Canada’s Western Premiers’ Conference 2003


KELOWNA, British Columbia

June 9, 2003

BSE is an extraordinary situation which requires an extraordinary national response. Premiers agreed that the current disaster situation requires immediate bridging support to stabilize the marketing and slaughtering of cattle. Premiers agreed to urgently pursue with the federal government a new Canada Temporary Slaughter Cattle Disaster Assistance Program.

Canada has been and will continue to be a supplier of high quality, safe beef and food into the world marketplace. After exhaustive and thorough testing of possible infected animals, only one infected cow has been identified in Canada. It did not enter the food chain.

Premiers noted that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency deserves to be commended for its handling of the situation and for keeping provinces, territories and the industry involved and updated. We remain confident in our beef and cattle industry.

Premiers agreed that the new assistance program is designed to deal with the economic hardships facing the fed cattle industry and should be discussed immediately with the federal government. Premiers are inviting Prime Minister Chretien to participate in a discussion of the western Canadian proposal in a teleconference call tomorrow morning.

Premiers have also directed their Agriculture Ministers to discuss the program with the federal Minister of Agriculture tomorrow. If necessary, Premiers called on federal/provincial/territorial Ministers of Agriculture to meet before the end of the week to further discuss the implementation of the program. Premiers stressed that a comprehensive program to provide equity and cash flow to the industry must be in place within the next few days.

The program has been developed in consultation with the cattle industry. Under the program, industry would absorb 10 percent of its losses on all fed cattle going to slaughter. The remaining compensation costs would be shared 90 percent federal and 10 percent provincial. The program is designed as a temporary measure, until August 31, 2003, or the earlier restoration of the cattle industry with the reopening of the US border. The total cost of the program is estimated at up to $400 million nationally.

Premiers stressed that federal support is necessary and must be equitable. Premiers also called on Ottawa to ensure that those employed in the beef industry are treated fairly in terms of access to Employment Insurance benefits.

In addition, the federal government must immediately take all measures to ensure the reopening of international markets as soon as possible based on solid science. Premiers are committed to taking actions that will assist the federal government in opening export markets including markets for caribou and musk ox products that have been included in the recent border closure. Premiers also recognize that the ban on all ruminants is having a significant impact on the wild meat processing and hunting industries in the three territories.

The federal government must take the lead in demonstrating to our export trading partners that Canada remains committed to the highest standards in food safety. The federal government must continue to stand behind the Canadian cattle industry until this issue is resolved and export markets reopen.

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