Efforts to keep the Canadian Canola Growers Association’s (CCGA) cash advance office in Carman appear to be in vain.
Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA) members attending their annual meeting here Feb. 3 passed a resolution instructing the association to lobby the CCGA to “leave the office in the Carman area…”
The office has been there 25 years and employs 25 people.
The CCGA however, has leased a new office in Winnipeg and takes possession March 1, CCGA president Brian Chorney said in an interview last week from his East Selkirk farm.
“We need more businesses in rural areas, not fewer,” Grandview-area farmer Larry Bohdanovich said while speaking in favour of the resolution.
Shawn McCutcheon, the reeve of the Rural Municipality of Dufferin, which surrounds the Town of Carman, couldn’t agree more. Taking 25 jobs from Carman with a population of 5,000 is like transferring 3,200 jobs out of Winnipeg, he said.
The CCGA was forced to move because it had outgrown its Carman office, Chorney said. The CCGA administers the federal government’s cash advance program for a number of crops including canola, flax, oats, soybeans and some pulse crops.
“The reality is the cash advance program is in large demand among western Canadian farmers… and the Carman office is so tight we just can’t hire anybody else,” Chorney said. “We needed more space.”
The CCGA considered buying a vacant fast-food restaurant building in Carman, but dropped the idea because of hydrocarbon contamination, Chorney said.
The CCGA also found it hard to hire staff to work in Carman, he said. Other shortcomings included an inability to get digital telephone service or higher-speed Internet, both of which the new office will have.
“When you look at these things coming in the future I think it’s going to be more and more and more that way and we’re going to have to be able to move in that direction,” Chorney said.
Several CCGA policy staff already work in Winnipeg and getting everyone into the same office will make the organization more efficient, he said.
McCutcheon doesn’t disagree with having policy staff in Winnipeg, but argues the cash advance jobs should stay put. The Town of Carman and R. M. of Dufferin would have done whatever it took to keep the office, he said in an interview.
“I’m working on the premise that (CCGA manager) Rick White wants to be in Winnipeg and he’ll do whatever it takes to be there,” McCutcheon said. “And I think he has led the Canadian Canola Growers board by the nose.”
Chorney said the decision to move was the board of directors’.
Meantime, Carman and Dufferin have appealed to the local MP and raised the matter with federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. The cash advance program is federally funded and directed at farmers, who are rurally based. Program administration should be in a rural community too, McCutcheon said. It makes sense given the federal government is always trying to find ways to stimulate the rural economy.
The Manitoba government has designated the Carman area “an agricultural Centre of Excellence,” McCutcheon said. It’s the headquarters for Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives’ Soils and Crops Branch, Monsanto has a research facility there and Pioneer Hi-bred will soon too. The University of Manitoba has a large research farm and campus there and Carman is home to the Manitoba corn, sunflower and pulse grower associations
“And for some reason the Canadian Canola Growers (Association) deem this isn’t a suitable area to be located and it’s a lot better to be somewhere in Winnipeg,” McCutcheon said. “This is the middle of agriculture and one of the most prosperous, progressive agricultural regions in Canada. I think we find it insulting on top of the job losses.”
If moving is necessary, the office should go to another rural community in the West, not to a major city, McCutcheon said.
“I think it’s inappropriate that you take jobs that could easily be located in a smaller rural community, because it is hard to find big employers like that for any small community.” [email protected]