Yorkton This Week

by:  Kyle Korneychuk, Former CWB Director

(August 2, 2016) I was surprised reading the recent transcripts of the testimony of Mr. Greg Meredith, AAFC Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, when he was providing testimony to the House of Commons Finance Committee about the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).  He described a CWB I did not recognize.

As a former member of the Board of Directors of the CWB and a member of the Finance Committee I saw the CWB’s operations from the inside. That is why I have to question Meredith’s many statements to the Finance Committee.

His claim the “government didn’t own the Wheat Board and so didn’t sell any assets” is flawed logic I don’t accept and neither did the Federal Courts.   The courts ruled that although farmers paid for all assets and operations of the CWB  the government did not have to compensate farmers, so the government could do what it pleased when it disposed of the CWB and its assets. Is Meredith saying the courts were wrong? How does Meredith claim on the one hand that the government did not own the CWB but on the other hand justify giving it away to the Government of Saudi Arabia and Bunge Corporation in return for a promise?

If, as he claims the government did not own the CWB and farmers apparently did not own what they paid for over 75 years, what owner did his department take it from, and how did the government have the authority to give it away?

Meredith’s apparent confusion continues when he states, “the hopper cars likewise had debts secured against them, even though they were donated by the Government of Canada.” Depending on how you look at it, that statement is either misleading or completely false. First of all, the Government of Canada never donated any hopper cars to the CWB. Farmers bought and paid for the several thousand rail hopper cars which ran under the Canadian Wheat Board logo. So he can’t mean those CWB cars given his remarks.

Mr. Meredith also seems to contend that the CWB had no financial liquidity. Yet as a Board member I remember a study done by one of the big three accounting firms indicating there was over $400 million in assets and the CWB’s audited statements showed that the net liabilities of the CWB were trivial. That is not counting any value being placed on the single desk, transportation coordination, or branding of Canadian wheat. So why does Mr. Meredith seem to think the money is gone?

As I remember, Mr. Meredith was on the Public Relations/Communications team of Agriculture Minister Ritz, and was good at making complex issues appear simple even when they were not. The question is why would the Liberals keep him on? What was the election for? Why would the Finance Committee allow these statements to be made and go unchallenged? Doesn’t it reflect badly on their level of expertise when they let such non-truths go unquestioned? If your Assistant Deputy Minister in charge of Strategic Policy doesn’t know what he is talking about, isn’t it time for a new Deputy Minister?

Sunny days may be here for some Canadians but not for Western Canadian farmers who were bilked out of billions of dollars by having their assets confiscated and who expect diligence, honesty, and transparency from their new government!

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