Published: November 5, 2015
The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) won’t be restored under the new Liberal government, but farmers could finally see its books, kept secret since the government removed its marketing monopoly in 2012.
“A number of farmers has raised the question and said the numbers just don’t add up,” Saskatchewan MP and former agriculture minister Ralph Goodale said in an interview last week.
“Once we have a chance to examine the information that’s available internally maybe we will be able to shed some light for farmers on just exactly what transpired. What values were involved, what money changed hands, how the assets were valued and how it came about that Bunge and Saudi Arabia are now effectively the owners of what used to be the wheat board.
In July G3 Global Grain Group, a joint venture of Bunge and state-owned Saudi Agricultural Livestock Investment Company (SALIC), ostensibly bought CWB for $250.5 million. However, the newly formed company kept the money instead of paying the Canadian government, which owned CWB. While the transaction raised eyebrows among some Canadian grain company executives and was criticized by several farm groups, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz defended it saying it made for a stronger new company.
Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, which is suing the government, alleges CWB assets belonged to farmers. It wants to see the wheat board’s financial statements.
Canada’s agriculture minister is obliged to present the wheat board’s annual report to Parliament — something Ritz said he did. However, what was made public revealed almost nothing. Ritz said he was permitted to keep sensitive information private.
“For all of the complaints about the old wheat board it was far more transparent than the new entity has ever been,” Goodale said. “And now that the remains are in the hands of a foreign corporation and a foreign government you’ll never be able to have the complete story.”
Director of Research and Policy
National Farmers Union
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