Commodity groups keep lid on financial statements

On July 11 at a news conference in Calgary, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced $13.2 million in funding to support grain and oilseed exports.

A long list of commodity groups received federal government money, including the Canola Council of Canada, Soy Canada and Pulse Canada, in amounts ranging from $210,000 to $4.1 million.

The commodity groups asked for and received taxpayers’ money, but several of them do not release their financial statements.

As an example, Ottawa gave Pulse Canada $2.9 million for marketing activities at the July 11 announcement. However, Pulse Canada doesn’t explain publicly how it spends that money.

“We are considered a soliciting corporation and our financials are filed with Corporations Canada,” a Pulse Canada spokesperson said.

“That does not mean, however, that our financials are made public. Our board provides financial oversight and we provide our members/board with a financial report each quarter.”

Pulse Canada isn’t alone.

Cereals Canada, which represents farmers, grain companies and other parts of the value chain for cereal crops, received nearly $900,000 from the federal government July 11.

The cash will be used to “secure global markets for cereals.”

Like Pulse Canada, Cereals Canada doesn’t publicly release its financials.

“We file the necessary documentation with Corporations Canada,” said Cereals Canada president Cam Dahl.

“Our financial statements are openly available to our funding members.”

Some national groups don’t share their financial statements but others do. The canola council, the Barley Council of Canada and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association all provide on their websites detailed information about revenues and how they spend their funds.

Provincial commodity groups also provide complete financial statements on their websites. For instance, SaskCanola shares revenue data and how it spends levy contributions from Saskatchewan farmers.

At a national level, non-profit groups that ask for and receive taxpayers’ money are required by regulation to file financial statements with Corporations Canada.

“Only soliciting not-for-profit corporations, those that receive public donations or government grants over $10,000 in a single financial year, need to file financial statements with Corporations Canada,” a spokesperson for Innovation Canada said in an email.

The word “grants” is important, the spokesperson added. Government funding through a grant might be different than funding through another method, such as a “program.”

That distinction may be important to a bureaucrat, but it’s obvious that many agricultural organizations are asking for and receiving federal funds.

Pulse Canada is described as a soliciting organization, meaning it requests government dollars for certain projects and activities. Therefore, it’s required to submit financial statements to the federal government.

The public can go to the Corporations Canada website and request documents of non-profit organizations, for about $1 per page.

However, the financial statements of Pulse Canada are not listed on the website. There’s a list of directors, but no financials.

The same is true for Cereals Canada. Its financial statements are not listed on the Corporations Canada website.

The Western Producer contacted Innovation Canada to learn why the financial data isn’t available, but as of press time Oct. 21, it had not responded.

The Western Producer also contacted Grain Growers of Canada, asking for a copy of its financial statements. The organization would not provide the information.

Like the other groups, its financial statements are not available on the Corporations Canada website.

The $13.2 million in taxpayer support for grain and oilseed exports was one of dozens of Agriculture Canada announcements this summer.

Bibeau and the government committed tens of millions of public dollars in July and August to projects that support marketing of farm commodities, expanding exports of Canadian crops and other activities.

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