Nearly one year, one Prime Minister and one Throne Speech later, it appears the Liberal junta has finally determined that there is a crisis in cow country. With the cattle industry having experienced losses pegged at around $11 million a day in Canada, flagging Liberal fortunes in the West combined with desperation amongst cattle producers appears to have provided the ideal opportunity in Martin’s mind to buy some votes among cash strapped cattle producers.
Frankly, this speculation of manna from Ottawa reeks of crass opportunism and pure politics on behalf of the Martin Liberals. Were it not for the Liberal Party having soured our country’s relationship with the United States, we likely would not be in the situation where one incident of BSE would lead to the border being closed on a $2billion/ year industry in the first place. In addition, Paul Martin should be ashamed that he has waited until Liberal fortunes were in dire straits throughout the country before he finally decided that picking up western votes was important. Where was the concern for cattlemen in the Throne Speech of two months ago? Finally, Liberal wanna-be’s like Ken Nicol and Ted Haney should be ashamed that they glowingly endorse a PM and a party that holds their constituents in such low esteem that they are willing to capitalize on the desperation of cattle producers in order to buy a few votes for themselves.
Ottawa â€” The federal budget will give the cattle industry an immediate cash injection of more than $500-million to help it survive until exports to the United States can resume, The Globe and Mail has learned.
The announcement will be a highlight in the March 23 budget, and will attempt to curry favour for the Liberals in the West as they head into an election campaign.
The money will go directly to those most hurt in the crisis, and will come out of the existing surplus of this fiscal year, which ends on March 31, federal sources say.
The amount will be more than $500-million and could be as high as $1-billion, making it probably the biggest single new spending item in the budget. Spending money is scarce, and of the few new initiatives to receive funding right away, most will be less than $500-million.
And unlike most agricultural aid packages, this one will not require the participation of the provinces.
“It will be totally unprecedented to have a budget with agriculture as such a high priority,” said one federal source.
There are still several hitches to be worked out in how to deliver the budget money and make sure all of it can be taken out of the existing fiscal year without running into accounting difficulties, sources said, but they added that the bailout will almost certainly be well over $500-million.
The U.S. border was closed to Canadian beef last May after a case of mad-cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was found on an Alberta farm. Trade resumed for some beef exports last fall, and Ottawa hoped all the restrictions would be lifted early this year.
But the discovery in late December that a cow in the state of Washington that had tested positive for BSE originated from Alberta put an indefinite delay on cross-border cattle shipments.
Now, Ottawa hopes to have the border cleared for all exports by some time this spring, but dares not be too optimistic, given the issue’s turbulent history.
The ban on Canadian beef has crippled the cattle industry, and the effects have reverberated throughout Western Canada’s economy.
“These folks are cash-starved. The year 2003 was the year that shouldn’t have been,” complained Conservative MP Gerry Ritz in February during a Commons agriculture committee hearing with Agriculture Minister Bob Speller.
“Primary production of this food is of far more importance than this government is willing to give it.”
Mr. Speller has argued privately and publicly that, indeed, Ottawa’s agriculture aid programs are insufficient to deal with the crisis.