Happy Thanksgiving to all! This is a bad day for turkeys but a great day for the rest of us who get to enjoy the bird and all its fixings. Saskatchewan has had a good year and it is good that we get together with family and friends to give thanks and celebrate the bounty that is around us. Let us hope that everyone that is travelling this weekend has a safe trip home.
I had the honour and privilege of attending the memorial service for Her Honour Sylvia Fedoruk this past Friday in Saskatoon. It was a very moving service with many speakers paying homage to Her Honour’s record of service to our province and country. She was a ground-breaking individual in so many areas and it is not often that we can truly say that an individual is responsible for saving thousands of lives but that is the case with Sylvia Fedoruk through her work in nuclear medicine and the fight against cancer. I had the privilege of being sworn into Cabinet by her and interacting with her on many occasions as Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition. I also had the privilege of speaking on behalf of the Opposition at her retirement from the post of Lieutenant Governor in the Legislative Assembly. It is a moment I will cherish my entire life.
Unfortunately on this thanksgiving, I must make comment on the situation that has risen across Canada from the tainted meat scandal at XL Foods. It is a black mark on the meat packing industry, our food inspection agencies and the politicians that run this country that this process has been so badly managed. There should be a public inquiry with independent counsel to get to the bottom of how this corporate entity could circumvent the food safety rules. All of the politicians – federal and provincial – are saying there is enough blame to go around but no one wants to take responsibility. It is well known that XL Foods have been scouring the world’s refugee camps for labourers; they are bringing in foreign workers because they say Canadians won’t work cheap enough and have put the almighty dollar above everything else. This is the same company that shut down the Moose Jaw packing plant because they said wages were too high here and it was more efficient to do everything in Brooks, Alberta.
People in the cattle business like me and thousands of others need more competition for our animals and packing and meat processing opportunities closer to home. I am sure a plant like Moose Jaws, if it had a boning facility attached, would provide such an alternative. The province of Saskatchewan gave Nilsson Brothers, the people that own XL Foods, millions of taxpayers’ dollars to upgrade that plant and now it sits empty. Maybe it is time our provincial government tells them to either open up or pay back the money and divest the asset.
So far, thankfully, no one in Canada has died because of the E.coli contamination in meat from XL Foods. The list of products and the retailers that handle them has continued to grow from coast-to-coast and into the United States. Canadians and the people that we export beef to should expect a country like Canada to be able to guarantee the quality of its products. It is absolutely essential that our reputation around the world be protected. We must export part of our production and we must ensure that Canadians keep eating beef. Saskatchewan is one of the best places in the entire world to raise beef cattle and they are an important part of our farm economics and our way of life.
What I have heard from Saskatchewan politicians both federal and provincial so far is not good enough. Someone needs to stand up and make the Nilsson Brothers accountable for their actions.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.