AgCan seeks beancounters to wrap up Wheat Board

Anyone doubting the government’s commitment to shutting down the Canadian Wheat Board is instructed to take a look at this notice posted on the procurement site, MERX.

It announces the government intends to seek an auditor to check the books and “provide reasonable assurance of the total financial impact of the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act and the dissolution or winding up of the CWB after the final pooling periods (expected to be July 31, 2012).”

The contract value is projected at $500,000 to $1 million and only pre-approved accountants are eligible to bid on the work.

After a contested plebiscite and the firing of the board’s president, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced in May the government’s intention to shutter the single-desk marketing agency by August of next year — a move that will require passing legislation in the House of Commons.

Another plebiscite on the board’s future, run by the Wheat Board, is under way now, with the results to be revealed Sept. 9.

But the notice of proposed procurement posted on MERX suggests the government is proceeding regardless of the results.

Allen Oberg, chairman of the Wheat Board, says the board has already done its own analysis of the costs of shutting down using accounting firm KPMG.

“The Wheat Board doesn’t cost the government of Canada anything,” he said.

“Now, the govt going to be stuck for costs of wind up, in the 100s of millions.”

The costs, he says, would be typical of closing any large corporation — penalties for cancelling contracts, employee severance, and payments for outstanding pension liabilities.

Although he doesn’t know the results of the plebiscite, he says he’s heard very strong support for the board from farmers he’s spoken to.

“The wind up costs might be more justified if it was farmers themselves who are asking for changes.”


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