|Bill Massey - author of, "Of Pork & Potatoes - a memoir"|
Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this hearing. My name is Bill Massey and I have led a group called the Concerned Citizens of Grosse Isle in our struggle with a hog barn in our community. I have written a book called Of Pork & Potatoes that chronicles the events of the past 15 years in our community. I’ve been asked to speak by members of your municipality and I’m hoping my remarks will be helpful.
I want to begin by describing the issue of odour that our community experienced. People have been unable to enjoy their properties or care for their yards because of the smell. Some of them had even confined themselves to their homes. Others had disconnected fresh air intakes on air conditioning units to attempt to minimize the odor. People without air conditioning and with young children are particularly hard hit. We realized what we were up against on one very cold day putting up Christmas lights on the outside of the house, the light southwest wind carrying the smell from the barn. It was extreme, to say the least, and felt acidic in your nose and throat. We were driven indoors and had to wait until the wind shifted the next day before we could finish putting up our lights.
When it comes to smell you will be told by the provincial government that it’s your responsibility and yours alone. People will come to you and expect you to do something about this problem. Those people are your friends, neighbours and constituents. The government will be of no help to you because unfortunately they have given up their role as a regulator of the industry and are simply an enabler. It got to the extent with our committee that the provincial government actually urged the municipal government to ignore their own bylaws and allow the producer to have more hogs in their operation than was permitted under the Planning Act. You can imagine the difficulty that that created for a council facing a number of angry people demanding answers. When I confronted the provincial government on this behavior they backed down somewhat but that was no help to the council and for our group, the damage was done. You can read the exchange of letters between our group and the provincial government on this matter on my blog, billmassey.ca.
I just heard a news item in the media that stated that morale among staff in Conservation was very low and the government was having trouble filling positions. That does not surprise me in the least. It is common knowledge that former conservation officers have suggested that their role in the department was to help the producer find their way around the regulations. There have been a number of conservation people who have gone over to the hog industry and the pork council over the years, the former head of the Pork Council being one of them. I would seriously question the validity of the technical review and get an outside opinion if I were you. Just recently at Landmark Manitoba, the technical review gave the green light to a development ½ mile outside the community! Landmark is a town as big or bigger than Gladstone. How can that be valid in anyone’s mind?
I want to talk about the social costs of a development like the one you are considering. This developer is not from the community. They have no allegiance to the people who live there. Its one thing when the producer is a local person and has relationships with the people living around the barn, but when that is not part of the process, it becomes much more difficult for the community to deal with this problem. These corporations usually offer minimum wage and local people usually won’t work in these unhealthy situations. We know of situations in the province where workers are brought in from third world countries to work in these barns. I feel these people, because of their circumstances, are being taken advantage of and that does not sit well with me or anyone concerned about human rights.
In our community there were people who supported the idea of a hog barn and there were those of us against it. This causes serious conflicts among local people. This has been a problem in most communities where hog barns have been built. It got to a point in one community, where children of people opposed to the barn were being bullied at school. Some people were forced to sell out because they could not stand to live in the shadow of the barn. When it comes to selling, we know that if you’re anywhere close to a hog barn your property values may fall as much as 50%.
I grew up on a small farm near Kelwood, Manitoba in a friendly and helpful community. As neighbours we looked out for each other and tried to help out where we could. I do the same today and that is one of the reasons why I took on the leadership of my group to try to maintain that care and concern for my neighbours. We’re used to that attitude and we’re not used to a corporate factory farm entity that comes into our community and creates all of this conflict and unhappiness. This is a foreign consortium proposing this development. The profits will go to another country while we’re left with the conflict, the pollution and the smell.
This government passed changes to the planning act called Bill 19. In that bill they gave a government appointed body, the Municipal Board, the power to overturn municipal decisions. This is an assault on Democracy in this province. Don’t let that influence you in saying no to this development. This government and any who follow need to understand that we do not want this industry as it’s structured now, in our communities. Do the right thing and turn down this application.