Western Feedlots Closure the Last Straw for NDP

Submitted by by Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt, Highwood MLA Wayne Anderson, Little Bow MLA Dave Schneider and Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman

Last week, we learned that Western Feedlots would be closing its Alberta operations.

There is no way to sugar coat it; this is bad news.

The closure of Western Feedlots will not only impact people directly employed there, but ranchers who do businesses there and hundreds of businesses indirectly supported by the economic activity that it generates.

Western Feedlots President and CEO Dave Plett said that while the cattle industry faces challenging market conditions, NDP policy decisions like Bill 6 and the carbon tax are making the business unprofitable, calling it a “poor political and economic environment.”

In response to reporters’ questions, Plett said, “Alberta used to have the Alberta Advantage … of late, a number of moves have made it much more difficult to do business in Alberta as opposed to other jurisdictions.”

There it is, in black and white for the politicians to see. Our actions as politicians have the very real ability to hurt businesses; and hurting businesses will hurt everyday workers as their employers become less profitable.

This reality should not take a master’s degree in economics to understand, yet it is seemingly lost upon the NDP government in its policy making process.

Wildrose has worked hard to explain this to the NDP government and to help them understand this reality; but they just don’t get it.

Unquestioning adherence to their ideology has blinded the NDP government to the fact that while government can do little to directly improve the economy, it has a great capacity to harm it. This is as true in the agriculture industry as it is in oil and gas.

The instability created by the threat that new taxes, royalties and regulations can be imposed at any time does real harm to investment. Businesses need to be able to plan for the long term, and governments impervious to even basic economics make that very difficult.

Surely, we can agree that the NDP have good intentions in what they are doing, but the road to economic ruin is paved with good intentions.

Rhetoric about sticking it to business to help workers may make for good campaign commercials, but it will only hurt the workers we are trying to help.

Businesses must be profitable, and if they are not, they will either adjust their behaviour to become so or cease operations. In short, unprofitability rolls downhill.

Again, these are basic economic realities that most people understand, but our government seemingly fails — or refuses to. If they don’t get it now, I fear that they never will. This should be the last straw.

Through all of this, there was one bright spot in the statement of Western Feedlots:

“Should circumstances change going forward, there may be opportunities to do something to activate it (again) — but that’s not the case at this time.”

Western Feedlots is not permanently closing its operations and selling off its assets. It is mothballing its operations during a “poor political and economic environment.”

This means there is some hope yet that Western Feedlots could reopen if we can make Alberta open for business once again. I suspect they would not be the only ones.

Albertans have been through “poor political and economic environments” before, but seldom this poor.

Our strength as families, neighbours and communities is needed to carry those who lose their jobs through this. Our government needs to listen to reason and evidence in its decision making. The Wildrose Official Opposition will do our best to see that they do.

Derek Fildebrandt is the Wildrose MLA for Strathmore-Brooks, Wayne Anderson is the Wildrose MLA for Highwood, Dave Schneider is the Wildrose MLA for Little Bow and Rick Strankman is the Wildrose MLA for Drumheller-Stettler.