Home / Burnbrae Farms egg heiress brushes off ‘perception’ of conflict as new chief of staff to agriculture minister

Burnbrae Farms egg heiress brushes off ‘perception’ of conflict as new chief of staff to agriculture minister

Mary Jean McFall of Brockville, Ont., is the new chief of staff to Canada's agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay.

The new chief of staff to Canada’s agriculture minister is also a member of one of the most powerful families in the country’s agricultural sector.

Mary Jean McFall ran for Parliament last fall as the Liberal candidate in Leeds-Grenville, Ont., where her family runs Burnbrae Farms, the country’s largest egg producer-processor. McFall, a lawyer, lost to the Conservative incumbent, Gord Brown.

Lawrence MacAulay, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture, appointed McFall his chief of staff in late December, according to iPolitics website. She started the job Jan. 4.

A grotesque and flagrant conflict of interest

The appointment has at least one critic raising questions about whether it is appropriate for someone to run the minister’s office who is so deeply invested, and who benefits so greatly, from Canada’s current quota system for eggs.

McFall’s family business, Burnbrae Farms, owns laying stations and egg-grading facilities in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. The family owns at least 470,000 units of egg quota, which, at the current value of $300 a hen, means that her family owns about $140 million of egg quota.

“I think this is a grotesque and flagrant conflict of interest,” said Ian Lee, a professor at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University. “She has a stellar CV and a distinguished career. But the minister is supposed to represent all Canadians, not just the few farmers under supply management.

“She is part of a family that is one of the largest and most wealthy beneficiaries of supply management, and the minister should be scrupulously neutral. How on earth can he possibly review this policy, when his chief of staff is a beneficiary of a system that exploits the middle class?”


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