Adrian Measner and the Canadian Wheat Board

Adrian Measner


19 February, 2016—The Liberal Party of Canada campaigned hard on a promise to re-establish the Canadian Wheat Board, but have since backed down completely. According to a February 16, 2016, article in iPolitics, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to answer a question on the issue – deferring instead to Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay who is reported to have responded, “Mr. Speaker the commercialization of the Canadian Wheat Board was completed under the previous government.”

A promise broken.

What Happened

In December 2006, Adrian Measner was fired from his position as President of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) by Federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl.

In 2006, the Conservatives announced that they would end the CWB monopoly on marketing wheat and barley, allowing farmers to use a dual marketing system. The dual marketing system was criticized by Mr. Measner, along with his farmer-elected board of directors, because discarding the single desk system would undermine the farmer-run organization and result in lower grain prices for famers, including those who use the CWB to market their products internationally.

International grain companies and free trade advocates, however, have long criticized the single desk system.

In an address to the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce in October 2006, Measner stated that a dual marketing system would be "as wrong as it is un-Canadian" and could harm the ability of Western Canadian farmers "to deliver the world-class grain for which we are known."

Mr. Measner was told by Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl to support the Conservative government’s plan or suffer the consequences, namely dismissal

The federal government issued a gag order via an executive directive, prohibiting the CWB from spending funds to promote single-desk grain marketing (Governor in Council SOR/2006-247) even though at the time the order was issued, it was still law in Canada. Wheat board officials were forced to remove information on the CWB website endorsing the single-desk system (the order was later upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal in 2009).

Mr. Measner received his notice of terminiation on November 29.

The President of the National Farmers Union (NFU) stated that he believed that the firing of Adrian Measner was “another in a long list” of federal decisions aimed at restructuring the Board. The NFU has been the main defender of the Board, and provided a list of attacks on the CWB in its struggle to survive, including the gag order, the firing of Measner and the introduction of a Cabinet Order in Council to remove barley from the CWB Mandate in April 2007. In addition, in October 2011, Conservative MP David Anderson’s website hosted a video of a fictional CWB representative acting in a racist and condescending manner towards a fictional wheat farmer. National Inuit Leader Mary Simon stated that the material “is offensive to Inuit, has no place in public discussion, and certainly no place on the website of an elected Member of Parliament." Anderson later apologized and took the video down. (A list of attacks on the CWB can be found here.)

Legal battles continue

The Wheat Board conducted its own plebiscite to determine farmers' views in September 2011. Sixty-two per cent of wheat-producing respondents and 51 per cent of barley-producing respondents wished to maintain the CWB’s single-desk marketing monopoly. Peter H. Russell, a leading scholar, wrote in the GLobe and Mail that the government simply could have repealed the Wheat Board Act, but chose not to do so, and instead, introduced a provision in the existing law that flew in the face of what he viewed as a legal commitment to consult with grain growers. "What is at stake," he argues, "is not just a technical legal point, but rather "the integrity of parliamentary government."

On October 18, 2011, the Minister introduced into Parliament Bill C-18, the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act which was passed without a vote by farmers, marking an end of the single desk system. It received Royal Assent on December 15.

In June 2012, the Federal Court of Appeal decided that the government was entitled to enact the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act without taking the matter to a vote. In September, the matter went up to the Supreme Court of Canada. A decision on leave to appeal is pending.  

Related people or issues: Deanna Allen.


Relevant Dates

  • January 2003: Adrian Measner is appointed president of CWB
  • October 2006: Federal government issues a gag order, prohibiting the CWB from advocating for the single-desk system
  • November 2006: Measner receives a letter from Strahl giving notice of his termination.
  • July 2007: The Federal Court rules that a government attempt to end the CWB’s monopoly on barley by regulation instead of by statute to be illegal
  • June 2008: Federal Court Judge Roger Hughes rules that the "gag order" violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • June 2009: Federal Court of Appeal overturns, and decides that the Governor in Council "gag order" is constitutional.
  • January 2010: Supreme Court of Canada declines to hear the Canadian Wheat Board’s (CWB) appeal of the constitutionality of the “gag order”.
  • June 2011: Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board file for judicial review in the Federal Court to determine if the Harper government can dismantle the CWB despite a failure to hold a plebiscite.
  • September 2011: The CWB conducts its own plebiscite. Farmers vote in majority for the CWB’s single-desk system
  • October 2011: Saskatchewan MP David Anderson’s website posts a video with a fictional CWB representative acting in a racist and condescending manner towards a farmer. The item islater pulled.
  • December 7, 2011: The Federal Court decides there is a statutory obligation to hold a plebiscite of farmers before abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board's "single desk" mandate for marketing wheat and barley
  • December 14, 2011: CWB directors ask the courts to halt the new bill regarding grain marketing and restore farmers' right to vote
  • June 18, 2012: The Federal Court of Appeal decides that the Government can enact the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act without the need to hold a plebiscite.
  • September 2012:  CWB Directors and the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board seek leave to appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Role or Position

Adrian Measner was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) from 2003 to 2006. Mr. Measner came to the position with 32 years of experience in the grain industry.

Implications and Consequences

  • Democracy: Ignoring the plebiscite held in 2011, which found that farmers were in favour of maintaining the single-desk monopoly system shows blatant disregard for the majority voice of farmers in the prairies—those directly impacted by decisions such as the decision to repeal the Canadian Wheat Board Act.
  • Democracy: Conservative MP David Anderson's posting of a video showing Wheat Board representatives as racist and condescending was an inappropriate and unbecoming gesture, not to mention a misleading portrayal of the reasons for the Wheat Board's support of the single desk system. 
  • Free Speech: The gag order placed on the Canadian Wheat Board ensured that the CWB could not speak out in favour of the law of the land as it stood prior to Bill C-18. The Canadian Wheat Board was the only organization large enough and sufficiently knowledgeable to provide alternative information and expertise on the merits of the single desk system. 
  • Free Speech & Transparency:  The process undertaken by the Harper government shows how ideology has trumped the democratic process and left little room for Parliamentary debate or discussion, nor an investigation of the costs attached to the dismantling of the CWB in its current form.


Published on: 17 March 2011

Date updated: 9 October 2012