The Canadian Wheat Board and other government organizations must consult directly with federal officials and politicians and not employ lobbyists to do their pitching, says Vic Toews, president of the Treasury Board.
“Agencies within the federal sector need to examine all their spending to ensure taxpayers receive value for their money,” Toews said in a letter sent to a raft of organizations in mid-November. “The use of consultant lobbyists for communicating and lobbying the federal government is an unnecessary and inappropriate use of public funds.”
The CWB was included in the instruction because Ottawa has extended its no lobbyist policy to shared governance organizations, he said. “As a result, it now covers 91 organizations for which the Government of Canada has direct responsibilities or that expend public funds reported as Government assets.”
Board spokesman John Lyons said, “We’re still assessing the impact.” The CWB doesn’t currently have a lobbyist in Ottawa. It has in the past but now uses the facilities of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture office in Ottawa to follow developments on Parliament Hill and government departments.
It was less clear what impact the policy would have on activities such as the CWB’s advertising campaign warning farmers that time is running out at the WTO talks for state trading enterprises such as the Board. The Harper government has opposed any diminution of the board’s status through the trade talks and Trade Minister Stockwell Day has said repeatedly in recent weeks that Ottawa isn’t going to accept changes that undermine the Board or the supply management agencies.
Asked whether the CWB’s latest campaign is really necessary, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said while he doesn’t plan to object to the board about it, it does raise concerns about whether the board spends farmers’ money in a way that actually benefits them. “They’ll have to answer to the farmers and explain the cost of the campaign.”
Toews said the Harper government wants to ensure that “any communication between public organizations, such as Crown corporations, and the federal government about their mandates, operations, funding and other matters are a regular, ongoing aspect of Government operations. As such, these interactions should be conducted directly and without use of consultant lobbyists.”