Yesterday afternoon, the Wheat Growers were advised by Justice Perlmutter of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench that we would not be granted intervener status in the injunction application brought forward by the 8 ex-directors of the CWB. As you may recall, we had made a motion for intervener status on December 15 and filed our application the following week. You may also recall that Justice Perlmutter ruled against the 8 ex-directors on December 16 regarding their application for an emergency injunction.
The 8 ex-directors are seeking to have the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act declared invalid.
In his decision to deny us intervener status, Justice Perlmutter stated that he did not believe the Wheat Growers would be bringing forward any arguments that would not already be advanced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers. We disagree, however there is no opportunity for appeal.
The Western Grain Elevator Association also applied (on January 6) for intervener status. Justice Perlmutter has not denied the WGEA status, however in essence, he has ruled that their application was filed too late, and so they too will not be granted status before the case is heard on Jan. 17 and 18 in Winnipeg. Lawyers for the WGEA will appear in the courtroom on those dates, however they will likely be limited in the arguments they can advance. Given that the Wheat Growers have been denied intervener status, we will have no legal representation in the courtroom. Director Mike Bast and I will of course be there to provide as much assistance to the DOJ lawyers as possible.
The Wheat Growers and our legal counsel had prepared an affidavit, which we believe countered many of the arguments being advanced by the 8 ex-directors. However, having been denied status, we were denied the opportunity to submit our affidavit to the Court. We have however shared it with the DOJ to assist them in their arguments.
After the decision denying us status was relayed to all parties yesterday, lawyers for the 8 ex-directors filed several documents with the Court, including an affidavit (attached) that consists mainly of the transcript of Minister Ritz’s speech at our convention. You’ll note the affidavit draws specific attention to comments made by Ritz in which he asks farmers to submit any forward contracts they have signed to his office, so that he may use them in the legal challenge. Our view is that the lawyers for the 8 ex-directors are betting that the Minister’s office will not be able to provide the Court with many forward contracts, which they will then use to argue that the granting of the injunction will not cause much disruption or harm to farmers or the industry. We therefore make an urgent appeal to you to fax any forward contracts you may have signed directly to the Minister’s office at 613-773-1060.
In our view, this action in the Manitoba court is the only legal action underway that represents a threat to your marketing freedom. We understand that an unfavourable ruling would only apply in Manitoba initially, however others could then apply to have the court decision applied in the other three western provinces. It is for this reason that the Wheat Growers had been concentrating our efforts on this legal challenge. Being denied intervener status is certainly a disappointment, although our lawyer has advised that it may be an indication that Justice Perlmutter intends to decide the case on the narrow legal questions, and ignore all the arguments that the 8 ex-directors have advanced regarding the value of the single desk and the merits of overturning the Act.
I offer no prediction on what the Court may decide, however the Wheat Growers will continue to do our utmost to defend your interests. Again, if you or your neighbours have any forward contracts that you can provide to the Minister’s office, we urge you to do so.
Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association