© AgMedia Inc.
by BETTER FARMING STAFF
He’s banned from committee work but eastern Ontario’s wheat director, John Vanderspank, can still attend Ontario Wheat Producers’ Marketing Board meetings, says its chairman.
David Whaley, says his board no longer trusts Vanderspank and passed a non-confidence motion against him last week.
Vanderspank is in his second term as the director for the board’s district 10, which represents much of eastern Ontario. Terms last for one year.
He can still present “the views, the needs of his district,” says Whaley. “That has not changed.” But if “we feel there is sensitive information that we would not want to get loose, he would be excused from that portion of the meeting.”
Whaley says an article Vanderspank recently wrote for the publication Eastern Ontario Farmers Forum contained confidential information about the Daisy Consulting Group, a Toronto-based lobbying firm that the Ontario Grains and Oilseeds Safety Net Committee – to which the board belongs – has hired to promote its interests in Ottawa. It’s the second time Vanderspank has breached a board member confidentiality agreement, he says.
Whaley declines to say what part of the article was confidential: “There are certain elements of your lobbying position that you don’t want out in the open.”
Vanderspank says he’s not sure what could be considered confidential, noting board members had previously been permitted to share the information with some farmers.
He says he doesn’t feel “our lobby groups are working for us and it’s time producers knew it.” He notes the Daisy Group has strong Liberal ties and questions whether these are hampering its effectiveness in dealing with a Conservative government.
He also wants the board to release the numbers used to calculate the cost of production used in a proposal for federal financing of a sector risk management program. He says he’s concerned changes in fuel and fertilizer prices haven’t been taken into account and, if granted, the funding request would fall short of what’s needed.
Vanderspank says other board members disagree that his main responsibility as a director is to serve the producers he represents. “They have been wanting to get me off of there.”
Whaley says directors represent all wheat producers in Ontario and must act on behalf of all of them.
“We try to be just as transparent as we can possibly be with our membership,” he adds, noting board minutes are eventually made public. At the same time the board competes with others for business. “There is some of that information that would really hurt us if it got out in the open. Same with our lobby efforts.”
Whaley says he’s not sure what Vanderspank means in connection with the risk management program numbers. He says these figures were shared at annual meetings and delegate conferences.
The board has written district 10 wheat producers about the action. Vanderspank says a district meeting will be held in June to discuss their next steps. “The board feels that they’re disciplining me, but they’re disciplining all eastern Ontario and all spring wheat producers,” he says, noting that producers voted him in because they knew he would speak out. He’s also the only one at the table representing issues related to spring wheat, he says.
Whaley says Vanderspank’s action “hurts everybody. If it cripples our board to where we can’t speak about anything confidential at our board meetings, then that hurts all producers in Ontario and that’s not fair.”
As for how Vanderspank might appease the board, Whaley’s stumped. “Once you don’t trust the person it’s awfully hard to get that trust back.” BF