Alberta agriculture minister responsible for ending Canadian Wheat Board

The person most responsible for dismantling the CWB, despite a majority of farmers voting to keep it, is now the minister over agriculture in Alberta.

While doing some research on a different story for Devin Dreeshen, Alberta’s current minister of agriculture and forestry, I encountered a Red Deer Advocate story highlighting the political background of his family.

This quote stuck out to me:

Devin said he wants to emulate politicians like Klein, his dad and Gerry Ritz, the former federal agriculture minister. Devin worked in Ritz’s office starting through the Conservative Party internship program. After the internship he was offered a full-time position and Devin worked for the minister for eight years.

In that time, his major file was ending the single desk marketing of the Canadian Wheat Board.

This certainly reads as though Dreeshen was responsible for ending the Canadian Wheat Board. But it could also be interpreted as Gerry Ritz having ended the wheat board, so I dug some more.

On his campaign website, Dreeshen stated the following:

His background as a farmer led him to Ottawa where he was a policy advisor to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz from 2008 to 2015, advocating for Canadian agriculture trade, improved rural infrastructure support, and leading the effort to end the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly.

Similar wording appears on his cabinet profile.

In a press release that was carried by Todayville Edmonton, Dreeshen included this quote from Ritz:

For years, Devin was my point man on grain issues and ending the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly. He was a strong advocate for farmers and for rural communities within the Harper government, and I know he will be just as effective on Jason Kenney’s team. He has my strong support.

He later echoed this same sentiment in a 2018 news article with rdnewsNOW:

He was my point man on removing the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly — dealing with stakeholders, preparing legislation, and driving it through the bureaucracy and Parliament.

When Ian Doig of GrainsWest asked Dreeshen in an interview what he learned about agriculture policy-making as an advisor to Ritz, he responded with:

It was getting rid of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly.

Jeff Nielsen, chair of the Grain Growers of Canada, said to AlbertaFarmer Express about Dreeshen:

The major western issue we had at that time was the Canadian Wheat Board. He was very active in helping Minister Ritz on that file. That’s where he garnered a lot of recognition and support because he would reach out to groups such as the Western Barley Growers Association and Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association to solicit their support and ideas.

And let’s not forget that his dad, Early Dreeshen, was an MP at the time and voted in favour of implementing the work his son did on the destruction of the CWB.

So the person seemingly most responsible for dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board, despite the fact that a majority of farmers voted to keep it, is now the minister over agriculture in Alberta.

This is something Alberta residents should keep in mind when they see Dreeshen say things like the Cargill High River plant is safe, 2 days before the plant shut down and when the number of workers infected with COVID-19 was only a third of what it would grow to at its peak.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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