Maple Leaf to name ex-federal trade minister chairman

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ex-minister of international trade is the chairman of choice for the board of Maple Leaf Foods.

The Toronto-based food firm announced Thursday that David Emerson will be nominated for election to the company’s board as an "independent" director at the company’s annual general meeting on May 2.

Maple Leaf’s board said Thursday it intends to name Emerson as chairman, subject to shareholder approval of his nomination. Emerson would replace Toronto corporate lawyer Purdy Crawford, who has chaired the board since June last year and will retire from the board after the AGM.

The company also reported Thursday that it will scale its board from 13 members down to 10, as three directors will not seek to return to the board at the AGM.

McCain Capital Corp. and West Face Capital, the company’s two largest shareholders, have "indicated their support of these governance changes," the company said. Eight of the company’s 10 remaining directors would be considered "independent," Maple Leaf added.

The three departing directors include former Canadian trade ambassador Gordon Ritchie, Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s former policy director Chaviva Hosek, and former Ontario Power Corp. CEO James Hankinson.

Emerson "brings extensive experience in the public and private sectors, proven leadership and new perspectives to the board," Crawford said in Maple Leaf’s release.

Emerson, an economist by training and ex-CEO of companies including Canadian Western Bank, Canfor and Vancouver International Airport, was elected as the Liberal MP for Vancouver’s Kingsway riding in both 2004 and 2006, serving as Prime Minister Paul Martin’s industry minister (2004-06).

Emerson famously crossed the floor just after Harper’s first minority government was elected in 2006, to be named Harper’s international trade minister (2006-08) and, for five months in 2008, foreign affairs minister. He was also Harper’s minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver Olympics.

Emerson today also sits on the boards of directors of Finning International, Stantec and Postmedia Networks.

"I am confident that these changes will deliver the right balance of renewal and continuity and further strengthen corporate governance at a time of significant strategic transformation for Maple Leaf Foods," Crawford said in Thursday’s release.

Related story:
Deal shuts down Maple Leaf governance dispute, Feb. 3, 2011

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