Letter to the Editor
May 3, 2018 01:57 PM
Rural people could wake up one morning to find a factory hog barn next door, and there will be nothing they can say or do about it if the hog industry gets its way and the Pallister government passes Bill 19, The Planning Amendment Act.
Bill 19 gives local councils and planning districts the “choice” to get rid of the mandatory conditional use approval process for large livestock operations, along with all the legal protections the public currently has. In so choosing, municipalities give away the ability to set conditions such as requiring manure storage covers and shelterbelts to attempt to control odour and require development agreements to make the hog factory pay for road building and maintenance, instead of taxpayers.
All municipalities will have to review their zoning by-laws and decide within one year if they want to control large factory hog and poultry operations, cattle and sheep feedlots on behalf of the people they are supposed to protect from harm or open the municipality to uncontrolled and unlimited livestock growth. Bill 19 changes the rules so that 25 people have to make formal objections to get a Municipal Board review. Immigrants and permanent residents are disqualified from participating. Imagine not being able to say anything about decisions that could harm your investment in a home, farm and community.
Livestock operations would merely have to get a Provincial manure storage permit and water rights licence to get building. These processes are secret and “business information” is private, protected by law. So, nobody will be able to find out if provincial officials and industry are doing things right. Last fall, many rules were weakened. For example, almost all of the oversight of the construction of manure storages was given to the engineers building them in the name of “red tape reduction”. Provincial regulators allowed manure storages to be built in high water tables, flood plains, marsh and ground water sensitive areas. This practice will get worse.
The last “line of defense” for rural people against inadequate and weakened provincial regulations are local councils who put the interest of their constituents first. Those who truly care about what happens to people’s health, quality of life and homes, non-industrial farmers livelihoods, animal welfare and our air, water and environmental health.
Why is this Bill before the legislature? Because a 2017 internal advisory brief to cabinet identified “public conflict” and “public pressure” as impediments to the hog industry getting what it wants – 285 more pig factories so that Maple Leaf and HyLife Foods can increase their profits by exporting 95 per cent of Manitoba produced pork while leaving rural people to suffer the consequences.
Why would any intelligent farmer want to invest in an industry where hog finisher producers lost money in eight out of the past nine years? Manitoba Pork Council’s numbers, not mine.
Councils and rural people must raise their voices now, loud and clear against Bill 19 before it’s too late.