Question Period (27 May 2005)

Question Period

From Hansard - 27 May 2005

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Worldwide Pork Ceases Operation
Mr. Stewart: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Agriculture admitted that his government knew Worldwide Pork was in financial trouble. So he took steps to protect his investments while leaving hog producers and others out to dry. The ministers knew Worldwide Pork was having money problems, but did he warn producers? No. He let them keep shipping hogs to Worldwide Pork knowing full well they may never be paid. This is absolutely despicable, immoral behaviour.

Mr. Speaker, many of these producers simply cannot afford those kind of losses. But the NDP doesnt care. Mr. Speaker, why didnt the minister warn hog producers that Worldwide Pork was running out of money and they might never be paid?

Hon. Mr. Wartman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Once again the opposition Conservatives do not have the facts. They are not stating the facts, Mr. Speaker. And I would like to clarify that we were much appreciative of the fact that the producers talked to us about the risks that were apparent in Worldwide Pork and in their operations. That in fact, the producers group actually spoke to their producers as well as to us saying, you know this is a bit of a risky investment here. But the producers who were receiving a premium price decided that they would take the risk and continue to deliver to Worldwide Pork. And it wasnt until very recently when the extension of that time when they were not being paid was too much for them that they decided not to ship there. Now the owner of Worldwide Pork is seeking to restructure the relationship with them and to try and make this operation go. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Stewart: Mr. Speaker, this is just typical of the NDP. They blame producers and they look after themselves. But they have no concern for Saskatchewan hog producers who stand to lose millions of dollars.

The Saskatchewan Party has obtained a copy of Worldwide Porks restructuring proposal. Frankly its a joke. They are asking hog producers to keep delivering hogs, but Worldwide Pork has no intention of paying its outstanding bills for at least six months.

Mr. Speaker, why on earth would hog producers keep delivering to Worldwide Pork on a shaky promise that they might get paid in six months?

Hon. Mr. Wartman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A couple of things that I think . . . again facts that are important to note amongst the distortions that are being offered from the other side.

The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that when prices were low this government was there for pork producers. We provided support that enabled them to continue. In this particular case, Mr. Speaker, where everybody involved knew that there were risks, the premium that was being paid by Worldwide Pork was enough to attract people to take those risks. They took those risks until such time as they became aware that it was more than what they were willing to bear and so they have curtailed their relationship for now, Mr. Speaker.

But I know that if there is a possibility, the owner will try and restructure that relationship. And when he talked about doing it for over a six-month period, he talked again about a premium that would be going to producers in the plan to pay them back fully, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

Mr. Stewart: The facts are, Mr. Speaker, that producers continue to deliver to Worldwide Pork until they havent been paid for some time. And Worldwide Pork stopped paying hog producers several weeks ago. Now they are demanding that producers continue to deliver 750 hogs a day but theyll only be partially paid for those hogs and none of the outstanding bills will be paid for six months. Thats the restructuring proposal.

Mr. Speaker, this Minister of Agriculture has an obligation to provide leadership. So what will he tell producers? Does he believe that hog producers should accept this proposal?

Hon. Mr. Wartman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think this government has taken very clear stands to protect taxpayers money in this situation. Mr. Speaker, we have also worked with the producers and provided supports for them through these past years. And, Mr. Speaker, these are private businesses and we respect the right of those individuals to make decisions about where they will market and when they will market. And we respect the owner of this business, as a private business, to also make decisions about how he will move forward and how he will relate to those producers who are vital to his business, Mr. Speaker.

I can hardly believe that members opposite, those Conservatives, would want us to interfere further in private business. Its unbelievable.

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