(April 9, 2015) Today the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a Leave to Appeal by the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB). You can read the FCWB news release here.

What this boils down to is that in spite of the fact the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) brand had tremendous value to farmers just as patents, like the ones Monsanto has been granted on genetics, have tremendous value to their owners, the Supreme Court has rejected allowing western grain farmers who paid for the CWB to seek compensation from Ottawa for that loss.

It escapes this writer how the learned judges of the Supreme Court could have failed to understand that every penny that went into building the CWB brand and its assets since 1935 came directly out of the Pool Accounts. In my world when you pay for something you own it, period and full stop. If someone takes it you expect fair compensation for the value of what was taken. And if it is taken without permission or compensation most people would call that “theft.”

Supreme Court crowns the Minister may not be exactly as illustrated

Supreme Court crowns the Minister
may not be exactly as illustrated

However, Ottawa argued that “Parliament is supreme” and did not need to offer farmers compensation. The latest from the Supreme Court of Canada confirms this view. In practice this means that unless Parliament specifically authorizes compensation when they seize something, no compensation to the owners is required.

This stance strikes at the very heart of property ownership rights and natural justice. It is a wonder that today’s Ottawa Conservatives are happy with this turn of events. Joseph Stalin would be happy, Fidel Castro would be happy, but would real Conservatives like former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker who supported the single-desk and brought us the Bill of Rights agree?

From a dollars and cents point of view, this is quite a loss to western grain farmers. The first year without the single-desk Wheat Board saw the grain companies exercise their new place as middlemen between farmers and their customers and take a little over $1.7 billion dollars out of the western grain economy on # 2 CWRS wheat alone. You can get the full details on that loss here and you can see the latest loss documented here or here.

Overall farmers have now produced three crops without the single-desk and have seen their share of the international price of grain go from around 90% with the single-desk to around 40% with the private trade. Some agricultural economists project the farmers’ share will fall to around 20% as grain handling consolidates even further. In the foreign headquarters of the multinational grain giants they should be toasting the Supreme Court tonight.

What is even worse is that a few weeks ago the Supreme Court recognized that workers have a right to form a labour union and to take strike action. In other words workers have the right to bargain collectively and to enjoy the fruits of their collective bargaining. The single-desk Wheat Board was no different than a labour union bargaining collectively or a joint-stock company manufacturing widgets. Just like the manufacturer, grain farmers had an authorized dealer (the Wheat Board) to market their product and they used part of those sales (the Pool Accounts) to build their brand reputation and sell their product directly to customers instead of paying a middleman.

So I conclude that the Supreme Court justices, in their wisdom, have now made western farmers second class citizens in comparison to union members or shareholders in companies. While this ruling is perhaps legally correct it does hurt to be relegated to second class status for working with my neighbours to have a collective bargaining organization.


  1. Erin Hickman

    Soooo….foreign and domestic corporations can sue for compensation for loss under our free trade deals, if our government passes laws that interfere with their ability to make the most profit possible….but, our farmers can’t sue the government for the losses they’ve suffered because of legislation passed by this government….no words…

  2. Mitch Sharp

    The elimination of the CWB Is probably one of the worst, if not THE worst thing that has happened to grain farmers in this country. At least with bad weather, there is always next year. What I cannot wrap my head around is that the Conservative government made no secret of it’s intention to do away with the board, against the will of the majority of farmers and yet I would guess that 80-90% of the farming community voted for them. I hope that the money that you saved by not having to register long guns makes up for the loss of income that goes mostly into the pockets of foreign owned brokers. I guarantee that any under any other government, the Wheat board would still be intact and operating.

    • kenlarsen

      Thanks for the excellent comment. One small quibble, grain farmers are only two percent of the population scattered across the prairies, so there are not enough of us to elect an MP anywhere. Before the last election Agriculture Minister Ritz promised a farmer-vote on the CWB. – Ken.