Thanks to the B.C. Liberals, this province is now the only jurisdiction in North America that squeezes local meat production right out of business. We now import almost all our meat in B.C. With no evidence whatsoever that meat from provincial facilities was unsafe, Don Davidson, the point man on the Liberal’s Meat Industry “Enhancement” Strategy, accused B.C. farmers of hauling sick and dead animals to local abattoirs to be processed for human consumption. Instead of sending out inspectors on surprise inspections to see whether this was true, an expensive provincial inspection regime was forced onto the backs of B.C. meat-processors. It mirrors the top-heavy system used in huge, federally inspected facilities. You know… the same system that let the 2008 listeriosis outbreak at Maple Leaf slip by that resulted in 23 deaths. Yeah, that one!
The Liberals picked a few winners and gave them grants and low-interest loans so they could purchase new computers, renovate their facilities by adding offices and showers for their new federal-provincial inspectors, and hire staff to keep up with all the new “safety” bureaucracy. Feel better yet?
In spite of this generosity with your tax money, the Minister of Agriculture at the time, Pat Bell, and Premier Campbell still found they faced a backlash as provincial meat processors closed down in droves. So they decided to launch workshops through the Ministry of Health to promote local food!
This was a brilliant political move since Health had nothing to do with the destruction of local food production that was being carried out simultaneously over in the Ministry of Agriculture. Ironically though, local meat production used to be the jurisdiction of provincial health authorities. But, citing cost-overruns, health authorities claimed they could no longer inspect the handful of meat processors in this province, even though they manage to keep a MUCH larger number of restaurants safe, along with daycares, swimming pools and drinking water systems. No matter. To save money, meat production was shifted from Health to Agriculture. And yet, miraculously, Health bureaucrats somehow managed to find money in their budgets to run the local food workshops that Bell and Campbell ordered.
If you’re wondering how Health authorities know the food they’re promoting is actually local, safe and (the big money-maker) certified organic, well… it turns out there would be no surprise inspections, no tests, just piles of paperwork! While the Liberals cracked down on local meat, they were completely lackadaisical on all other forms of local food production. Gross negligence or fraud, it’s all perfectly acceptable as long as the appearance of “local food security” is upheld.
Restaurants are inspected on a surprise basis with routine testing; why not farms? Didn’t this all start because local farmers were allegedly feeding carrion to the public? No matter…just fill out the paperwork, pay your damn fees and everything will be fine! Imagine if daycares, swimming pools and drinking water systems were overseen so carelessly.
After a couple years of this duplicity the NDP finally decided local food was something they should get behind and launched a private member’s bill which, instead of challenging any of the Liberals’ bureaucratic stratagem, proposes to work within it. Great…
Steve Thomson, Bell’s replacement as Minister of Agriculture, responds to such lighthearted criticism from the NDP on local food by pointing to all the money his party has thrown into B.C. AgriTourism! Right… like tourism is going to save farming in this province. What a crock…
Thomson runs a ministry that’s supposed to help farmers, and yet he can’t bring himself to do the one thing that would actually help farmers in this province: repeal his party’s punitive Meat Industry “Enhancement” Strategy. And apparently the NDP can’t be bothered to suggest this either.
We’re left with one gang of bureaucrats bashing local farmers while another pretends to prop them up. After thousands of farmers stopped raising livestock in this province because there’s nowhere to process it, the Opposition decided to support what remains of local food production because it makes them look good. And the deception is being carried out to the tune of hundreds of millions of your tax dollars.
I hope you’re not eating while you read this because no matter how this plays out you can rest assured the only winner in the end will be the government. It’s enough to make you puke.
Portions of this column are republished with permission from Field to Plate magazine, Spring/Summer Edition.
is a freelance political writer with a degree in history. He can be heard on Kelowna’s AM 1150 on Friday mornings between 9 and 10.