There has been lots of criticism about the hog barn moratorium and now there is criticism because of just the possibility that a plant could be built on the outskirts of Winnipeg. They make a bigger stink in the city than the countryside I guess. As the article notes there were 17 new hog barns constructed in Manitoba in the last while and finally the government decided they should make sure more are sustainable. The article fails to notice that the Transcona facility is not really a hog barn but a slaughter facility. In terms of employment it uses far more workers than a hog barn which is mostly automated.
Doer hoping voters forget OlyWest, pigs
Sun May 6 2007
ON Friday -- almost halfway into the provincial election campaign -- Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard committed once again to keeping large hog plants out of the city of Winnipeg.
His opposition to the OlyWest proposal for a hog slaughterhouse and rendering facility in east Winnipeg is shared by Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen.
Popular opposition to the decision to build inside the city, or near any large urban area, continues to grow. Yet Premier Gary Doer remains silent on the issue.
Some people believe the issue is dead, or that the premier is committed to cleaning up Lake Winnipeg and curtailing hog production in Manitoba. Unfortunately, the actions by the provincial government and its officials indicate the exact opposite.
Under nearly eight years of Doer government, hog production in Manitoba rose from six million hogs a year to nine million. That level of production creates about as much waste as the entire human population of Canada, and all in one province.
The public is growing more concerned about the environmental impact of this industry. To live up to a three-year-old recommendation of a previous Clean Environment Commission, the Doer government announced last year a moratorium on hog barn expansion along with a review of the sustainability of the pork industry.
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But the government refused to halt the development of 17 hog barns that had already filed for construction.
Then the OlyWest hog consortium fell apart. One of the partners, Manitoba's Hytek, promised that they would continue on alone. Some in the industry blamed the government and the hog barn moratorium. The financial woes of Olymel, the major partner in the group, however, most likely precipitated the collapse.
This could have been an opportune time for the premier to reverse his position and support the concerns of dozens of businesses and thousands of homeowners in east Winnipeg. Rather, he stated he will only "review" the $27.5 million committed by the province to the project. Legal counsel rightly declared the City of Winnipeg's commitment of land to the hog plant deal was no longer valid, but the province has maintained its willingness to entertain a new business plan from the remaining OlyWest entity.
OlyWest is anything but dead.
The premier refuses to close this door and open a new one on the future of sustainable economic development. He chooses instead to say nothing and by doing so, keep all his options open.
If Mr. Doer gets a third majority on May 22, he again can give into pressure from the pork industry, end the hog barn moratorium and allow a new hog plant to be built in Winnipeg.
Before we'd know it, a new resolution would be presented to city council and the old deal made new again.
How possible is this scenario? Very. After all, Doer's administration has consistently pursued the construction of large hog slaughterhouses for Winnipeg. In 2000, Smithfield Foods Inc. was on track to do so, but cancelled its plans.
The premier could score high marks in the election campaign in Winnipeg, especially on the east side, if he were to end the uncertainty and join the opposition leaders by saying "No" to any hog slaughterhouse and rendering facility proposal inside the city or near large concentrations of population.
Instead, he is hoping that urban voters don't take note of his silence.
As the air quality issues pile up in east Winnipeg, the premier should admit that there is a better way to build the economy of Manitoba. Manitobans deserve a clear and honest answer.
Russ Wyatt is city councillor
for the Transcona ward.