Canadian Turkey Marketing Agency: Leave to Appeal Denied
As the summer months wind down, I can’t help but look forward to the upcoming fall season and its requisite Thanksgiving Day holiday. Though I am currently enjoying many burgers, wings, and ribs from summer barbecues, I would be greatly saddened if the venerable Thanksgiving turkey dinner was ever threatened. It is with this eye that I noticed the SCC’s dismissal of the leave application in Canadian Turkey Marketing Agency v. Leth Farms Ltd., et al. (31958)
This case involved an appeal from a Federal Court of Appeal decision that decided that the National Farm Products Council (the “Council”) did indeed have the jurisdiction to hear a complaint from Leth Farms Ltd., et al. about an error in the calculation made by the Canadian Turkey Marketing Agency (“CTMA”) about their export marketing quotas.
The statutory framework surrounding the governance of the production and marketing of turkey in Canada is complicated – with federal and provincial governments agreeing to establish a quota system limiting the ability of turkey producers to market turkey in interprovincial or export trade. Though the CTMA establishes the quota system, the allocation and administration of these quotas are delegated to provincial marketing boards. As there is also a mechanism for quota sharing and since exceeding the quota results in fines, there is expectedly a lot of jockeying for quota space, not only among producers within a province, but also between provinces and the CTMA. Additionally, it should be noted that the Council is an administrative body established under the Farm Products Agencies Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. F-4 (“FPAA”), and part of its task is to hear complaints about regulations or orders made by various agencies, including the CTMA.
While the Alberta Turkey Producers (“ATP”, the Alberta body vested with administering the quotas) application to the CTMA for export quotas failed, an agreement between ATP and Leth Farms, et. al. stated that if Leth Farms, et. al. was able to acquire an increase in the export quotas for the province through the Council, then the amount of such increase would be applied to reduce their overmarketing amount. Thus, Leth Farms, et. al. file a complaint to the Council alleging that the CTMA had erred in the calculation of their export marketings.
In response, the Council stated that it cannot rule on the decision because the relief that was sought was beyond the jurisdiction of the Council. Judicial Review of this decision by the Federal Court upheld this decision
Though agreeing with the lower court judge that the proper standard of review is correctness, the FCA comes to a different conclusion. Giving a broad reading to s. 7(1)(f) of the FPAA which reads,
In order to fulfill its duties, the council shall make inquiries and take such action within its powers as it deems appropriate in relation to any complaints received by it from any person who is directly affected by the operation of an agency and that relate to the operations of the agency,
the FCA finds that this provision empowers Council to review amendments to quota regulations (which contained the calculation formulas) even after they have been enacted, so long as the amendments relate to an assessment of overmarketing penalties against ATP and Leth Farms, et. al. The judgment goes on further to say, at para. 42, that
the Council should be reluctant to summarily decline to hear a complaint on the basis of a lack of authority to provide the remedy that has been requested. It may well be that after the complaint has been heard, the Council would be in a position to grant an appropriate remedy, other than the one that was specifically requested.
The SCC’s refusal of this leave to appeal means that the FCA’s decision stands as the final word in this dispute. The Council will have to review the alleged errors of the CTMA with respect to their export quota calculations, and institute revised quotas should the allegations hold true. Indeed, if such is the case, it is likely that the amount that Leth Farms, et. al. is overmarketing may be reduced, and so also will their fines. Such a result may very well help to ensure a proper flow of turkey atop of Canadian tabletops on this upcoming Thanksgiving Day and in future ones.