While Alberta government leaders say little about the XL Foods crisis but “eat beef,” in Saskatchewan they talk turkey.
“We are not pleased with anyone’s actions on this thing,” says Lyle Stewart, Saskatchewan’s agriculture minister, who sent a letter to Ottawa on Thursday complaining about federal bungling of the huge beef recall.
“It is unfortunate when our producers produce a safe product and further down the value chain things go off the rails. They (the producers) will be the people who pay the price.”
That’s the plain truth.
It’s also a far sharper message than we hear from Premier Alison Redford and her agriculture minister, Verlyn Olson.
So far, he’s been most notable for video showing him with an armload of prime cuts he bought in Camrose.
Redford has visited ranchers and producer groups, and emphasizes food safety every time she talks about this crisis.
But she passes right over the real issues — how this happened and whodunnit — to simply promote Alberta beef. She hasn’t criticized the obviously deficient federal inspection, or the slaughterhouse where all this started.
Asked about XL Foods on Thursday, she said the plant shutdown “certainly does impact Alberta producers.” It’s also “fundamental” to protect public safety. She hopes the system will improve after it’s all over.
And then, asked about NDP allegations that she’s being irresponsible, Redford said: “That’s an unfortunate comment. We believe it’s very important to support Alberta beef producers.”
From the start, she said, “my comments were very clearly that the beef that is being produced in Alberta is safe beef, it’s healthy beef, and it’s beef we should feel comfortable eating.
“We have a good product. Make sure it is cooked well.”
Right. You should also make really thick gravy, and don’t cook the Yorkshire pudding too early.
NDP Leader Brian Mason scolds Redford for “standing idly by, offering cooking advice, letting the federal agriculture minister swoop in for a photo op without providing real answers to the public. As a result, Alberta’s beef industry will continue to be in trouble.”
Again, pretty much right. At least publicly, the government is far too passive about the biggest threat to the Alberta agriculture industry since BSE.BSE is of course bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease—from which the industry had just begun to recover from an outbreak in 2003.