Roughly 300 of the Canadian Wheat Board’s (CWB) head office staff in Winnipeg will be laid off, and Winnipeg City Centre MP Pat Martin said it is not only a tragedy for those who will be laid off, but also one for Winnipeg’s downtown.
“This is a huge blow to the corporate community of Winnipeg,” said Martin, an avid CWB supporter. “It just hollows out the central business district.”
Martin said the CWB will likely have to move to a smaller building, as they will not be able to sustain their offices at 426 Main St.
“I can’t imagine then staying there with the newly-structured wheat board. We already lost Canwest (Global) downtown, which was a terrible blow, and now we are going to lose this.
“Recently it has been nothing but good news for downtown, but it always seems like one step forward and two steps back.”
The axe is swinging monthly at the CWB as the agency moves to cut about three-quarters of its staff after losing its monopoly over western wheat and barley sales.
“We indicated right from the beginning of the planning process that the Canadian Wheat Board would be a much smaller entity, would need to right-size its staff complement … now that CWB no longer markets all the wheat and barley from western Canada,” spokesperson Maureen Fitzhenry said Wednesday.
Fitzhenry said jobs are being cut every month. The number of employees will be down to 288 by the end of May and will drop to about 100 by the end of the year. There were 430 people on the payroll, mainly at the headquarters in Winnipeg, at the beginning of 2011.
The cuts follow the federal government’s decision last year to make the government-backed but farmer-controlled agency a voluntary route for producers, ending a six-decade-long monopoly.
With files from the Canadian Press