Illegal eggs?
Egg marketing system leaves NWT exempt

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (May 05/97) - The Canadian Egg Marketing Agency says Northern eggs sold in the provinces create an unpredictable and expensive surplus.

And it is taking the NWT's two egg producers to court to fight for the rights of regulated egg producers who contribute financially toward the egg marketing system.

The constitutional issue of a territorial exemption from the agency's marketing plan was first heard in the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories in February 1995, according to Neil Currie, chief executive officer of CEMA.

But legal battles between CEMA and the two NWT egg producers started long before that -- in the 1980s.

"A whole series of cases were filed for damages. Our contention is that the eggs marketed were illegal. They're taking the market away from the regular producers."

The legal co-counsel representing both NWT egg producers is Katharine Hurlburt of the law firm McLennan Ross in Edmonton.

The original CEMA lawsuits were filed separately at first, says Hurlburt.

Northern Poultry was taken to court in 1986 by CEMA to try to get an injunction to stop the owner from producing eggs, says Hurlburt. Again, in 1992, another injunction was request, but this time against both Northern egg producers.

Frank Richardson, one of the owners of Northern Poultry, says he's been taken to court by CEMA about 27 times.

"It seems like a fight every day -- registered letters in the mail, court battles," says Richardson.

Pineview, meanwhile, was shut down in late 1992 by various administrative steps taken by CEMA.

Due to the closure, the company "had to slaughter 60,000 chickens in late '92 when it first shut down. They had to be killed since they were unable to produce," Hurlburdt.

Northern Poultry, however, remained open thanks to a constitutional exemption by Justice Mark de Weerdt.

Pineview re-opened in November 1995 when the court reversed the original order shutting it down.

CEMA launched an appeal, but it was dismissed in January 1996.

In the court of appeal, CEMA argued that an exemption for producers in the NWT would wreak havoc on the orderly market that now exists.

Appeals Court Judge J.A. Hunt noted:

"It is difficult to take this proposition seriously, considering the tiny level of production that has been obtained in the Northwest Territories."

The trial judge observed that a federal allocation for the NWT would be less than a quarter of one per cent of Canada's total egg production. He noted that, even at its peak, production in the Northwest Territories had never reached that level.