Aleaked email shows that Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) director Henry Vos tipped off the Alberta government about a CWB barley study, but it’s not clear whether he has breached confidentiality rules.
That can only be determined by the directors if it comes to their attention, said board spokesman and retiring District 9 director Bill Nicholson.
The CWB’s Code of Ethics says directors aren’t supposed to divulge confidential information. This spring Vos tipped off Greg Porozni, chair of the Alberta Grains Council, an arm of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, that the CWB had commissioned another study on barley marketing.
The wheat board has not said publicly that such a study is being done, a CWB official said.
“In my view this is not a story,” Vos, who farms at Fairview, Alta., said in an emailed response. “At the time within the barley industry there were numerous discussions about studies. This appears to be more about dragging (my) name through the mud during the final stages of an election (for wheat board director).”
The Alberta government and its grains council are longtime opponents to the CWB’s compulsory single-desk marketing mandate. Vos, who was elected a CWB director in 2006, ran on a marketing choice platform.
TheManitoba Co-operator received a copy of Porozni’s email Nov. 9.
“Just talked to Henry and he brought up a couple of points to be prepared for,” he says in the email to three Alberta government employees. “The CWB is doing their own barley study again with Richard Gray from U of S. This will come out in July. He (Vos) suggested we compare the Informa study and the last barley study the CWB did and be prepared to come out with facts to clarify that the CWB does not extract premiums on barley.
“The second issue is to compare what is going on in Australia now compared to when they had a single desk. Henry thinks that prices did drop initially but now have stabilized therefore no change from when they had a monopoly. The lefties in the CWB are pulling out numbers that are not really relevant because the
price of wheat globally dropped the same time the monopoly ended in Australia.”
When asked about the email in person Nov. 16 Porozni requested a copy before commenting. A copy was sent, but he didn’t respond nor reply to a followup email.
The CWB’s Code of Ethics says in part that: “Confidential information that directors receive through their office or employment must not be divulged to anyone other than persons who are authorized to receive the information.
“Directors must also not offer such information to spouses, associates, immediate family, friends, or persons with whom the director is connected by frequent or close association.
“Directors must clearly understand that their primary duty is to act in the best interests of the CWB.
The CWB’s communications policy stresses directors maintain confidentiality especially around markets, commercial transactions and “strategic information,” Nicholson said. But directors have leeway on other matters.
“There’s some room in there for directors to talk about what happens at meetings and it creates some grey areas over what can be disclosed and when it can be disclosed as to whether it has been a breach of confidentiality or not,” he said.
Board confidentiality has been breached occasionally since the board was created in 1998, Nicholson said. Since the board of directors deals with alleged breaches internally it’s unknown how often and by whom.
“It wouldn’t be public knowledge unless it got to the point of a director being suspended or removed from the board,” he said, adding that hasn’t happened.
Under the board’s bylaws a director can be dismissed if approved by two-thirds of the directors. However, dismissal could be appealed through the courts, Nicholson said. It would take a serious breach of CWB rules to prompt a director’s dismissal, he said.
Other sanctions listed in the Code of Ethics include reprimands.
The code says a first breach can trigger a warning letter, a second could result in suspension and a third in termination.
Code of Ethics issues are normally dealt with by the CWB’s chair, the chair of board’s governance committee or the CWB’s corporate secretary. Both chairs are running in the directors’ elections during which time Nicholson is spokesman. [email protected]
“Therewouldbediscussionwiththe directorinquestionanddiscussionwith thegovernancecommitteeandtheboard todetermineifinfactitisabreachandif sowhatactionshouldcomeoutofit.”
– Bill Nicholson