Monday, May 18, 2009

Wrong Again Mr. Bagnall....stop grandstanding on nothing...

When I heard about this story I thought "let's pin a medal on whoever was responsible for the sale" as FoodTrust was bleeding taxpayers money and now it's in the hands of a private company and probably has a much better chance of surviving... don't get me wrong as I think FoodTrust was a good concept when it started and still can be... they took a lot of Island products like potatoes and added "quality standards and marketing value" under the concept of sustainable agriculture and a lot of private producers and marketers made up and advised the board... they worked hard to develop concepts and an infrastructure to go along with it... but as some programs flourished it was obvious they needed more capital to build controlled storage facilities, etc.... all the while with no proof of ever getting an investment return... and this is where Government usually make the big mistake by throwing more money at them at the expense of the taxpayer.... so in this case Government steps in and sells the Company to a proven operator... Mid-Isle Farms, a group of local Queens County farmers (which Minister Webster may or may not be a shareholder as it's in a blind trust) and Jim Bagnall calls a "fowl" when he should have been out there "praising" Mid-Isle Farms for making this investment and showing confidence in our business community and the people who worked tirelessly to get this operation off the ground... in fact Bagnall thinks the Government shouldn't have even sold the business but just let it continue to "bleed more taxpayers money" just like when Bagnall was in charge of the Hog Plant and some Quebec shareholders suckered Bagnall and Olive for millions of taxpayers' dollars... the only story here in selling FoodTrust is Mr. Bagnall grandstanding on something he should be congratulating the Government on... it wasn't long ago I think that Bagnall was in a business in Montague (while he was a Minister) which I now think he may have sold... so let's just hypothetically say he sells the business to someone and not so long afterwards while Bagnall is still in Government that buyer applies for and gets some PNP's... under Bagnall's thinking I would wonder if he would have called the Conflict of Interest Commissioner first but we will never have to worry about things like that because Mr. Bagnall would never have done anything like that.... Mr. Bagnall is a hard working constituent guy but I wish he would stop knocking the business community around…
Minister in conflict: Bagnall
The Guardian
The government’s sale of FoodTrust to Mid Isle Farms places Agriculture Minister George Webster in a conflict of interest, charges Opposition MLA Jim Bagnall.
During question period Friday, Bagnall asked for details about the sale of FoodTrust to the private-sector company, announced last December.
He wanted to know how much in liabilities the government wrote off the company’s books before it was sold and how much Mid Isle Farms paid for it.
Webster said FoodTrust’s total losses amounted to $1.2 million. He also said government did write off the company’s liabilities before selling it off. But he said he didn’t know how much it sold for.
Bagnall asked Provincial Treasurer Wes Sheridan for the final figures, but Sheridan also could not recall what they were.
Bagnall was highly critical of the fact the province wrote off the debts of FoodTrust, then sold it to a company owned in part by a cabinet minister.
Bagnall said he believes the whole deal puts Webster in a conflict because Webster and his brother are both shareholders of Mid Isle Farms Inc.
“Minister, do you think it’s good business practice to write off all the loans, all the liabilities for a company that you, as president of the company, are buying? Do you think that’s legit,” Bagnall asked Webster during question period Friday.
“You were president of Mid Isle Farms, who purchased this. Yet you wrote off all the liabilities and then bought the company. Minister, how can you justify doing this?”
Premier Robert Ghiz stood up in Webster’s defense and told the house that FoodTrust was tendered to the lowest bidder – which turned out to be Mid Isle Farms. He also pointed out that Webster left the cabinet table whenever the issue of FoodTrust came up for discussion.
The sale of FoodTrust to Mid Isle was a government decision, Ghiz said.
“The minister wasn’t there to put himself in that situation. This was a business decision made. All these decisions with regards to the write-offs were made prior to it going out to tender.
“It went out to tender. Bids came back. The honourable minister of agriculture dismissed himself from all these meetings, and plus, everything is in blind trust,” Ghiz said.
But Bagnall believes there is still a perceived conflict of interest.
“I think the premier should have checked with the Conflict of Interest Commissioner before the sale was made,” Bagnall said.
“It could be perceived to be a conflict. There were two or three other proposals but they chose that one, they won’t disclose the final sale price.”
Bagnall believes the government should never have sold the company at all. But both Ghiz and Webster defended the sale, saying the FoodTrust was losing between $500,000 and $700,000 a year.
“It was bleeding terribly,” Ghiz said.
“The best scenario that we could see was to privatize that entity.”
He added that if Bagnall believes a conflict does exist, he is free to bring it to the attention of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner himself.
But Bagnall said he does not plan to do this, because he believes this is the premier’s responsibility.
“I think it’s an issue that the premier should show some leadership on.”

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