Progressive Conservative Ag Critic Cliff Graydon says the N.D.P. party has set back the province's beef processing industry years, if not decades. Last week, the Federal government announced it had reallocated 10 million dollars for Keystone Processors' Beef Plant in Winnipeg, and moved it to a hog processing facility in Neepawa.
Graydon feels the N.D.P. is making a huge mistake blaming Ottawa for the situation, adding it's the province that's been unable to fulfill its obligations. Graydon believes the N.D.P. should have been congratulating our M.P.'s in Ottawa for being able to find a way to keep that funding in Manitoba. Graydon admits he would like to have seen that money invested in the beef processing industry, but it was Manitoba Agriculture Minister Steve Ashton's mismanagement of the situation that led to that funding being removed. In comments made shortly after the reallocation was announced, Federal Ag Minister Gerry Ritz said the Keystone Processing plant failed ten separate business plan reviews.
According to Graydon, looking into the future, now more than ever the Manitoba Cattle Enhancement Council (MCEC) needs to invest the check-off dollars its collected into worthwhile cattle processing projects. He tells us the Council committed $7.5 million to the Keystone Processors project, and now they should take that money and invest it in some of the beef processing projects underway in our province. Graydon says we need a federally inspected beef slaughtering plant in Manitoba so we can grow the cattle industry back to where it belongs. Graydon is also calling on the MCEC to stop collecting the $2 per head check-off it collects. The check-off is levied on all cattle produced and sold in the province and is refundable.
Meanwhile, Graydon has a number of questions he wants answered about the Keystone Processors beef plant in Winnipeg. He says M.L.A.'s were told in committee about $3.9 million had been invested into the project. Graydon asks, what do cattle producers and taxpayers have to show for that $3.9 million? He feels Stan Struthers has to wear this, and the N.D.P. need to answer questions about where exactly is the $3.9 million in value. Graydon tells us it appears all Manitoba cattlemen have got out the deal is a business plan Federal Ag Minister Gerry Ritz says failed ten separate business plan reviews.