All over Alberta, the powerful are washing their hands of XL Foods.
Hand-washing is probably wise in the slaughterhouse business. Politically, it doesn’t hurt either.
The PC government insists with unusual clarity that no provincial money is involved in the operational takeover of XL’s Brooks plant by JBS, the Brazilian-controlled giant.
“No, absolutely not,” says Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson’s press aide, Cathy Housedorff.
“There have been no talks about financial support, and no requests for it. No one has approached Minister Olsen for any funding.”
She said that applies to loan guarantees or incentives of any kind to put the rescue deal together.
Premier Alison Redford had a one word answer — “No” — when asked the same thing during a media scrum in Lethbridge.
Housedorff also said the province was surprised by the announcement of XL’s deal with JBS to operate the slaughterhouse, with an option to buy later, maybe.
“It was news to us. I don’t know if the federal government knew or not.
“Our No. 1 priority has always been to certify the plant, get the workers back on the job, and get product moving through the plant and safe products out on the shelves again.”
There’s talk in the industry that XL might have tried for help from Ottawa. This is denied too, but it wasn’t going to happen in any case. The optics of public money being used to restart this operation would be dreadful.
According to Olson, nobody is to blame, no responsibility will be sought, no zeros will be given for a situation that has thrown an entire industry into crisis.
“We’re not looking to point the finger at anybody who’s at fault here,” the minister said in Medicine Hat.
“We’re not looking for a public flogging. We just want the plant open, producing safe food.”
Redford also repeated her earlier rejection of a public inquiry into the beef imbroglio.
“I just don’t believe we always have to have a public inquiry in order to address difficult situations,” she said.
This delicacy may be prompted, at least in part, by the new political reality in southern cattle country.
Wildrose MLAs own a good many of the ridings. Ranchers tend to like Danielle Smith, the party leader who slopped out a barn for a TV show on politicians auditioning for real jobs.
Maybe that’s why the PCs are being careful not to offend anybody — ranchers, feedlot operators, slaughterhouse magnates, or even the federal regulators. Olson seems confident the plant will reopen quite soon, probably in stages, under JBS management.
As the minister said, that would be very good news for the industry, the town of Brooks and the laid-off workers.
But the trouble may not be over yet...
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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