The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is getting an extra $100 million to improve food inspection capacity over the next five years.
But the union president representing CFIA employees says the agency’s 2011-12 budget is also being cut by $30 million.
The $100 million initiative will enable Canada’s federal government to implement all the remaining recommendations of the Weatherill Report, the independent inquiry into the 2008 Listeria outbreak that killed 22 mostly elderly Canadians.
The extra money will go for more inspector training, stepped up scientific capacity, and putting more technology in the hands of front-line inspectors.
But Bob Kingston, president of Canada’s Agriculture Union, insists Canadians are still at risk of exposure to contaminated meat because of the budgeting decisions coming out of the Conservative government in Ottawa.
Before taking over the union, Kingston was an Inspection Supervisor for the CFIA in Burnaby, BC. He’s been a union activist since the mid-1980s, holding several local, regional and national offices.
Kingston claims there is a $30 million shortfall in the federal government’s 2011-12 budget for CFIA with total spending earmarks of $288.1 million, but with revenue projected at only $258 million.
Kingston called CFIA budgeting “a crapshoot.”
Inspections are not the only part of Canada’s meat system that is getting financial help. As part of a $60 million Slaughter Improvement Program, Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz Friday announced that $2.8 million was going to Plains Processors to upgrade the meat processing facility.
Ritz said the award was part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, and was intended to open new markets for Manitoba livestock producers.
Funding from the program will be used by Plains Processors to upgrade the existing provincially inspected facility to federal standards in order to expand market access. The project will provide cattle producers in Manitoba and the surrounding areas with access to a federally inspected red meat processing facility.
It is called a “federal repayable contribution.”