Chamber president concerned about food, bicycles

Food and bicycles were on Mike Axworthy’s mind when he travelled to Grande Prairie last week for the Alberta Chambers of Commerce conference and policy session.

Food and bicycles were on Mike Axworthy’s mind when he travelled to Grande Prairie last week for the Alberta Chambers of Commerce conference and policy session.

The president of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce led a local delegation that presented two resolutions at the annual gathering: one seeking government action against country of origin labelling requirements in the United States, and the other urging the province to consider cyclists and pedestrians when developing highways in urban areas.

The local Chamber also cosponsored four policy resolutions that originated with other chambers of commerce.

The preamble to the resolution about country of origin labelling, or COOL, described the new requirements as protectionist and inconsistent with trade rules. It said COOL will add costs to the food supply chain, does not address safety issues and is not being applied uniformly.

The resolution urges the provincial and federal governments to promote international food safety standards, and support trade action by the Canadian beef and pork industries against the protectionist aspects of COOL.

By requiring American processors and retailers to indicate the source of their products on labelling, COOL will force them to segregate inputs like Canadian beef and pork, said Axworthy. That will increase their costs.

“What’s going to happen is they’re going to say, ‘We’re going straight with American.’

“It effectively works out to be protectionism.”

Axworthy said the Red Deer Chamber’s resolution seeks to promote food safety through a well-run system. U.S. consumers don’t care if products originated in Canada, he added.

“They just want to know it’s being tracked and that food safety is being looked after.”

In the case of its transportation resolution, the Red Deer Chamber noted the growing popularity of a “complete streets” philosophy that recognizes the needs of cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders. It asked the Alberta government to adopt this philosophy when planning and engineering highways in urban areas.

Currently, said Axworthy, Alberta Transportation does not consider alternate modes of transportation when planning roads.

“Their mandate really is to build the highways to move vehicles — period.”

The Chamber would like this focus broadened to include other transportation needs, at least in urban areas, he said.

“We feel that more and more people are going to be looking toward alternative ways of transportation,” said Axworthy.

Both resolution were adopted at the provincial policy session.

Resolutions from other chambers that the Red Deer Chamber cosponsored related to policies concerning the removal of specified risk materials from farms, the provincial land-use framework, reduction of corporate tax rates on investment income and transfer of severance payments to RRSPs. All four passed.

The Alberta Chambers of Commerce conference and policy session attracted representatives from 35 Alberta chambers, with 24 policies approved for addition to the organization’s policy book.

These will now become the subject of lobbying efforts, said Axworthy.

“The Alberta Chambers of Commerce actually sets up meetings with the appropriate ministers and goes through these policies with them.”

The Red Deer Chamber will likely present its COOL resolution at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting in October, said Axworthy.

In addition to Axworthy, Red Deer Chamber representatives at the Grande Prairie meeting included incoming president Domenico Mancuso, executive director Tim Creedon, policy manager Danielle Klooster and policy committee member Gord Tulk.

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