Harry Siemens – The Manitoba Chamber of Commerce warns the province’s proposed ban on swine industry development in eastern Manitoba will discourage the adoption of new technologies designed to make hog farming more environmentally friendly.
Bill 17, the Manitoba Environment Amendment Act, which bans swine barn construction or expansion in most of eastern Manitoba, passed the Manitoba Legislature on Wednesday, September 24 by a margin of 36 for and 19 against.
This took place on the same day 150 producers and industry representatives rallied at the Manitoba Legislature to show solidarity and convince the NDP government to add an amendment to Bill 17.
The bill establishes a permanent moratorium on the construction of new or expanded swine barns in Southeastern Manitoba, the Red River Valley Special Management Area, and the Interlake.
Manitoba Chambers of Commerce President Graham Starmer said many operations will need the flexibility to restructure if they are to afford the cost of adopting new technology that is extremely environmentally friendly.
Starmer said putting a total moratorium on this type of industry prevents innovation and looking at how to become more environmentally friendly.
“When you say no, you can’t expand some areas of innovation and ecological advancements require size and this just puts a cap on anything and inhibits having even a better environment as a result of it,” he said.
Even suggesting to the government to add an amendment to the bill, giving authority to the government, that if somebody comes up with a greater technology, environmentally friendly, there should be exemptions to the ban, didn’t help. It all fell on deaf ears, it appeared.
Starmer said the people employ the government to look at the welfare of its people.
“Where you have a billion dollar industry and about a billion dollar spin off, you’ve got to look at what’s good for the people as well as the environment,” he said.
Even the leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party fears the passage of Bill 17 will do more to hurt the environment than help it.
Manitoba Liberal leader Dr. Jon Gerrard said government imposes a moratorium on the industry, it freezes the industry where it is, instead of allowing it to grow and to improve the way it addresses environmental issues and hog management issues.
“I’ve been a champion of environmental stewardship and cleaning up Lake Winnipeg and there certainly has been some very significant progress,” said Gerrard. “It’s not perfect but, for example, almost all producers have moved to inject the manure into the land so it doesn’t run off into the waterways, we’ve got changes in looking after animals. There’s much less in the way of bacteria using so we have less problem with resistant strains and there’s changes coming in terms of how we house the animals.”
Gerrard told of how he had visited the Crystal Spring Colony recently viewing their technology. Its one thing to have technology, but hog producers like Crystal Spring Colony must have the ability to expand because when they do, they introduce new technology and improve the way they look after the environment.
“By freezing things for much of the province, what’s going to happen is we’re going to have less ability to address environmental and animal husbandry issues,” he said. “This Bill 17 is just misguided and wrong headed.”
It surprised Gerrard that the NDP government ignored those who presented against the bill repeatedly during public hearings. He believes the government has not thought this bill through carefully and has not paid attention to the science, but has moved forward under the illusion that it’s doing something for Lake Winnipeg when it’s not clear this bill will do anything to help Lake Winnipeg.