CWB versus Canada

On Jan. 18 Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Shane Perlmutter reserved his decision on whether to grant eight former directors of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) an injunction against the further implementation of Bill C-18.

C-18, the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, became law on Dec. 15, 2011, and was the first step in the Harper government’s plan to remove the “single desk” marketing system — also referred to as a “monopoly” — which has dictated to whom western Canadian farmers can sell their wheat and barley to since the 1940s.

The bill became law despite a ruling by Federal Court Justice Douglas Campbell, who criticized the way Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz introduced C-18: ignoring Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, which requires a producer referendum before major changes to the CWB can be made.

A producer referendum conducted by the CWB also found that a majority of wheat and barley farmers were opposed to ending the organization’s monopoly on the sale of those grains.

Colin MacArthur, the council representing the eight former directors, began by asking Justice Perlmutter to respect Justice Campbell’s ruling, and restrict the defendant’s council to arguing against the injunction.

Justice Perlmutter likened this to “tying [his] hands,” but said he would keep MacArthur’s request in mind when making his decision.

MacArthur then proceeded to explain to the court why an injunction should be granted against C-18, citing the federal government’s need to follow the law and the “irreparable harm” C-18 would do to producers.

Robert MacKinnon, council for the Attorney General of Canada, argued the government had the right to amend legislation and introduce new bills, and it was not the place of the courts to impede the legislative process.

MacKinnon added that it was impossible for the eight former directors to represent all farmers, and that it was impossible to know how many producers supported their actions.

He then called into question the CWB’s claims that it controlled enough market-share to demand premiums for Canadian wheat on the international market, citing a 2008 report by Informa Economics, titled “An open market for CWB grain.”

Following two days of testimony, MacArthur concluded his response to MacKinnon’s arguments by saying that the eight former directors were elected by districts that support the single desk system, and asked that Justice Perlmutter prevent the government from making any more changes to the CWB by granting them their injunction.

Soon after MacArthur concluded his statements, Justice Perlmutter announced that he would be reserving his decision.