WINNIPEG — The axe is swinging monthly at the Canadian Wheat Board 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.[np-related]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.The move divided the farming community. Some producers said they deserve the right to seek higher prices on the open market, as their counterparts in Eastern Canada do. Others have predicted prices will drop as producers compete with each other instead of banding together under the wheat board.The controversy spawned several court battles led by pro-monopoly producers and former directors of the wheat board who were elected by farmers.A group called the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board has filed a class-action lawsuit in Federal Court, asking the court to restore the board and give farmers $17-billion in damages. There is also a lawsuit filed by wheat board supporters last month, which seeks $15.4-billion in damages.Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has criticized the lawsuits and has urged critics to let farmers move on and prepare for the new crop year, which starts Aug. 1.
OTTAWA — Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the country’s housing markets remain “highly vulnerable” with evidence of moderate overvaluation and price acceleration.Markets in Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, Victoria and Saskatoon are highly vulnerable, the national housing agency said in its quarterly housing market assessment on Thursday.CMHC’s housing market assessment gauges the overall level of risk by evaluating four problematic conditions: overheating, price acceleration, overvaluation and overbuilding.“For Canada, the housing market remains at a high degree of vulnerability,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist on a call with reporters.This comes after the Canadian Real Estate Association’s latest figures showed that the number of homes sold in September climbed for the second month in a row.Earlier this year, home sales across the country saw a slowdown, led by Toronto, after the Ontario government introduced measures aimed at cooling the market. Sales in September were down almost 12 per cent from the record set in March before Ontario announced its housing plan.CMHC noted Thursday that despite the recent easing in Toronto’s resale market, it detected moderate evidence of price acceleration with strong growth in home prices among all housing types.Vancouver’s housing market remained highly vulnerable, CMHC added, with evidence of moderate overheating and price acceleration, and strong overvaluation.Calgary and Edmonton also saw stronger overvaluation, due to rising inventory of complete and unsold homes, Dugan added, noting that vacancy rates in both cities have signalled overbuilding for several quarters.In its housing market outlook, which was also released Thursday, CMHC says that after a boost this year, housing starts are expected to decline by 2019, but remain close to the average level from the last five years.Sales in the existing-homes market are also expected to decline relative to the record level set in 2016, while price growth is expected to slow, CMHC says.“High house prices particularly for single-family homes and rising mortgage rates will bring about some cooling in the pace of housing market activity,” said Dugan.