Friday, 19 October 2018

Mayor denies news report that a controversial Manitoba hog barn northwest of Brandon has been declared "legal." Newspaper rejects any suggestion of journalistic bias.

by Larry Powell
What the fuss is all about. A PinP photo.
The mayor of the RM of Yellowhead, Don Yanick is denying yesterday's headline story in the local newspaper, Crossroads This Week,  (see CTW story, below). It reads, "Hog Barn Found to be Legal." First of all, says Yanick, Council will not be declaring the operation "legal," even if an inspection clears the owner. (It will simply be allowed to proceed.) So, the bottom line is, the matter is still pending and will be discussed again at the next council meeting on Oct. 23rd.

The building in question is a "finisher barn," where mature hogs are prepared for market. It's located in the eastern part of the RM, near the Village of Strathclair. It became controversial when the citizens' group, Hogwatch Manitoba, brought a formal complaint in September to the Yellowhead council.

The complaint alleged the owner, Wim Verbruggen, had built a larger barn than stated in his original application for a building permit, bypassing several regulations and bylaws in the process. Ruth Pryzner of Hogwatch says there should have been a public hearing and provincial technical review. Neither was held. She also questioned whether proper procedures have been taken to ensure adequate manure storage and water management. She called on the RM to take punitive action, including possible closure.

But Yanick tells PinP, Verbruggen has since assured council the number of animals he intended to raise in a larger, approved building meets legal requirements. On the basis of that assurance, Yanick says it appears the owner "followed our rules" and that there was no need for a hearing. Nevertheless, he says council decided on Oct. 9th, to "definitely" find an "independent person" at taxpayers' expense and verify the actual number of pigs in the barns. At the time of this writing, however, that person has not yet been appointed.

Also, it may be tough to get that independent person into the barn, in the first place. Barn owners can invoke special "biosecurity" requirements, such as "showering in and showering out" to guard against the spread of disease. Whether the owner has the power to forbid entry altogether, is unclear. The Mayor believes the inspection could depend on whether Verbruggen even "allows us in."

Pryzner says regulation must determine the most number of animals that can be housed in the original barns (Verbruggen's "iso-wean" operations which have been there for years) and the addition now at the centre of the controversy. She adds, "If a disease outbreak occurred and all animals removed, the building capacity remains the same." The manure storage permit the province issued in 2001 for that original operation is proof that barn capacity must guide regulatory decision-making, not animals present at any given time. "Local governments are not supposed to be in the business of counting pigs," she added.

Despite the fact this whole issue is not yet resolved, the newspaper story describes the Hogwatch allegations as "unwarranted swipes against a family farming operation." The remark was not directly attributed to Verbruggen, but seemed to appear more as an editorial comment.  

Greg Nesbitt, MLA

Crossroads This Week was originally put out out by Nesbitt Publishing in 1977 by Greg Nesbitt, now the Conservative MLA for the area. Although a Google search still lists the politician as "publisher," 

his son, Ryan says that is incorrect. He says his father has not been publisher for years and that he (Ryan), now fulfills that role. A subsequent search lists Greg Nesbitt as "manager" of the company.

The majority Conservative Government, of which Greg Nesbitt is a member, has been pressing forward for well over a year now with an ambitious program to expand Manitoba's hog industry. It has done this through deregulation - doing away with rules designed to protect health and the environment - a process the government calls "red tape reduction."

In an e-mail to PinP, Ryan Nesbitt claims, his father no longer has anything to do with the paper's day-to-day operations and strongly rejects any suggestion of journalistic bias which this story may have raised. "We are just a small town newspaper trying to do its job," Nesbitt concludes.



"In Hogs We Trust."  
A critique of Manitoba’s “runaway” hog industry.

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