Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The BSE Crisis - How well did the Klein government do? 

The BSE crisis is a little over a year old now and has had a major negative impact in the rural areas of our Province. It is still not over of course as the border remains closed to export of live cattle and will likely remain so until after the American election in November. The plight of Alberta cattle producers is not on the radar screen of American politicians as they wage their high stakes battles.

How well has the Klein government handled the problem of BSE?

On the positive side you have to give them E for effort. The Premier flew to Washington D.C. last June to have a meeting with his friend American V.P. Dick Cheney. This yielded nothing but he tried. Back in Alberta, Agriculture Minister Shirley McLennan put together a financial aid package for the industry that cost Alberta tax payers $400 million. Unfortunately, most of the money appears to have ended up as bottom line profits for a few American meat packers as producers were given incentives to sell their animals low yet the Alberta consumer saw very little drop in the cost of beef at the retail level. However, throwing money at the problem at least showed they were trying to help. So again, E for effort.

Unfortunately, where it counts, the government has failed. The US border is still closed and new markets have not opened up. The Premier should take a personal responsibility for a good part of this. His now famous “Shoot, shovel and shut up” speech has resulted in permanent damage on two fronts. On the home front, beef producers seem to have taken the premier’s advice to heart as 33% fewer heads have been sent to the provincial lab for BSE analysis compared to last year, according to Dr. Gerald Ollis, the province's chief veterinarian. This problem is not going to go away by trying to hide it. On the trading partner front, it is hard to imagine the Americans and Japanese having much confidence in Alberta beef when the Premier advocates burying the problem and the producers appear to comply. It is a strategy that might have worked but Mr. Klein forgot about the “shut up” part. No matter how much the Premier talks about how science is on his side, and it is, customers for Alberta beef will never quite trust Alberta beef the way they did before the Premier spoke those infamous words.

Rural voters, traditional supporters of the Tory government, will have to decide in the next election if they are willing to give their votes to a party that tries, but doesn’t have the business and marketing sense to deliver.

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