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Bill 81 “Illegal”: Westco-Olymel


January 22, 2010
By Westco/Olymel Joint Press Release

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NEWS HIGHLIGHT

Bill 81 'Illegal': Westco-Olymel

The Westco-Olymel Partnership considers the ministerial order by N.B. Agriculture Minister Ronald Ouellette to be illegal.  In a press release distributed today, the companies say that by enacting Bill 81, Ouellette is seeking to prevent interprovincial trade, which is a matter within the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Jan. 22, 2010, Saint-François-de- Madawaska, N.B. – The
Westco-Olymel Partnership considers the ministerial order by N.B.
Agriculture Minister Ronald Ouellette to be illegal.  In a press
release distributed today, the companies say that by enacting Bill 81,
Ouellette is seeking to prevent interprovincial trade, which is a
matter within the jurisdiction of the federal government.

In the release, the two companies feel the ministerial order made pursuant to Bill 81 is clearly illegal, since, by forcing New Brunswick producers to process their chickens at Nadeau Maple Lodge, interprovincial trade is prevented.  Westco is thus of the opinion that it can in no way be obliged to comply with the order, and considers that the decision by the New Brunswick government is invalid and unconstitutional.

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"We obtained a decision from the Competition Bureau and another from the New Brunswick Court of Appeal in 2009 that recognized our right to sell our chickens however we wished, and to engage in interprovincial trade. It is unfortunate and regrettable to note that the government nevertheless persists in trying to prevent us from doing so," noted Westco President and CEO Thomas Soucy.

On June 8, 2009, the Competition Bureau recognized that Westco had the right to sell its chickens to the buyer of its choice, and was under no obligation to supply Nadeau Maple Lodge. In addition, in another judgment handed down on August 20, 2009, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal confirmed a decision by the New Brunswick Farm Products Commission to the effect that neither Westco nor any other producer was required to transfer any part of its production to Nadeau Maple Lodge, reiterating the principle that a poultry producer is free to sell to whomever it chooses.

According to Minister Ouellette, the ministerial order is designed to protect jobs in the Saint-François region, but it is based on an inflated number of job losses. Since the layoffs announced by Nadeau Maple Lodge last fall, several dozen employees have been recalled. Westco even supplied detailed figures, though they unfortunately seem to have been ignored by the government.

Even though it is analyzing all available options, Westco nevertheless confirms that in the coming days it will submit a business proposal to Nadeau Maple Lodge and the government which, consistent with the ministerial order, seeks to keep poultry processing temporarily in New Brunswick at Nadeau Maple Lodge. In addition, discussions between Westco, Sunnymel (the partnership between Westco and Olymel) and Nadeau Maple Lodge will be necessary, since the ministerial order is silent on several important points.

On a number of occasions since the summer of 2009, Westco and Sunnymel have attempted to reach an agreement with Nadeau Maple Lodge, and even accepted an offer from the government for mediation. However, Nadeau Maple Lodge rejected all the proposals that would have enabled it to continue processing Westco chickens.

"While we deplore this new step by the government in response to pressure from Nadeau Maple Lodge, which unfairly penalizes Westco and Sunnymel, we are more determined than ever to go ahead with construction of our slaughterhouse at Clair, where a number of steps have already been completed in the last few months as the construction work moves ahead. The workers, the Maritime poultry industry and consumers will all benefit greatly from this major investment and from the consolidation of our industry," Mr. Soucy added.