by SUSAN MANN
Ontario Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky won’t review a decision that allowed Dairy Farmers of Ontario to start implementing new quota polices in August.
Dombrowsky’s decision to not review the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal’s ruling came in a letter dated Oct. 1 to Ottawa-based lawyer Donald Good, who represents the Ontario Quota Rights Organization. The minister didn’t give a reason for her decision.
Good says he received the letter earlier this week. It arrived almost seven weeks after he wrote the minister asking her to review the Tribunal decision and restore the automatic "stay" that came into effect once Quota Rights filed an appeal about the policies. The group wants them declared null and void. While the stay was in place, DFO couldn’t implement the harmonized policies it had developed with Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Since the minister took more than 30 days to review the decision “it became a final decision any way,” Good explains. Quota Rights isn’t going to appeal this decision further.
Bill Mitchell, DFO assistant communications director, says according to the legal interpretation he’d heard it wasn’t clear this interim Tribunal decision could be reviewed by the minister. “They were asking the minister to review something that the minister didn’t have the authority to review.”
At a pre-hearing conference before the Tribunal in late July, DFO had requested that the stay be either entirely lifted or just applied to the 41 Quota Rights members who are active dairy farmers.
On Aug. 6, the Tribunal ruled the stay would apply to the Quota Rights members only. Quota Rights members can voluntarily use the new policies and that won’t affect their appeal rights. Good says there are 39 active dairy farmer members now as two quit the group.
In his letter, Good told the minister that “it would appear impossible for the 41 farmers to operate a separate quota exchange with such a small group.”
So far, Good says he hasn’t been told of any problems for Quota Rights members. But “I don’t think any of the 39 have attempted to sell or buy quota.”
Good says the group has to schedule a meeting to decide if it’ll proceed with the Tribunal appeal.
He says Quota Rights members are concerned the Tribunal may feel pressured to decide in favour of continuing with the harmonized policies because it would be almost impossible to reverse months of quota transactions. “You wonder if that’s going to put pressure on the Tribunal in its decision-making capacity,” Good says. BF