No need for hog industry bailout

There’s no question that the reputation of the Canadian hog industry has been damaged by an outbreak of swine flu on a Central Alberta pig farm and concerns about H1N1 in general.

There’s no question that the reputation of the Canadian hog industry has been damaged by an outbreak of swine flu on a Central Alberta pig farm and concerns about H1N1 in general.

The Chinese government — a big player in international food circles — no longer wants to import pork from this part of the world, for the moment at least.

And that’s fair enough.

China doesn’t have to import our pig meat and we don’t have to buy cheap plastic toys produced in the Orient.

As well, although pork still appears to be safe to eat — consumers have the right to buy chicken, beef or lobster instead, if they choose.

That should be the end of the story, but it won’t be.

Soon, no doubt, we’ll hear the Canadian pork industry demanding a government bailout — similar to the one provided to the beef industry after the outbreak of mad cow disease.

Before anyone else mentions it — yes, the beef bailout probably benefited packing plants, like Cargill at High River and Lakeland at Brooks, more than Alberta cattle producers. But it cost taxpayers a bunch of money, all the same.

And do you remember anyone saying thank you to taxpayers for the money? Probably not!

Politicians are trying to help the pork industry by demonstrating that they still consider pork safe to eat.

For instance, Manitoba Premier Gary Doer recently donned an apron and helped serve pork on a bun to a crowd.

In Ottawa, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz served pork on Parliament Hill in a scene that was eerily reminiscent of the media stunt in which British Minister of Agriculture John Gummer appeared on television eating hamburgers with his four-year-old daughter just as the mad cow crisis was gaining momentum in Europe.

It eventually came out that mad cow disease is indeed a threat to human health, although Gummer foolishly told the general public there was absolutely nothing to worry about.

As previously mentioned, pork appears to be safe to eat, but consumers have the right to buy whatever kind of meat they want and so far, at least, there is no need for governments to bail out pork producers.

As one visitor to CBC’s website noted recently, after the leader of P.E.I.’s New Democrats suggested provincial and federal governments buy lobster to shore up the price of seafood: “If I had a shoe store and nobody bought my shoes, I wouldn’t be asking the government to buy my damn shoes!”

We don’t need yet another taxpayer-funded bailout.

Instead, Albertans, and other Canadians, could use some tax relief.

But that’s not on the horizon, is it?

Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.

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