House Questions Colwell On Turkey Fiasco: November 4, 2014

AGRIC.: TURKEY BD. – CHANGES

MS. KARLA MACFARLANE: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the

Minister of Agriculture. Last Friday during Question Period, in response to questions

regarding the unfair treatment of rural Nova Scotians who want to raise their own turkeys,

the minister responded by saying, “. . . the Turkey Board has the authority to shut down

operations that aren’t approved by either federal inspection or provincial inspection.” He

went on to add, “We are presently working with the Turkey Board to make some changes

in the process.” I’ll table those statements.

TUE., NOV. 4, 2014 ASSEMBLY DEBATES 1889

Will the minister elaborate today on those changes that will assist rural Nova Scotia

turkey farmers from being run out of business by the Turkey Marketing Board and the

Government of Nova Scotia?

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, this indeed is a very important topic for

our government, as we move forward with food safety in our province, and this is a food

safety issue as identified by the Turkey Board. We are definitely working with the Turkey

Board to see if we can put facilities in place and also with processors in the province to see

if we can put some facilities in place to ensure that all the processors can do this in a safe

manner and a properly inspected manner.

MS. MACFARLANE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his answer. The

government has essentially handed significant control over to industry panels such as the

Turkey Marketing Board. They have wide powers to generate their own regulations. These

can be overturned by the government, however, through the Governor in Council. The

minister could regain control of this whole fiasco around small turkey farmers and

processors by taking charge and using these powers provided to him under the Natural

Products Act. Will he today commit to rural Nova Scotians to use Section 17 of the Natural

Products Act along with some good old-fashioned common sense to exempt small

processors from the one-size-fits-all approach of the Turkey Marketing Board?

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, thank you again for this very important question. It

all goes back to food safety. We have to ensure we have food safety in all the products we

eat in Nova Scotia, and part of my portfolio is making sure we have food safety.

For instance, anyone who is involved in a church supper or anything like that, you

have to have one individual who has had a training course around food safety, and indeed

as we move forward to resolve this problem that has been identified, we will have food

safety as a number-one priority. We also understand the needs of the small farmers in the

Province of Nova Scotia and we are going to try to blend the two of them together to get a

solution to this problem.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

AGRIC. – TURKEY PRODUCERS: FOOD SAFETY – DETAILS

MR. JOHN LOHR: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of

Agriculture. The minister continues to use the Turkey Board’s line and that is not

acceptable to thousands of Nova Scotians or this House. Last week, also in response to one

of our questions on unfairness of treating small turkey producers the same as large

producers, the minister responded, “This is about food safety. This is about a court case.

Indeed they tested this in the past and did go through court, it was appealed and the people

and the Turkey Board did win the case both times.” I will table that comment.

1890 ASSEMBLY DEBATES TUE., NOV. 4, 2014

My question for the minister is, can the minister identify which part of that case was

regarding food safety or anything to do with the slaughtering of turkeys?

HON. KEITH COLWELL: This court case – and I don’t have the information with

me today, but I will table the information on that court case – was in 2002 and it was a

processor that was not inspected, if I recall properly, that said, we should be able to process

these turkeys without being licensed by the Turkey Board and indeed the Turkey Board did

win that case and on appeal, they won the appeal.

MR. LOHR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and the minister for that answer. The case

the minister refers to actually began in 2002 and was finally settled in 2009 and had

nothing to do with the slaughtering of turkeys. What it really tested was the sweeping

powers of the Turkey Board. I will table that. The farmers in question were initially fined

for unspecified infractions without a hearing, the Turkey Board then threatened to withhold

the licences until their files were placed in good standing – files, not food safety.

My question is, why did the minister suggest that the 2002 and 2009 appeals

involving the Turkey Marketing Board were matters of food safety?

MR. COLWELL: Indeed, everything we do in the province around processing any

kind of meat product is around food safety and we have to continue monitoring food safety

to make sure that we don’t have any catastrophic problem happening, someone getting

very ill or indeed somebody dying because of improper handling or processing of any kind

of product in the province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

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