmers have lost $5 billion over the last 2 years that they would have received had the Wheat Board been in place proves the true value of the Wheat Board.”

“Clearly we believe the brand and the good name of the farmer-owned Wheat Board is also a form of property built and paid for by farmers, and this appeal will allow the Court to address this very substantial loss” explained Wells.

He went on to say, “I’m glad the plaintiffs have elected to give the Supreme Court the opportunity to address the inconsistency in lower court rulings holding that farmers have a right to advance a claim for pool account monies yet do not have a right to the property bought and paid for with those pool account monies.”

Wells concluded “the seizure of their CWB assets and Ottawa’s claim farmers have no right to them has galvanized the farm community to lay claim to all the Wheat Board assets farmers bought and paid for, not just the cash remaining in the Pool account.”
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– November 4, 2014 –

Farmers to move forward with Wheat Board case

(Swift Current, Saskatchewan, November 4, 2014) The farmers in the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB) class action are pleased the courts have given the green light to proceed with parts of the case based on the misallocation of CWB Pool account funds in 2011/12. However, the farmers have chosen to seek leave to appeal this limited decision to the Supreme Court of Canada since the ruling does not properly address the fundamental injustice of Ottawa seizing and disposing of other valuable CWB assets paid for by farmers.

Stewart Wells, chairperson of the FCWB, said “most farmers understand their CWB assets have been stolen from them by Ottawa. The startling revelation from a private banker that the intention of the Federal government is to effectively gift the CWB assets to a private company at no charge has further galvanized the farm community to lay claim to all the Wheat Board assets farmers bought and paid for, not just the cash remaining in the Pool account.”

Wells concluded by saying “I’m glad the plaintiffs have elected to give the Supreme Court an opportunity to address the glaring inconsistency in lower court rulings that farmers have a right to pool account monies yet do not have a right to the property bought and paid for with those pool account monies.”

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– October 17, 2014 –

Federal Court of Appeal gives farmers green light to move forward with Wheat Board case

(Swift Current, Saskatchewan, October 17, 2014) Although the Federal Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court ruling allowing four farmer plaintiffs and the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB) to move forward on a class action based on the misallocation of CWB Pool account funds in 2011/12, the farmers feel the ruling was too narrow and does not address the fundamental injustice of the Harper government selling other valuable CWB assets paid for by farmers.

“Wednesday’s court ruling rejected the government’s courtroom nonsense that farmers were not entitled to money which should have been held in the pooling accounts,” said Andrew Dennis, a Manitoba farmer and one of the plaintiffs, “and this means our farmer-led class action can‎ proceed. It is our view that farmers did not receive all of the monies properly owed to them from the 2011/12 crop year, and we will have to again use the court to fight for that money.”

“However,” added Stewart Wells, chairperson of the FCWB, “this ruling also continues the glaring inconsistency that although the courts have recognized that farmers have a right to the pool account monies, they have not recognized that farmers have a wider and deeper interest in recovering the full value of the CWB and CWB assets which they paid for.”

Wells observed “the judges took a very narrow view of property rights and ignored the historical partnership between government and western farmers beginning in 1935 with the creation of the Wheat Board and its further democratization in 1998 which saw a farmer-elected Board of Directors take responsibility.”

“Farmers know who paid for the assets taken by Ottawa and now held by Ottawa’s CWB, and after the marketing fiasco of 2012/13 an even larger majority of farmers understand the collective bargaining power they had with the single-desk was worth much more than the $17 billion estimated in our original class action. It is not right for Ottawa to confiscate and sell assets that farmers have built and paid for over the decades and it is not appropriate for Ottawa to offer these assets to private corporations behind closed doors” Wells said.

Wells concluded “the four farmer plaintiffs will now have to study the ruling and decide on next steps—steps which could include moving ahead with a class action fighting for the repatriation of more millions of dollars of farmer money, or seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

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– June 18, 2014

An open letter to the Minister of Agriculture

Original sent by fax: June 18, 2014

Re: Statutory requirement to table audited statement for the operations of the Canadian Wheat Board

Dear Minister Ritz:

As you know the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board have a class action law suit pending before the Federal Court of Appeal.

Since 2011 there have been substantial and material changes in the western Canadian grain sector including changes in the allocation of export grain revenues from farmers to the private grain trade. The single desk selling advantages of the pre-2011 Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) meant that farmers received more than 80% of the revenues from grain sales. As a direct result of your changes in 2011 farmers have recently been receiving less than 50% of the sales revenue. The loss of market premiums, plus the lower share to farmers combined with uncoordinated sales and logistics means that your changes to the CWB have cost farmers billions of dollars since 2011.

Since Canadian taxpayers are still underwriting the CWB operations, and since all western wheat and barley farmers contributed to building the assets used to operate the CWB in 2012/13, it would be appropriate for you to follow the law and table the year-end audited financial statement of the CWB.

This letter is to demand that you fulfill your statutory responsibility as set out in Section 21 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act to table such a report covering the 2012/13 crop year, which, according to the law, should have been done no later than April 15, 2014.

We would also directly ask you supply the following information:
1.Were you supplied with an Audited Statement from the CWB on or before March 31, 2014 as required in the Act? If not, why not, and
2.If you were supplied with an Audited Statement from the CWB no later than March 31, did you table the report? If not, why not?

Sincerely,

Copy: original signed by:

Stewart Wells,
Chair, Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board

– February 19, 2014

Ottawa must compensate western farmers for CWB assets
A Statement by the Plaintiffs in the CWB Class Action Lawsuit

(February 19, 2014) As the four representative plaintiffs named in the class action lawsuit seeking to recover $17 billion in damages on behalf of western Canadian wheat and barley farmers stemming from the decision by the Government of Canada to end the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), we have assessed the federal court’s ruling on the government’s motion to dismiss our lawsuit and here is why we have decided to press ahead with an appeal.

At the time the CWB single desk was dissolved, and the farmer board of directors dismissed, there were hard and soft assets owned by the CWB which had been paid for entirely by farmers. Hard assets include the building, rail cars, grain ships, and information systems. The large value soft assets include the customer relationships, quality premiums, staff development, and the CWB brand.

For each of the hard assets, pool accounts in the years following the purchase were charged a depreciation charge to pay for these assets. Thus, farmers paid directly out of their own pockets for these assets. In the final years of farmer control, these purchases were made by farmers under the understanding that all farmers would receive an income stream which more than offset the costs of the assets.

The case on the soft assets is similar. The decision to invest in branding western Canadian wheat and barley and their products was an investment strategy to move farmers higher up the value chain. Each of these investments was paid for by farmers. Decisions were always made based on the business case that the future stream of benefits to farmers would outweigh the costs of these investments. The branding contributed to Canadian grains topping the price charts during the price rally in 2008.

The process of farmers investing in their future was ramped up following the move to a new corporate structure with farmer control in 1998. The computer information system was rebuilt and completely modernized; the building was renovated; and a major branding initiative was developed to raise Canadian wheat and barley prices above the basic commodity values for these crops. One reason for this increase in investment was that the 1998 legislation made the investment climate clear. The value of investments depended on the future of the single desk. The future of the single desk was to be determined by a farmer vote. Thus, according to legislation at the time, the future stream of income from these investments would belong to farmers unless farmers voted to give them up.

The case that farmers deserve compensation for the seizure of assets at the time the single desk was ended and the farmer board replaced by government appointees thus deserves further review for at least two reasons. First, farmers bought and paid for the assets. Second, farmers made these investments in a business and legislated environment in which farmers were assured that farmers would capture the stream of benefits from these investments. The only way farmers would lose the benefits is if they chose to vote to give them up. The government not only seized the assets, they also made the change in the investment environment without the required farmer vote.

It is particularly important that the laws on future benefits of investments be reviewed in light of the recent developments to establish wheat and barley commissions. These commissions will allegedly be allowed to invest in new varieties and other research which will make western Canadian farmers more competitive in the long term. To be successful, farmers must know that these varieties will not be seized and turned over to the seed companies with which the varieties were developed to compete.

Most international trade and investment agreements provide assurances that investors will be compensated if national rules are changed. It is imperative that Canadians test if we can be assured parallel treatment in the event that assets which we have purchased in one legislated environment are seized by a subsequent government.

Harold Bell: Fort St. John, British Columbia,
Andrew Dennis: Brookdale, Manitoba,
Nathan Macklin: DeBolt, Alberta,
Ian McCreary: Bladworth, Saskatchewan.

– January 10, 2014

Farmers ill-served – Leader~Post
“Perhaps with all the scandals and cover-ups in Ottawa, the Harper government has lost track of what is right and what is wrong. But farmers haven’t. The legislated theft without compensation of hundreds of millions of dollars of farmerpaid wheat board assets is wrong. Period.”

– January 8, 2014

Farmers move ahead with Wheat Board class action

(Swift Current, Saskatchewan, January 2, 2014) Stewart Wells, chairperson of The Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board announced that farmer litigants, with the full support of the group, have filed an appeal of a November 29, 2013 Federal Court ruling by Madam Justice Tremblay-Lamer.

Wells said “We believe Justice Tremblay-Lamer made errors of fact in her judgment and our supporters feel that it is imperative that we continue with our legal efforts to recover the $17 billion dollars of value and assets farmers put into the Wheat Board.”

Wells went on to point out “It was fifty years ago this past month the Canadian Wheat Board, in consultation with its farmer advisory committee moved into a downtown Winnipeg office building bought and paid for with farmers’ money, and no amount of legal sophistry or rationalization can change the fact farmers are owed compensation for what amounts to an unprecedented theft of private resources by Ottawa.”

Wells concluded by saying: “Farmers know who built and paid for Canadian Wheat Board assets and farmers have a legitimate expectation of compensation from the federal government.”

Nathan Macklin, one of the farmer plaintiffs from Alberta said “if Ottawa did this to a multinational corporation they would be forced by NAFTA and our other trade obligations to provide compensation. Allowing this essentially makes farmers, and all Canadians, second class citizens in our own country.”

Anders Bruun, legal counsel for the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, stated “this appeal moves forward the legal action on the seizure of the Wheat Board’s assets and reputation from farmers by the Federal government and shows the resolve of my clients to keep fighting against the expropriation without compensation that the government has visited on farmers.”

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news report here: Friends of CWB appeals decision in damages lawsuit

– October 23, 2013

Justice considers class action

(Ottawa – October 23, 2013) After a four hour hearing before the Federal Court, Justice Danièle Tremblay-Lamer has reserved her decision on whether all aspects of the 17 billion dollar class action claim are allowed to proceed; some aspects are allowed to proceed, or nothing is allowed to proceed. Any of these outcomes may lead to an appeal by either side.

– October 4, 2013

Friends of CWB argue fairness and property rights before Federal Court

(Ottawa – October 4, 2013) Last week the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board legal team, representing farmer plaintiffs from across the west, filed a legal brief with the Federal Court of Canada in connection with their class action law suit to seek $17 billion in compensation from Ottawa for ending the farmer owned single desk Canadian Wheat Board.

The legal brief has been filed in response to the Federal government’s contention grain producers have no interest in the assets and goodwill of the CWB and the Federal Court should therefore dismiss the farmers’ Class Action. The Federal Court will hold a hearing on this matter in Ottawa on October 23, 2013.

One of the Friends’ attorneys Anders Bruun summarized the farmers’ response by saying “the key concept here is fairness. Producers paid to build up the CWB and never got anything when government tore it down.”

Stewart Wells, the organization’s chairperson and a former farmer-elected Director of the Canadian Wheat Board went on to observe “the Federal government is taking a very narrow and self-serving view of property rights. Our position is all the property of the Canadian Wheat Board was built by farmers and part of that value is the reputation for honesty and quality which our Board developed.”

Bruun concluded by saying “This case raises fundamental questions about the nature and extent of collective property rights in organizations enabled by government but in this case, built by and for producers. It will require the Court to consider the inherent characteristics of property and address the central question of whether it is fair for government to take something that others have created, without compensating them.”

-30-

– June 3, 2013

The Class Action law suit to recover the value of the Canadian Wheat Board for the farmers of western Canada is in process.

On August 16, 2013 the Federal Government must file its arguments as to why they should be allowed to take, without compensation, the value of our farmer controlled single desk.

On September 27, 2013 the legal team representing western grain farmers will file our response.

The Federal Court will hold a special hearing October 23, 2013 in Ottawa to determine if the class action is dismissed or can go ahead.

– January 17, 2013

Supreme Court ruling will not stop class action to restore Wheat Board – Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board

(Regina January 17, 2013) “We do not believe that the Supreme Court ruling declining to consider the issues raised by the Campbell decision regarding the rights of farmers to have a vote on the disposition of our Canadian Wheat Board has a direct effect on our class action law suit to either restore the CWB or obtain over $17 billion in damages from Ottawa for the loss of single desk marketing” remarked Stewart Wells, chairperson of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board.

“The class action is based on several legal principles which were not before the Supreme Court and as a result the class action is not affected by today’s ruling. While wheat and barley prices have been exceptionally good due to severe droughts in most of the worlds grain growing regions, the fact remains that producers have lost the premiums on high protein wheat and malt barley which the CWB was able to obtain for the benefit of farmers” Wells added.

-30-

– November 20, 2012

There are now two parallel actions: One involves the follow up to the Campbell decision that Ottawa acted illegally by ignoring our right to vote on changes to the CWB. The second is a Class Action to restore the CWB or seek $17 billion in damages for farmers as a result of the loss of the CWB.

Here is the chronology of the court cases to date:

1. In response to a case launched by the Friends of the CWB and the former farmer-elected CWB Directors, Federal Justice Campbell ruled on December 7 of 2011 the legislation ending the CWB was introduced illegally. Ottawa ignored the court and passed legislation ending the Canadian Wheat Board as of August 1, 2012.

2. In February of 2012 Friends of the CWB launched a Class Action law suit to restore our Wheat Board or obtain $17 billion in damages for farmers. The Federal Court has appointed a case manager for this action. The first step would be a decision to either allow the case to go forward (“certification”) or denial.

3. On June 18, 2012 the Federal Court of Appeal set aside the Campbell ruling. Then the Federal government made a motion to dismiss our Class Action case.

4. In September 2012 Friends of the CWB filed a leave to appeal to the Supreme Court about the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision setting aside the Campbell ruling.

5. By mutual consent, the Class Action has been placed on hold pending the outcome of whether the Supreme Court decides to hear our appeal of the Campbell/ Federal Court of Appeal decision. We anticipate this decision sometime in the first quarter of 2013. The results of the Campbell appeal may have implications for how we conduct the Class Action, hence the suspension of that process.

6. As soon as the results of the Campbell process are clear, the Friends anticipate restarting the Class Action process.

The CWBA also continues to raise money for the court cases to restore our Wheat Board.

You can still make donations towards the legal costs involved here: CWB Alliance. Or here: Friends of CWB

————————————————

STOP HARPER
Support the FIGHT to save the Canadian Wheat Board

The Canadian Wheat Board has been an icon of organized social democracy in action. It has been a national institution with countless benefits for Canadian farmers and consumers. The kicker: It hasn’t cost consumers 1 penny to run.

BUT NOW ….

The Harper Government has wrecked the Canadian Wheat Board and stripped farmers of their right to vote in defiance of a Federal Court ruling that the legislation is illegal. A government ignoring a Federal Court ruling should concern ALL CANADIANS.

On Dec. 15, 2011, the Harper government passed Bill C-18 even though the court ruled that its introduction to Parliament was illegal. Once that occurred, the farmer-elected Board of Directors was dismissed after Ag Minister Gerry Ritz illegally took control of our CWB by appointing his own 5 puppet directors.

The new CWB is NOT FARMER RUN, it doesn’t hold SINGLE DESK marketing power and on Aug. 1, 2012, it will be a useless marketing company with no grain elevators or product control.

THE GOOD NEWS: Farmers are fighting back. We have launched 3 Court Cases to force Ottawa to obey the law, give farmers back their right to vote, and restore OUR Canadian Wheat Board. Two are in the appeal stage and the most recent is a multiple stage class action – a constitutional argument for ‘freedom of association’ to get the CWB back and then compensation for damages.

TOGETHER WE WILL WIN!

Here are just a few reasons why we are asking Canadians for their voices and support:

1) DEMOCRACY – Harper is taking away farmers’ freedom to choose the fate of OUR Wheat Board. ANY Canadian organization which believes in democratic principles should be deeply concerned. The outcome of our lawsuits will affect all Canadians.

2) CANADIAN SOVEREIGNTY – Don’t let foreign interests run our food system.

3) SUPPLY MANAGEMENT – If the government succeeds with the Wheat Board, our Canadian milk, cheese, chicken, and turkeys are next (PDF).

4) GMO WHEAT – In 2004 western farmers and their Canadian Wheat Board played a key role in stopping the introduction of genetically modified wheat into the market place. Most consumers DON’T WANT IT, but without the CWB, farmers are powerless to stop it.

5) QUALITY LOCAL FOOD – The CWB has worked hard to keep quality grain by Canadian farmers in Canada. Under Bill C-18 grain quality will not be a priority. The government has started the move to harmonize our grain grades with the lower quality standards in the US.

6) BLATANTLY ILLEGAL – On Dec.7, 2011, a Federal Court Judge ruled Harper’s Wheat Board legislation violates the rule of law.

7) FAMILY FARMS – The single desk CWB provides equitable access to the market for all farmers, big or small. Losing the CWB accelerates the loss of family farms (PDF). In so doing, it will concentrate farmland ownership in fewer and fewer hands. A blow to the CWB is a blow to family-farm agriculture.

8) STAND UP AGAINST BULLYING – Agriculture Minister, Gerry Ritz has misled Canadians and bullied farmers in order to pass Bill C-18. This is all part of a pattern of disrespect for democracy on the part of the Harper government. Our campaign is transparent with Canadians because we believe facts should trump propaganda. What are Stephen Harper and Gerry Ritz hiding?

More great info can be found on these sites: friendsofcwb.ca and cwbafacts.ca

Editorial: Follow the Dollars

Published in the Manitoba Co-Operator
Editorial: Follow the Dollars
By Gord Gilmour
Editor
Published: July 12, 2018
Editorial, Opinion

Most financial professionals will tell you to keep one hand on your wallet when someone doesn’t want you to look at the books.
From non-profit community groups to major corporations, the numbers don’t lie. If funds have been misallocated or things aren’t quite on the level, it can’t truly be hidden.
No matter how hard someone tries to cover it up, there’s always a loose end, a number that doesn’t quite add up, and a fresh set of eyes will cause that to jump out off the ledger and reveal the truth.

Some companies even force key financial staff to take vacations just to ensure some oversight.
It’s for this reason the federal government’s steadfast refusal — spanning two successive federal governments of two distinct political stripes — to provide a full and open accounting of the Canadian Wheat Board’s final year is so troubling.

In December 2014 the Globe and Mail newspaper noted the latest fulsome financial report it could find on the CWB’s website dated from 2011-12.
It noted the company was clearly up for sale, had been on a buying and building spree and was “allegedly” prosperous, but noted the choice of that word was necessary because there was no hard proof one way or the other.

Just four months later, in April of 2015, the sale of the CWB to a joint venture of Bunge Canada and Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company (SALIC) Canada was announced. That entity paid $250 million for 50.1 per cent of the CWB, and rebranded it G3 Global Grain Group.
The remaining 49.9 would “… eventually be acquired by producer patrons of the CWB, who will receive $5 of equity for every tonne of grain sold to the CWB,” according to Martin Cash of the Winnipeg Free Press.

•Read more: [Editorial] The farmers’ (equity) trust in the CWB

Since then there’s been, from some quarters, claims that the deal was sweetened, with money owed to farmers, in an attempt to kill off the CWB once and for all.
There’s little doubt then agriculture minister Gerry Ritz wanted a deal done. It’s impossible to say for sure why, but it’s also impossible to ignore that, politically, it was an expedient solution for him.

So long as the organization remained more or less intact, it would always be a rallying point for those who sought to have the single sales desk reinstated.
Recreated as a privately controlled subsidiary of two global organizations, no such residual sway would linger.
One might think the current Liberal government would be anxious to shine a spotlight on such skulduggery. Instead it seems set on all but ignoring the issue, when not actively blocking efforts to have the numbers reviewed.

•Read more: CWB sale to be scrutinized by new Liberal government

Despite repeated requests from some groups — notably the National Farmers Union and the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance — the government has been steadfast in its reluctance to open the books.
In no small part that’s probably because if there was any wrongdoing, legal or moral, it’s going to be an expensive mistake to fix, measured in hundreds of millions of dollars.
No doubt the current government has other things it would like to spend that kind of cash on, rather than redressing something that happened under a previous government.
Slowly, however, there seems to be some movement towards a final accounting. Most recently the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench ruled against Ottawa, which was requesting the court strike the statement of claim.

•Read more: CWB class action suit takes step forward

It doesn’t necessarily mean the lawsuit will go ahead, but it is one key hurdle cleared.

The allegations in that as-yet-unproven statement of claim are interesting to all farmers who sold wheat and barley through the organization.
In simple terms, the plaintiffs allege the feds funnelled a total of $151 million to the ultimate buyers of the organization. They say $145.2 million was placed in an expanded “contingency fund” and $5.9 million was taken from pool accounts.

“In order to fund the transformation of the board to a privately held entity, the defendants engaged in a course of conduct intended to reduce payments to farmers who had sold and delivered grain to the board during the class period and to increase the monies in the contingency fund,” the statement of claim alleges.

What has been curious is the deafening silence by most farmers and farm groups on this topic. Back in the days of the single desk one could hardly go 10 days without a press release alleging wasteful mismanagement in some form. Not so today.

It’s likely most don’t want to get stuck in the quagmire of the CWB debate again, and that’s understandable. But asking for a full accounting of what went on is a far cry from going back in time.

The numbers really add up, and shouldn’t be ignored. If the numbers in the lawsuit are accurate, for each of the 70,000 farmers the CWB did business with, that equals $21,571.

Wouldn’t you like to know if that should be in your pocket?

Grain giants and family farmers — the untold story of losing the Canadian Wheat Board. Published on Rabble.ca on June 26, 2019

These are not great days for farmers across Canada. A drought in many parts of the Prairies prompted worried looks and constant gazes skyward for any sign of cloud cover. Then, at almost the final hour for many, it rained — lots of rain. In some places seeded crops had yet to germinate, but then the rain came. As I write, rain is falling in some parts, but will it be enough?

Would that weather was the only major risk in farming…

A few weeks ago, Statistics Canada released its report on farm incomes, noting that across the country farmers’ net income has dropped by 45 per cent, and in Saskatchewan by close to 29 per cent.

All of this is only compounded by the fact that farm policy in this country has been continuously eroded over decades by negligence, trade agreements, lack of foresight, and even, some suspect, outright corruption.

Both Conservative and Liberal governments have removed or ignored the few programs that might have helped farmers gain access to a better market share, a better price for their product, and assure international buyers quality control of the grain purchased. A significant source of support for farmers was the Canadian Wheat Board, a marketing board for grain in Western Canada.

In late May the Friends of Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB) was once again in court, asking that the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench certify a class action lawsuit to regain more than $152 million owed farmers for the final payment from Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) grain sales for the 2010-2012 crop years. At that time the federal Conservatives were dismantling the CWB and apparently diverting funds that were meant for farmers. Farmers never received all of their final payment. The Manitoba court will rule in a few months.

What is the Canadian Wheat Board and what did it do?

The Canadian Wheat Board was established in 1935 as a single selling desk for Canadian grain. Until 2012, it undertook orderly marketing on behalf of farmers. Then it was privatized and its assets transferred to a Saudi agribusiness company and an American-based transnational.

This is indeed a story of David and Goliath — but as all good stories of underdogs and activism, nimbleness is important. These activist farmers are definitely showing their commitment and stamina. They are also nimble. And they will be seen, I believe, to be on the right side of history.

Since 2011 groups of Prairie farmers who support a farmer-controlled CWB have been working to have the courts recognize that the actions taken by the Harper Conservatives to privatize and transfer assets to foreign corporations were in fact illegal and have cost farmers billions in income. But money is not the only issue — access to international markets, quality control of export crops, and issues related to seed, genetically modified crops and their impact on foreign sales of Canadian product, are just some of the topics that farmers elected to the CWB engaged on. The Wheat Board worked to maintain decent prices for grain commodities. And that was also in the interests of the country and all Canadians more generally. With the loss of the CWB, I have no doubt that we are losing more farmers.

Since 2012, the FCWB has been walking through the legal maze fighting for justice on behalf of farmers. First, the FCWB fought the restructuring of the CWB, and the dismantling of its farmer-elected structure. Then, it was essentially privatized in 2015 and its assets transferred by the federal government to the G3 Global Trading Group, a company owned by Saudi Arabia agribusiness and an American-based transnational. The FCWB has long maintained that all of the $17 billion in Wheat Board assets were common property of farmers and the Canadian public, and that the federal minister of agriculture at the time — Gerry Ritz — overstepped his elected role to destroy the Wheat Board and transfer its assets to foreign ownership.

Multiple legal actions

The court battles to seek approval for a class action suit have been numerous and lengthy — and along the way there have been wins and losses.

These are chronicled in detail on the site of the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, a group which also supports the CWB. Farmers have gone to the courts asking for $17 billion in damages for hard and soft assets (hopper cars, buildings, shipping vessels, and moneys for grain sales) that belong to farmers and were essentially transferred to new owners without proper consultation. In a complicated and narrow decision related to property rights, the Federal Court of Canada determined that only parts of the case might be heard — and that the assets were not common property. But both courts, the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal, allowed that a suit for farmer grain payments could be heard. Application for that class action is now being heard in the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench. The statement of claim can be found here.

Besides the diversion of crop income away from farmers from 2010-2012, activist farmers initiated legal action in 2011 challenging changes in the legislation governing the CWB and lack of farmer input. Then, in 2012, farmers launched a class action suit against the federal government for selling what farmers claimed were farmer-owned business assets and common property — the Canadian Wheat Board — and to reclaim final payments for grain sold on behalf of farmers by the board. The FCWB is adamant that both farmers and the public owned these assets and have actually lost billions in common property in the sale of the CWB.

Lack of federal support

Meanwhile, since the election of the Liberals in fall 2015, the FCWB has been meeting with the federal government, urging a full accounting of what happened to the CWB by the previous Conservative government and its minister, and the reinstatement of the CWB or a similar marketing board.

While in opposition the Liberals dogged the Conservatives over the dismantling of the Wheat Board. But once elected, they went largely silent and have been trying to delay the Manitoba hearings on technicalities, according to the FCWB.

Stewart Wells, Chair of the FCWB, and a former farmer-elected director of the CWB, explained it this way when interviewed by the Manitoba Cooperator on June 7:

“When we started this in February of 2012 we were prepared for a lengthy process,” Wells said. “Now it could’ve all been ended if the Liberal government wouldn’t have continued the coverup started by the Harper government. So we find ourselves still trying to get to the truth of what happened in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and get cash back to the farmers that they were deprived of during the transition process.”

There are calculations as to how much the sale of the single selling desk is undermining Canadian farmers’ income. In 2015 University of Saskatchewan agricultural economist Rich Gray published findings showing that up to that point Canadian farmers had lost more than $7 billion in reduced sales and pricing of grain commodities due to the loss of the Wheat Board.

Compound that amount to date and we have one reason why Western farmers’ income has plummeted so dramatically. Add to that low prices, increases in input costs and farm machinery costs.

Canadian family farmers have a lot more than just the weather to contend with. So do we all, when you consider that neither Conservative or Liberal governments have ever extended much support to family farmers.

“It’s about treating people, in this case farmers, fairly,” Wells said. “Some of those same people… would be mortified if somebody stole $5 from them… well this is a little different because these injustices have been delivered by… the federal government.”

“It’s just not appropriate to walk away and turn a blind eye when you see governments doing something inappropriate,” he added.

And when you look at dwindling farm income due to the loss of orderly marketing, farmers and Canadians have lost much, much more.

Those of us who know that the story of the Canadian Wheat Board is unjust and a story that remains untold are hoping that David’s slingshot hits its target.

Lois Ross is a communications specialist, writer, and editor, living in Ottawa. Her column “At the farm gate” discusses issues that are key to food production here in Canada as well as internationally.

Proposed CWB class-action lawsuit takes another turn. Published in the Manitoba Co-operator on June 7, 2019

A proposed class-action lawsuit against the federal government and G3 alleging farmers’ money helped privatize the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) continues to slowly make its way through the courts.

A year ago the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, which supports the proposed lawsuit, was jubilant. On May 28, 2018 Master Shayne Berthaudin of the Manitoba Court of Queens Bench in Winnipeg ruled against the government’s attempt to walk away from the proposed class action, which claims more than $145 million in damages are owed to the farmers who delivered wheat and barley to the CWB in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 crop years, along with $10 million in punitive damages.

But the current Liberal government appealed so the farmers were making their case again May 28, 2019 before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Chris Martin.

“It seems never ending,” Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board chair Stewart Wells, who farms at Swift Current, Sask., said in an interview May 28. “That is why the court system is so frustrating.”

A ruling is expected in a month or two, Wells said. If Justice Martin upholds the earlier ruling, farmers can then move to certify the class-action lawsuit, he added.

If it goes the other way the farmers will likely appeal, “but I am just speculating now,” Wells said.

Before getting elected in 2015 the Liberal party said it would render a full accounting of the Harper government’s winding down of the CWB, Wells said. That didn’t happen and instead the Liberal government is trying to block farmers’ efforts.

“When we started this in February of 2012 we were prepared for a lengthy process,” Wells said. “Now it could’ve all been ended if the Liberal government wouldn’t have continued the coverup started by the Harper government. So we find ourselves still trying to get to the truth of what happened in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and get cash back to the farmers that they were deprived of during the transition process.”

The suit alleges the federal government used $7 million of money owed to farmers through the CWB’s pool accounts and $100 million more from the CWB’s contingency fund, plus interest.

The allegations have not been tested in court.

Ottawa ended the CWB almost seven years ago. To those rolling their eyes over the suit, Wells says the issue goes beyond the money to an important principle.

“It’s about treating people, in this case farmers, fairly,” he said. “Some of those same people… would be mortified if somebody stole $5 from them… well this is a little different because these injustices have been delivered by… the federal government. It’s just not appropriate to walk away and turn a blind eye when you see governments doing something inappropriate.”

The government used farmer money to make the CWB more attractive to its next proprietor, which turned out to be G3, which is a joint venture of U.S. agribusiness Bunge and Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co. (SALIC), which is owned by the Saudi government.

“If people want to roll their eyes they should think about $150 million to $200 million being handed over to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” Wells said.

Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board

NEWS RELEASE: UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL May 31, 2018, 8:30 am CDT
Court rules Ottawa must answer for Harper actions on CWB
(May 31, 2018, Swift Current, Sk.) The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench has ruled Ottawa must answer for the Harper administration’s actions against the farmers who participated in the farmer-controlled Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).
In a written ruling released May 28, 2018, Master Berthaudin ruled against the government’s attempt to walk away from a putative class action which claims more than $145 million in damages are owed to the farmers of western Canada along with $10 million dollars in punitive damages.
“This ruling puts the government’s shirt in the wringer,” said Stewart Wells, Chair of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB).
“In the proposed class action farmers contend the former Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz, deprived farmers of monies they should have received from the 2010 and 2011 crop years. Instead of paying farmers, we believe this money was used to sweeten the pot for whoever was going to acquire the Wheat Board” Wells explained.
The government of Saudi Arabia and the multinational grain company Bunge ultimately acquired the Wheat Board from the Government of Canada, and created G3 Global Grain Group to assume the assets of the former CWB in 2015.
Anders Bruun, a Winnipeg lawyer noted: “the CWB’s annual reports for those crop years issued after the farmer elected directors were dismissed show that farmers were short changed by over $140 million even though the CWB Act required that money to be paid to farmers as part of their final payments for those crop years.”
Bruun is representing the class’ proposed representative plaintiff, Brookdale, Manitoba farmer Andrew Dennis, together with Jordan Goldblatt and Louis Century who are Toronto based lawyers specializing in civil litigation and class proceedings.
With this week’s ruling, the Court clears the way to the next step which is a hearing to have the action certified as a class action, with Mr. Dennis as representative plaintiff.
The action was commenced in 2012 with the support of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board on behalf of all prairie wheat and barley farmers. – 30 –
For further information:
ANDERS BRUUN, Barrister and Solicitor

New lawsuit claims CWB kept $145 million of farmers’ money

New lawsuit claims CWB kept $145 million of farmers’ money

April 24, 2017 – Manitoba Cooperator

Lawsuit alleges farmers short changed $151 million as CWB wound down according to a statement of claim $145 million was transferred from the CWB’s pool accounts to its contingency fund.

Brookdale Manitoba farmer Andrew Dennis has filed a statement of claim in the Manitoba Court of Queens Bench claiming the now-defunct Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) withheld money owed to farmers to help finance its transition to a private grain company.

Dennis is seeking certification of a class action lawsuit on behalf of all farmers who delivered wheat and barley to the single desk marketing agency during the two crop years preceding the end of its monopoly on marketing in 2012.

The statement of claim names the Government of Canada, G3 Global Grain Group and G3 Limited as Defendants. G3 is the private entity which acquired the CWB following a July 31, 2015, transaction.

“When we were reviewing the CWB’s Annual Reports for 2010-11 and 2011-12, it appeared that $145 million, which should have been paid to farmers as part of their final payment, had been withheld and transferred to the CWB’s Contingency Fund,” said Dennis in a release.

“This claim is about establishing accountability for the disposition of the Canadian Wheat Board, allocating financial responsibility to the appropriate parties, and ultimately getting any funds recovered back to prairie farmers,” said Stewart Wells, a farmer from Swift Current, Saskatchewan and chairperson of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Anders Bruun, one of the lead lawyers for the plaintiff went on to note that “Some restructuring expenses were paid from the pooling accounts, but the Contingency Fund appears to be the largest single source of apparently misappropriated funds.”

Dennis was previously part of a claim against the government and the CWB in the Federal Court. On May 15, 2017, his lawyers will be seeking leave to discontinue the Federal Court proceeding in favour of the Manitoba Court Class Action.

Bruun is representing the lead plaintiff together with Steven Shrybman of Goldblatt Partners, a Toronto and Ottawa law firm specializing in class actions and Jordan Goldblatt of Adair Barristers, Toronto which also has substantial class action litigation experience.

The statement of claim may be viewed and/or downloaded at www.cwbafacts.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/SOC-Manitoba-Apr-24-2017.pdf.

Farmers file Wheat Board case with Supreme Court

(Swift Current, Saskatchewan, December 16, 2014) Yesterday counsel for the farmer Plaintiffs in the Class Action lawsuit stemming from the Harper Government’s dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board filed documents seeking leave to have several key issues of the case considered by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Steven Shrybman of Sack, Goldblatt, and Mitchell of Toronto, co-counsel for the Plaintiffs remarked “this Class Action addresses some fundamental issues surrounding the right of people to democratically choose to work together and to build and hold assets collectively. Our clients feel this aspect of the Class Action is uniquely important not only to western grain farmers, but also to the interests of Canadian society and business in general, and deserves the consideration of the Supreme Court of Canada.”

Anders Bruun, a Winnipeg lawyer and co-counsel for the Plaintiffs stated “The recent Federal Court of Appeal ruling gave a green light for the Class Action to proceed with the parts of the case based on the misallocation of CWB Pool account funds in 2011/12. This part of the Class Action will be going forward regardless of the results of this leave to appeal application.”

Stewart Wells, Chairperson of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, said “There are three levels of loss – the values of the ongoing business, the hard assets including the contingency fund, and the misallocation of funds during the transition. Together these represent about a $17 billion loss to western Canadian farmers. The fact that farmers have lost $5 billion over the last 2 years that they would have received had the Wheat Board been in place proves the true value of the Wheat Board.”

“Clearly we believe the brand and the good name of the farmer-owned Wheat Board is also a form of property built and paid for by farmers, and this appeal will allow the Court to address this very substantial loss” explained Wells.

He went on to say, “I’m glad the plaintiffs have elected to give the Supreme Court the opportunity to address the inconsistency in lower court rulings holding that farmers have a right to advance a claim for pool account monies yet do not have a right to the property bought and paid for with those pool account monies.”

Wells concluded “the seizure of their CWB assets and Ottawa’s claim farmers have no right to them has galvanized the farm community to lay claim to all the Wheat Board assets farmers bought and paid for, not just the cash remaining in the Pool account.” -30-

For further information call:
Stewart Wells: (306) 773-6852
Anders Bruun: (204) 416-3562

Farmer Plaintiffs:
Harold Bell: Fort St. John, British Columbia
Andrew Dennis: Brookdale, Manitoba
Nathan Macklin: DeBolt, Alberta
Ian McCreary: Bladworth, Saskatchewan

Friends of the CWB to appeal class action ruling

A group of farmers who tried to launch a class action lawsuit against the federal government and CWB is promising to keep fighting against what it calls an “unprecedented theft” of farmer assets by Ottawa.

Stewart Wells, chair of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB), announced Jan. 2 that farmer litigants will appeal a Nov. 29 ruling by Federal Court justice Daniele Tremblay-Lamer.

That ruling rejected many of the arguments put forward by the FCWB in its statement of claim and refuted suggestions that farmer property had been unjustly confiscated by Ottawa and the CWB.

In her ruling, Tremblay-Lamar suggested that changes to CWB legislation did not divest class action plaintiffs of property or assets.

However, the government may have deprived farmers of some pool payouts during the 2011-12-transition year, she added.

Because of that, a limited class action suit should be allowed to continue, she said.

But in a news release issued today by the FCWB, Wells said plaintiffs believe that Tremblay-Lamer erred in her judgment.

“Our supporters feel that it is imperative that we continue with our legal efforts to recover the $17 billion of value and assets farmers put into the wheat board,” Wells said in the news release.

“It was 50 years ago this past month the Canadian Wheat Board, in consultation with its farmer advisory committee, moved into a downtown Winnipeg office building bought and paid for with farmers’ money, and no amount of legal sophistry or rationalization can change the fact farmers are owed compensation for what amounts to an unprecedented theft of private resources by Ottawa.”

Anders Bruun, legal counsel for FCWB, said the appeal moves forward the legal action on the seizure of the wheat board’s assets and reputation from farmers by the federal government.

“(This appeal) … shows the resolve of my clients to keep fighting against the expropriation without compensation that the government has visited on farmers,” Bruun said.