When the big guns from Manitoba Pork seek a meeting with council, one can’t help but be suspicious about their motives. Could it be that recent decisions to reject new barn proposals have got them worried? Worried that the tide is turning against the takeover of our rural areas by “Big Pork”.
Residents’ concerns cover the gamut from the stink (sufficient to breech the International Treaty on Chemical Warfare), to ground and surface water pollution, to some serious greenhouse gases, to huge amounts of water consumed, to health concerns, to loss in property values. Then there are the ethical and animal welfare issues around raising animals in confinement, never to see the light of day, with an almost certain death sentence in the event of a fire.
The willingness of some councils to approve more barn applications, and in so doing throw some of their own residents under the bus, is nothing short of shameful. Our Planning Act has guidance for councilors, (Section 106(1) Re: “Decision”) stating they should only approve the application if it: “(b)(ii) will not be detrimental to the health or general welfare of people living or working in the surrounding area, or negatively affect other properties or potential development in the surrounding area”. Applying that clause, it’s difficult to understand how any factory hog barn gets approved.
The Pallister government in its headlong rush to enable unfettered growth of the hog industry has tossed out many of the former protections to the environment, disguised as “red tape reductions”, as well as lowering the construction standards for barns. The Technical Review Committee, which is supposed to thoroughly vet applications for new barns, is now little more than a rubber stamp in favour of the proponent. As a result of Bill 19 we now also face the spectre of a barn developer appealing a council rejection to the Municipal Board, an un-elected body hand picked from the party faithful, to do the bidding of the current government and overrule the duly elected local council. That also stinks.
Mr. Dahl talks about growth in the hog industry. I recall my “Economics 101” prof reminding us students never to confuse the terms “economic growth” with “economic development”. Growth being an increase in wealth (usually by the few), and development being increased prosperity and quality of life for all residents. Councils would do well to ponder the difference.
Significant portions of our rural areas are becoming unlivable due to the proliferation of factory hog barns. How many more do we need, and what kind of mess are we creating for future generations?
Jon Crowson, Hamiota