Friday, September 12, 2014

Egg scandal nearly sank supply management

It’s 40 years ago that the Toronto news media exposed a scandal of rotting eggs that almost destroyed supply management.

The news media counted the losses in individual eggs – 28 million of them – rather than in dozens or the industry standard of boxes of 15 dozen each.

Beryl Plumtre, head of the Food Prices Review Board appointed by prime minister Pierre Trudeau, said the egg agency set prices too high.

Eugene Whelan, agriculture minister appointed by Trudeau, staunchly defended supply management and called the rotting eggs a “minor catastrophe”.

Joe Hudson, owner of the largest egg-farming business and egg-grading station in Canada, was an outspoken critic of supply management and elected by the farmers whose eggs he bought to represent them as a director on the Ontario egg marketing board.

He was exposed by the Kitchener-Waterloo Record for importing eggs from the United States, adding to the Canadian surplus that was pushing the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency to the brink of bankruptcy.

Ontario agriculture minister Bill Newman dismissed the entire board of directors of the Ontario egg board, not just Hudson, because he said his powers did not allow him to dismiss an individual director, but he could dismiss the entire board.

Hudson was subsequently re-elected.

He eventually changed his opinion about supply management and became a staunch defender of the system which provided him with benefits that have mounted into an egg empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hudson has outlived Plumtre, Trudeau and Whelan.