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Edmonton Sun blasts Ralphs BSE Program

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Hog-tied by BSE


Ralph Klein got back into the BSE business yesterday. But he took the standard Tory way out, instead of finally trying to get to the bottom of what his deceptive agriculture department and its deeply flawed animal-health program is really up to. And he threw out more money in hopes that mad cow madness will finally go away.

When you're sitting on a $5-billion - maybe more - surplus, money is no object. Good political and practical sense is another question.

Yesterday was the day the cattle trucks were going to roll. The United States Department of Agriculture's final ruling was supposed to take effect.

But U.S. District Judge Rick Cebull rained on Ralph's cattle stampede last week. A significant vote in the United States senate a day later - where 52 out of 96 Senators in chamber gave President George W. Bush's border-opening plans the thumbs down - made Klein's plan to make mad cow a fleeting memory even more remote.

"If, God forbid, additional mad cow cases come from Canada and that awful disease spreads in America," hammered the bill's sponsor, South Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad, "the consequences to this country would be enormous."

The he turned his protectionist gun on the Alberta government - whose dreadful political gamble to give priority to elk testing led to the credibility problem that exists to this day, after the first BSE animal's head laid in a provincial government fridge for three months.

"Anyone who is betting that Canada is enforcing their own regulations is making a bet that I do not think stands much scrutiny," Conrad spat.

Little wonder Klein put another $37 million on the legislature table yesterday. He hadn't got around to the growing problem of hogs.

The premier came up with the new bucks on top of the $634 million that the recent third-quarter budget update revealed has already been doled out for "BSE-related costs."

"Recent events mean industry and governments have to work that much harder on U.S. and foreign markets," he said.

Then he announced $30 million for an Alberta beef sales pitch to countries like Japan and South Korea.

If Klein thinks he has a trade war now, wait until news spreads south of the Medicine Line of his plan to hijack the big Japanese and Korean markets - which have caused American beef producers to lose more than $1 billion since an Alberta BSE-infested cow was discovered in Washington State last Christmas.

Cebull clearly understands.

"Discovery of BSE in Canadian cows has already caused Japan and Korea to demand that any exports to those countries be free of beef originating in Canada," wrote the Montana-based judge in his explosive judgment ordering a halt to the border opening. What planet is Ralph living on?

He also ruled that lack of due diligence by US authorities "subjects the entire U.S. beef industry to potentially catastrophic damages. And presents a genuine risk of death for U.S. consumers," Cebull went on.

"The discovery of four animals raised in Alberta stricken with BSE during the past year and a half is inconsistent with the USDA's assertion that the BSE incidence rate in Canada is very low or minimal," he added. "This causes a potentially catastrophic risk of danger to the beef consumers in the U.S."

He ruled that the USDA's attempt to open the border was "arbitrary and capricious."

It looks like Ralph's $30-million trade junket for cattle-industry fat cats isn't going to solve anything.

And now Canadian hog producers are before the United States International Trade Commission later today arguing why anti-dumping charges of 10.63% and higher shouldn't be levelled at our taxpayer-torqued hogs.

"Our objective is very simple," stormed U.S. National Hog Producers Association past president Jon Caspers. "We want the Canadian government to get out of the hog and pork market."

It never rains, but it pours on Ralph's parade.

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