Ag budget gets boost

The federal government is beefing up Agriculture Canada’s 2012-13 budget by $215 million, much of it for costs associated with the end of the CWB single desk.


Treasury Board president Tony Clement presented a budget bill to the House of Commons last week that will add $2.8 billion to the government’s overall budget for the fiscal year ending March 31.


Included in the total is $184.2 million to meet the government’s commitment to cover transition costs for the CWB as it changes and shrinks in the aftermath of the Aug. 1 end of the single desk.


“The funds will be used by the CWB to settle debts and liabilities from monopoly-era operations to ensure the viability of the wheat board through the transition era,” the Treasury Board said in its supplementary estimates explanation to Parliament. 


“These debts include pension and post-retirement benefit obligations, penalties related to long-term contracts and costs associated with the downsizing of the organization.”


The CWB has been given a four-year deadline to come up with a private operational model that is acceptable to the government.


Frédéric Seppey, director general of Agriculture Canada’s policy development and analysis directorate, said additional transition funding will be needed for the 2013-14 fiscal year beginning April 1.


He said the CWB building in downtown Winnipeg is now for sale but the selling price will likely will not cover obligations against it. 


“It is on the market now.”


However, government transition and “legacy costs” funding for the CWB does not include costs related to the board’s 2011 contract to buy two grain-carrying Great Lakes ships that are due to be delivered next year.