'Friends of the CWB' back in court seeking class certification

Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB) were back in a Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench courtroom last week with a re-run of a motion the government lost almost exactly a year ago, according to the FCWB website.

Chairperson for the organization, Stewart Wells, says in a news release, “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.”

In 2017, Manitoba farmer Andrew Dennis filed a Statement of Claim with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Winnipeg. Besides the more than $150 million alleged to be owed to producers, Dennis sought an additional $10 million in punitive damages.

The government responded saying the statement of claim disclosed “no reasonable cause of action and/or as an abuse of process of the court.” On May 28, 2018, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench ruled against the government.

“Canada’s motion is dismissed in its entirety,” wrote Master S. D. Berthaudin, in 2018. “Should the parties be unable to agree on costs, they may make an appointment for submissions on that issue.”

Wells believes this hearing to be “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.”

In response to the news, Jeff Nielsen, former CWB director and current chair of the Grain Growers of Canada says in a tweet, “the contingency fund was derived excesses in the Producer Payment Option program – never pool accounts – money came from the spreads on PPO contracts.” He continues that the same happens today when producers sign with grain companies, and if the market rises, the companies earn the spread.

Lawyers Anders Bruun, Louis Century, and Jordan Goldblatt are representing Dennis.

“We hope a favourable ruling will clear the way to the next step,” says Dennis, “which is a hearing to have the action certified as a class action with myself as representative plaintiff.”

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