Buurma Acres fails to recoup $125K in legal fees for farm board hearing

FILE PHOTO A pile of biosolids in Dawn-Euphemia.

Lawyers said Brooke-Alvinston ‘made a clear and concerted effort to malign the character of David Buurma’

An attempt by one of the principals of Buurma Acres to force Brooke-Alvinston to pay his legal bills for a case he filed to the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board has failed.

In April 2020, David Buurma appealed to the board to look at the bylaws of Brooke-Alvinston limiting the director of Lasalle Agri from storing the fertilizer made from human waste on fields in the region and to store large quantities of it on a Buurma Acres farm on Churchill Line.

The board ruled that while centralized storage was a normal farm practice, the facility Buurma Acres was using wasn’t adequate. It ordered the organization to fix the building to reduce the possibility of odours escaping and spontaneous combustion of the material.

Recently, lawyers for Buurma filed written arguments to the board asking it to order Brooke-Alvinston to pay $125,000 of its $173,121 legal bill.

Buurma’s lawyers wrote the municipality “made a clear and concerted effort to malign
the character of David Buurma as a principal of LaSalle Agri Inc. It is alleged that this started before the hearing and came out further during the course of the hearing,” adding “there was an attempt to ‘demonize’ the fertilizer itself.”

The municipality denied that.

The NFPPB Chair, Glenn Walker wrote in his Oct. 5 decision, “there was no attempt to malign the character of David Buurma personally; and if there was, there is no evidence to suggest that this was done maliciously.”

Buurma’s lawyers also said the municipality should have paid legal costs because it failed to call evidence from anyone with farming experience, or about concerns about the environment, nor did it call expert witness about the odour concerns or first responders about the smouldering biosolids fertilizer in question.

Walker says normally, costs would be awarded if a defense wasn’t mounted at all.

“A party should be free to choose the nature and amount of evidence it calls at a hearing.
It may be that the party will be unsuccessful in the litigation as a result of that choice.
However, that choice does not represent clearly unreasonable, frivolous, vexatious or bad
faith conduct,” Walker wrote.

The chair of the NFFPB turned down Buurma’s requests for costs.

The municipality in its reply to the request asked the chair to award it costs of $11,413 for responding to Buurma’s application to have his legal fees paid. Walker instead ordered Buurma to pay $1,000 to the municipality and added in any future cases the costs would be “more realistic.”

The Independent calculated that by May 2021, Brooke-Alvinston had already spent $128,260.72 defending itself at the NFPPB. Warwick had also incurred $12,500 in costs. Brooke-Alvinston, Warwick and Dawn-Euphemia, who were all advised Buurma Acres had filed cases before the NFPPB, were to split those bills three ways once the legal proceedings were over.