Embedded in the success of the Grain Growers of Canada’s effort to move its agenda forward with Conservative governments is a potential problem.
Outgoing GGC executive director Richard Phillips said the organization’s support of many Conservative priorities from trade deals and the end of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly to Canadian Grain Commission reforms could make the GGC seem like a Conservative front.
They were Grain Grower goals that meshed with Conservative priorities and the lobby group found a way to make the connection.
This week, former Canadian Propane Association president and Canadian Airports Council executive Jim Facette takes over as executive director of the Grain Growers.
Phillips moves next month to become president of the Canada Grains Council.
“I think we have been successful in seeing our agenda align with the government’s in many ways,” Phillips said in an interview.
“Given that, I think there is a real risk of being branded Conservative. That will be a big challenge for the new leadership.”
Phillips worked for Saskatchewan Liberals and federal Liberal cabinet minister Reg Alcock on the Canadian Wheat Board file before he went to work for the anti-CWB lobby.
He said it made many Conservatives suspicious of him.
Then, when the Conservatives took government, Grain Growers often became an industry supporter of Conservative government priorities and initiatives.
Phillips said that to remain credible, Grain Growers must not be seen as aligned with any political party.
“Industry issues really transcend parties,” he said. “One party will not always be government. I think it is important that the organization say ‘no’ when the government wants it to be a spokesman for one of its policies.
“We represent an industry and not a government,” said Phillips. “That is important.”