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This article was published 4/5/2015 (1656 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Food and floods. Two issues close to the hearts of Westman’s business community are among the subjects that the province’s chambers of commerce have opted to pursue with the province.
Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Todd Birkhan asserts that the hog industry is being made the "scapegoat" for pollution and government policies are based on political rhetoric and not science.
"This is not a pitting the environment versus economy at all," said Birkhan said. "This is entirely going back to what is economically and environmentally sustainable ... not political, basically, rhetoric."
Brandon played host to the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce annual general meeting over the weekend for the first time in more than a decade.
Held Friday through Sunday, it drew members from chambers of commerce across the province. It was a chance to shape the issues that the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce will pursue with the provincial government.
"You’ve given us a lot of things to move forward on," said Cory Kolt, director of policy and communications for the organization, said as the meeting at the Victoria Inn wrapped up on Sunday.
Delegates passed more than a dozen resolutions that had the potential to impact billions of dollars in financial activity.
Among them was one brought forth by the Brandon Chamber of Commerce that urges the province to help the food processing industry, including pork producers.
It called for the establishment of a task force to examine the needs of the province’s food processing businesses and make changes to expand the food processing sector.
Specifically, the resolution referred to an impasse between hog producers and the province over restrictions on the building of new barns over environment concerns expressed by the government.
Birkhan said environmental concerns have the potential to become a discussion based on politics rather than facts.
"The resolution deals with, effectively, just having the provincial government come to the table and develop scientific, fact-based solutions and not allow political rhetoric to get in the way," Birkhan said.
The reduced hog supply has forced Maple Leaf Foods in Brandon to shrink its workforce and may force its closure, the policy resolution states.
Meanwhile, a drop in the sale of french fries and increased competition from U.S. plants could hurt the potato industry.
Brandon also supported a resolution that calls on the province to improve flood prevention.
The resolution asks for improved flood controls, communication, transportation, compensation and inter-provincial and international strategy.
But it also urges the province to enter talks with the federal government to refocus disaster assistance funds to prevention rather than repair and replacement of damage.
Other resolutions urged Manitoba’s premier and minister of finance to commit to balancing the budget by 2016, and for the province to cut taxes.
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