Thursday, September 25, 2014

CWB keeps financials secret

The numbers are missing from an annual report on the Canadian Wheat Board that Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz tabled in the House of Commons.

He cited a section of legislation that allows the Canadian Wheat Board to maintain secrecy about information deemed to be commercially sensitive – i.e. that would provide too much information to competitors.

That's a crock. The major grain-exporting companies have excellent intelligence networks and probably know more about the Canadian Wheat Board's sales volumes and prices that Ritz.

The secrets are not really being withheld from competitors, but from the Canadian public and farmers.

We can only speculate about why Ritz and the board won't come clean, and none of the speculation is flattering to either of them.

The lack of transparency has some farmers livid, including those who opposed the government’s legislation that stripped the wheat board of its monopoly over the export of Prairie-grown wheat and barley.

Stewart Wells, a former farmer-elected wheat board director and chair of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB), says he is outraged. Then again, outrage seems to be a permanent state for the National Farmers Union, of which Wells is a prominent member.

“There is a legal and moral obligation to the taxpayers of Canada and farmers to publish their results from 2012-13,” Wells, who farms near Swift Current, told the Manitoba Cooperator newspaper in an interview last week.

“What would this minister have done if the farmer-elected board of directors had refused to publish an audited financial report?”

Before the wheat board was stripped of its monopoly, it published detailed information on export volumes and revenues for a number of classifications of wheat.