Union urges Ottawa to buy back Canadian Wheat Board from Saudis

A union representing transportation workers in Churchill, Man., is calling on Ottawa to buy back the Canadian Wheat Board from a Saudi consortium in light of the diplomatic spat between the two countries.

The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees which represents Churchill port workers says Saudi Arabia’s decision to stop buying Canadian wheat and barley shows it won’t put the interests of grain farmers first.

Earlier this month, the kingdom suspended diplomatic relations with Canada, expelled the Canadian ambassador and ordered students studying in Canada to leave the country in response to a series of tweets by Ottawa criticizing the arrest of some social activists there.

Union president Dave Clark says having a foreign country managing an important Canadian asset is wrong and should be reversed.

The federal government announced in April 2015 that G3 Global Grain Group, which is partly owned by Saudi Arabia, would buy 50.1 per cent of the board for $250 million.  The remaining 49.9 per cent of the CWB was kept in trust for farmers who deliver grain to the board, though G3 has an option to buy it.

The Harper government had insisted on privatization of the board, which had been the sole marketer of Canadian wheat beginning in 1935. 

G3 Global Grain Group is a joint venture between Bunge Canada, a subsidiary of Bunge Limited (a global agribusiness and food company headquartered in the U.S.) and SALIC Canada Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company.

The union says a reduction of grain passing through the port of Churchill since the sale has hurt the community and port workers.

An online petition backing the request has also been started. 

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