By SUSAN MANN
The Canadian Sheep Federation plans to try and convince the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency to rescind its decision to leave the national organization.
Last week, the Ontario agency announced it would no longer be a member of the Canadian federation as of Sept. 1. Ontario is the largest sheep-producing province in Canada and it paid about $60,000 annually in fees to the Canadian federation.
The Canadian federation works to advance the viability, growth and prosperity of the Canadian sheep and wool industry. Its members come from nine provincial sheep organizations.
Alberta sheep producer Phil Kolodychuk, Canadian federation chair, says, “We’re definitely disappointed at their (the Ontario sheep agency) decision.”
“We’re going to try to talk to them and see if we can try and change their minds, but we’ll wait and see how that goes.”
Asked whether the Ontario agency could be persuaded to stay within the Canadian federation, Ontario agency vice-chair Marc Carere says, “nothing like that has been discussed at the board meeting. I can’t comment on that.”
Ontario is the second province to leave the federation. Quebec is the second largest sheep-producing province and it departed about four years ago. Scott says the two provinces together represent more than 70 per cent of the Canadian sheep flock.
Since Ontario announced it was leaving, Alberta said in a July 20 letter to the federation it too was leaving, as the organization won’t be effective only representing a small portion of the national flock.
“In addition, ongoing issues such as a lack of communication, action on key issues and financial transparency have impacted the decision,” according to the letter signed by Alberta Lamb Producers chair Erin Yaremko.
Kolodychuk says the Canadian federation didn’t have “any communication from (the Ontario sheep agency) saying they were unhappy until we got the press release and the email letter from them.”
As the largest sheep-producing province, Ontario had a lot of power in the Canadian federation, he notes.
Ontario sheep agency chair Rob Scott says an accumulation of events led to the decision to leave. “I don’t know that we can single in on any one reason.”
However “the underlying issue was value for the money that we’re investing in the organization,” he says. Scott is also vice chair of the Canadian federation.
The Ontario agency is a producer-run organization representing the province’s 3,000 sheep farmers.
In a recorded vote of the Ontario agency’s 11-member board, nine directors voted in favour of leaving the national organization, one abstained (Scott) and one person was absent. As chairman, Scott says he didn’t vote and only votes on motions in the case of a tie.
Scott says the Canadian federation wasn’t working as an effective national voice “and I just could not see any way of making it work. I’m disappointed but I am answerable to the Ontario producers and I think this was the right decision.”
Kolodychuk disagreed with the statement in the Ontario agency’s press release that the Canadian federation struggled since Quebec withdrew. However, “we do operate within a limited budget, for sure,” he said. “We could do a lot more with more money. At the end of the day, we do what we can and we feel that we spend our money quite wisely.”
The Canadian federation’s budget is about $125,000 annually.
Kolodychuk says Ontario’s leaving doesn’t mean the Canadian federation will kick the bucket.
“We have options we can look at. We can tighten our budget more, and we can look at other funding models,” he explains. “We’ll have some tough decisions to make but I think the board right now is committed to carrying on with business as usual.”
In the Ontario sheep agency release, the agency says it won’t lose its national voice when it quits the Canadian federation, as the Ontario group is a member of the national Sheep Value Chain Roundtable.
That’s an effective forum to address national matters and the Ontario sheep agency remains committed to it, the release says.
Scott says the sheep value chain roundtable is a government/industry group that’s independent of the Canadian and Ontario sheep groups.
In addition, Scott says with the advocacy work he does he’s always in contact with other sheep organizations and farmers “so we’re not going to lose our national voice.”
Ontario is also developing an informal relationship with Quebec, and is sharing information about markets and working on some market expansion projects with that province. BF