To the Editor:
The $7-billion foreign takeover of Saskatchewan-based Viterra Inc. by Glencore of Switzerland is under review by federal agencies.
Glencore is the world’s largest commodities trader, with a controversial reputation in legal, environmental and labour matters. Viterra is Canada’s biggest grain company.
When it gets control of Viterra, Glencore says it will sell-off parts of the business to Pioneer Grain of Winnipeg and Agrium of Calgary.
The federal government recently announced it could take another month to finish examining all this complex maneuvering – to see if it’s a “net benefit” to Canada. Meanwhile, farmers and the Canadian public have no way of knowing what’s going on.
The whole thing is done in secret. No one knows what the companies are saying to the government or what the government may be saying to (or demanding of) the companies.
I highlighted problems like these back in 2010 when a foreign company was trying to buy-out Saskatchewan’s potash industry. In the wake of that fiasco, the Harper government promised to make the process more transparent – a pledge they repeated a couple of months ago, but nothing yet has changed.
There needs to be a clear definition of “net benefit”. More information should be made public, including any “conditions” the government attaches to any transaction. Such conditions must be readily enforceable. And the role of provincial governments should be spelled out.
In the absence of government action on these matters, I’ve been asking repeated questions in Parliament to profile what’s at stake:
• Is the government investigating Glencore’s corporate reputation and business practices?
• If a transaction is approved, will Glencore be required to post a Bond to guarantee its promises about new jobs, a “regional headquarters” in Regina, and new investments of at least $100-million?
• And how will the government ensure no company stifles competition in the farm-input supply business?
So far, the Harper government’s response is just a mumble.
Ralph Goodale, MP, Wascana, SK.