CFIA and payouts: A risky link

Nick Moase
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Aquaculture is a controversial topic in Canada right now, and the hot button issue is the fish infected with Infectious Salmon Anemia at the Coffin Island site in Queens County. 

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Those fish were allowed to grow to full term by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, due to the low risk of spread and under strict guidelines.

However if the CFIA orders fish destroyed at a site, the government has to give a payout to the company. It adds an unnecessary burden to the CFIA inspectors. Their decision can potentially cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

It would be rare to have an inspector actually put human health on the line. The listeriosis outbreak in Ontario was due more to cutbacks and inspectors not spending enough time in the plant, as opposed to letting something slide past.

Once you get past the black and white issue of if something is harmful to humans though, you end up with many shades of grey.

Science is a good guide to answer most of these questions, such as how much will it spread and what environmental consequences will there be. However with a payout added into the equation, it will weigh on the inspectors minds even if only subconsciously. It's just human nature.

Government and business relations are far from simple. If it was only taxes and regulations it would be fairly easy, but they do much more than that.

There is the promise of jobs, which looks good for politicians. Jobs mean growth and more taxes for the government to spend on services. Add in incentives the government gives to businesses, such as what was offered to the Bowater mill and Cooke Aquaculture, and things start to get fuzzy.

The intertwining of government and business, especially bigger business, is not new nor will it go away anytime soon. Without some incentive, it can be pretty easy for a company to pack up and find another province or country to set up shop. Just look at the troubles the high tax of Nova Scotia is causing for businesses to get a sense of what this means.

The problem comes when governments get just a little too close to business, in the name of boosting and industry. When they become too tied to an industry, such as the payout for a cull order at an aquaculture site, it creates a bigger chance a bad decision will be made.

If aquaculture is so viable, they should not have this link. All business has risks to some degree, and disease in livestock is one of them. If the chances are high a disease will break out, the method of farming should be called into question.

A payout from the government lessens the risk for a company, which makes staying in business more attractive. The benefits we see could be lower prices for that product and jobs for our community. But is that worth the cost?

Organizations: Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Bowater

Geographic location: Ontario, Nova Scotia

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