Lack of information on CWB privatization criticized

Former Canadian Wheat Board director feels federal government is "trying to bury this dead skunk"

A former Canadian Wheat Board director is critical about the lack of information around how CWB will be privatized.

Stewart Wells, who is also chair of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, which fought to retain the board’s sales monopoly, suspects the federal government has secret criteria for the sale, including that CWB remain a stand-alone entity for a certain period. That way the government can say it fulfilled its promise to make CWB an option in an open market.

“The federal government is trying to bury this dead skunk as fast as it can and it’s using these CWB assets as a bribe,” Wells said, alluding to reports that whoever buys CWB will get their money back to reinvest in the company.

What happens to CWB assets matters to farmers because, according to Wells, they belong to farmers. Almost all the wheat board’s revenue was earned while marketing farmers’ grain, he said.

“The Canadian taxpayer has a dog in this battle too,” Wells said referring to the $177 million Ottawa contributed to assist the wheat board transition to an open market.

Wells said he’s surprised Farmers of North America (FNA) wants to buy CWB without having seen its books.

He’s also skeptical that FNA’s proposed grain company would have much impact in the market given its size relative to much bigger competitors.

Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) wants to see as much competition for farmers’ grain as possible, but isn’t publicly endorsing FNA’s plan to buy CWB, said KAP president Doug Chorney.

“We don’t want to put support behind one initiative in case there’s another initiative potentially competing with it comprised of another farmer-ownership option,” he said.

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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