Quebec farm producers were not entitled to additional compensation

Supreme court | Agriculture

Assistance programmes

Quebec farm producers were not entitled to additional compensation 

Quebec farm producers contested decisions made by public body that administered program designed to protect them from income fluctuations. Producers particularly challenged calculation method chosen by public body. Producers argued program was contract of insurance and had to be interpreted on basis of their reasonable expectations as insured persons. Trial judge allowed their action, characterizing program as contract of insurance and ordering public body to pay them substantial additional compensation. Court of Appeal set aside that judgment, finding that program was not contract of insurance and that impugned decisions were reasonable. Producers appealed to Supreme Court of Canada. Appeal dismissed. Program in question could not be considered simply government program that was governed by public law. It had several features that justified considering it to be contract. However, program was not contract of insurance but simply innominate contract under the civil law. It could not be subject to rule of interpretation based on reasonable expectations of insured that applied to contract of insurance as defined in Civil Code of Québec. For purpose of determining compensation payable to its participants, program gave public body discretion to determine how to calculate any other income they have received from government sources. Public body exercised that discretion in accordance with requirements of good faith and contractual fairness. Therefore, producers were not entitled to amounts they claim. 

Ferme Vi-Ber inc. c. Financière agricole du Québec (July 29, 2016, S.C.C., McLachlin C.J.C., Abella J., Cromwell J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., and Côté J., 36205) Decision at 251 A.C.W.S. (3d) 370 was affirmed. 268 A.C.W.S. (3d) 9. 

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