CALGARY — The Wildrose lost the popular vote in last spring's hard-fought provincial election but won the money contest against the ruling Progressive Conservative dynasty, new financial disclosure documents show.
In what is believed to be a first in the Tories' four-decade rule, the Conservatives spent $4.6 million but were beat handily when it came to election fundraising.
According to party documents submitted to Elections Alberta, Wildrose reported total election-time revenues of $3.1 million — nearly double the $1.6 million raised by the PCs.
Speaking to reporters in Edmonton, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said her party — which elected 17 MLAS compared with 61 Tories — raised more than the PCs because a lot of Albertans wanted to see the government challenged.
Wildrose was also the only party in the legislature to fully finance its election push with money raised during the campaign fundraising period, which went from March into June.
"We look at the party finances as being an indication to the public of how we would run government," Smith said.
"That will just indicate to Albertans who the true fiscally conservative party is."
But PC president Bill Smith said Tory donors were already exhausted from the party's gruelling leadership race in 2011, when more than $6.3 million was spent during the eight-month contest.
He said the party spent exactly what it had budgeted for during the election campaign, even if it dipped into its savings to the tune of $3 million to pay for the difference.
And Smith said there's still money in the bank.
"You always have to keep your eye to the competition, for sure," he said Wednesday. "My guys will be looking at how they were successful."
The documents show Premier Alison Redford's party spent $4.6 million, including $2.7 million on "communications" such as TV and radio ads, en route to winning the April 23 election.
It points to a changing dynamic in Alberta that should worry Redford's party, said Grant MacEwan University political scientist Chaldeans Mensah.
He noted that while Wildrose got thousands of Albertans to open their wallets, the PCs survived mainly on the strength of large, corporate donations.
"The Tories' loss of support from individual donors poses a serious risk for the party in terms of stable, long-term support required to maintain power," Mensah said.
"It's a warning that the party has a lot of work to do to maintain its relevance to its membership and strong linkage to the wider voting public."
The Wildrose party ran a less expensive campaign, spending just over $3 million and running a $29,000 surplus. The party didn't disclose a detailed list of where dollars went, but party officials say more information will come out during the party's annual general meeting next month.
The Wildrose also got a significant proportion of its money from individual donors who gave less than $375 — more than $1 million total, compared with $64,000 for the PCs — which they say shows "the true grassroots nature of the Wildrose."
"It means that our party isn't beholden to these types of special interests or backroom deals," party executive director Jonathon Wescott said.
But the two largest parties received significant contributions from the province's business giants. For instance, Cenovus Energy gave $25,000 to both the Wildrose and Conservatives, Prairie Merchant Corp. gave $30,000 to the Wildrose, and Northwest Upgrading Inc. gave $10,000 to the Tories.
The Redford Tories received a total of $150,000 from billionaire and Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, his family members and his company.
"Alberta has the most lax campaign finance rules in Canada," said Public Interest Alberta executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon.
He said major corporations and wealthy individuals provided most of the money for last April's election — meaning they set the political direction in a province that already has low energy royalty rates and a flat provincial tax.
"It's nothing against any individual or any individual companies," said Moore-Kilgannon. "But federally, corporations and unions are not even allowed to contribute to a political party."
In Alberta, donations from individuals, companies or unions are limited to $30,000 in an election year.
Smith's and Redford's parties left all other contenders in the dust, financially.
The Liberals, who won five seats, took in $112,427 in revenue — their largest donation was $10,000, also from Cenovus — and spent $150,667. But party president Todd Van Vliet said the party plans to have all its campaign bills paid by the end of the year.
The NDP, winner of four seats, raked in $517,165 and had $654,241 in expenses. The party doesn't take donations from corporations, but received its largest contributions from the Alberta Federation of Labour and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, at $15,000 each.
Brian Stokes, the NDP's provincial secretary, said the party debt now sits at about $360,000, but the party plans to pay it off within a couple of years, and then begin building for the next provincial election in 2016.
"We're very happy with the results and where we're sitting," Stokes said.
Edmonton Journal, Wedn Oct 25 2012
Byline: Kelly Cryderman
With files from Darcy Henton, Calgary Herald, and Keith Gerein, Edmonton Journal.email@example.com
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
A nurse's job is never done - and that means participating in politics and social activism, not just professional nursing - Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan told more than 700 participants at UNA's annual general meeting Thursday.
"In addition to all the important work you do in hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities, your union has been on the forefront of the defence of public health care in this province," McGowan said.
Canadian Federation of Nurses' Unions president Linda Silas warned nurses that they need to be part of the discussions about the future of the public health care system.
"Health care is facing a perfect storm because we have an increasing population, a rise of chronic disease and rising demand for public health. On the other hand you have shrinking funds from government," Silas told AGM delegates.
"We have to look beyond acute care and walk the talk about patient-centred and family-centred care," said Silas. "We need to improve primary health care and long-term care to save our health care system."
Both Silas and McGowan spoke about the need for nurses stand together to face attacks by right-wing politicians and lobby groups on working people and labour unions.
"In many ways this is the most significant fight that the labour movement has faced since at least the Second World War," said McGowan, referring to attacks on collective bargaining and pensions.
"Out of many workers, you have a pension that you can be proud of because you helped create it," McGowan said of the Local Authorities Pension Plan, which most Alberta nurses will be able to access upon retirement.
McGowan argued that right-wing politicians and lobby groups are looking to the Tea Party Republicans in the United States for their ideas to transform Canada. "This is something that has been rejected by Canadians and Albertans," said McGowan.
"We have an obligation to say no to the Tea Party agenda and stand up for the Canada we believe in," said McGowan.
UNA Convention Bulletin, Thurs Oct 25 2012
Conflict between B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford over the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to the West Coast is not in the long-range interests of either province and needs to be resolved.
In July, Ms. Clark laid down five conditions for considering support of the project, including a provision that B.C. must receive a "fair share" of the fiscal and economic benefits. Ms. Redford's response was immediate and negative and seemed to assume that B.C. was seeking a share of Alberta's oil royalties, even though this was not the case.
Since the Alberta Premier has been seeking to take the lead in developing a "national energy strategy," it's in her interests to take the initiative in negotiating a resolution to this dispute with British Columbia. Otherwise, the question rightly arises: "How can you lead the development of a national energy strategy -- which involves finding common ground on the energy front among 10 provincial governments, three territorial governments, the federal government and the private sector -- if you can't find common energy ground with your sister province of B.C.?"
In seeking to reconcile the interests of Alberta and B.C. on the energy front, there needs to be a renewed commitment on the part of both provinces to the spirit and the letter of the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) negotiated by Alberta's Ralph Klein and B.C.'s Gordon Campbell. Under this agreement, both provinces pledged to reduce and eliminate trade barriers between them rather than to increase them. Under Section 15(2), the two provinces agree to "promote enhanced inter-jurisdictional trade in energy," and Part IV details a formal dispute resolution procedure.
Since the original negotiation of TILMA in 2006, Saskatchewan has also become a party to this interprovincial free-trade agreement now called the New West Partnership. Since Premier Brad Wall is more experienced in government and energy matters than both Ms. Clark and Ms. Redford, would it not be worthwhile to invite him to play a mediating role?
Finally, in seeking to find common energy ground between Alberta and B.C., there might be merit in broadening the discussion to consider electricity generation. Electric utility experts have long argued that a greater integration of B.C.'s hydro generation with Alberta's thermal generation could significantly lower the electricity rates in both provinces and further strengthen export possibilities.
In addition, such a broadening of the energy discussion would require B.C. to take into account Alberta's concerns about the future development of another huge hydro dam proposed by B.C. Hydro for Site C on the Peace River. With respect to the Site C development, the positions of the provinces are somewhat the reverse of what they are with respect to the Gateway project. In the case of Site C, B.C. will benefit economically from the project and Alberta will suffer the negative downstream impact on the environment and aboriginal peoples.
Would B.C. be willing to grant Alberta a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits from Site C if Alberta would be willing to do likewise with respect to Gateway? Or if in B.C.'s estimation that the negative effects of Gateway on the environment and aboriginals are so serious as to justify not proceeding with the project, would B.C. accept a similar judgment from Alberta with respect to Site C?
Important considerations deserving of frank and open discussion, negotiation and mediation between two great provinces that stand to benefit much more from the reconciliation of their conflicting interests than they do from their perpetuation.
Huffington Post Canada, Thurs Oct 25 2012
It's been a sad week for workplace accidents in Alberta.
Five workers have died in as many days, in unrelated accidents.
The first accident happened Monday and involved a man who was on a scaffold, which rolled into a hole on a work site near Wainwright.
There were three deaths on Wednesday and a fifth on Friday, one involving a 19-year-old man who was killed after a ramp fell on him at a site near Conklin.
According to Gil McGowan, the President of the Federation of Labour, the government talks a good game in workplace safety but doesn't put their money where their mouth is.
"For years Alberta has had the second-highest rate of workplace fatalities in the country and we do have a very fast-paced labour market and economy," he said. "But even given that history, five deaths in one week is virtually unprecedented and for us in the labour movement, it really raises a red flag."
McGowan adds Alberta still has fewer workplace health and safety inspectors than virtually any other province per worker and is pushing for more since we have more workers in dangerous occupations than other provinces.
"We also have a government that is very, very reluctant to prosecute employers who break the rules and put their workers at risk," he said. "A lot of employers unfortunately think that there aren't that serious consequences for breaking the law when it comes to workplace safety and that needs to change."
No work will be completed on the sites as the deaths of the five workers are being investigated.
660 News, Sat Oct 20 2012
Byline: Megan Robinson and Chris Bowen
EDMONTON - Five people are dead in as many days after a spate of workplace accidents around the province this week.
Occupational Health and Safety spokesman Brookes Merritt said the incidents are not related but appear to be "a tragic coincidence."
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said the number of workplace deaths is deeply troubling.
"Five fatalities in a week, even in a face-paced economy like this, is almost unprecedented, and certainly unacceptable," he said. "It demonstrates there is still a lot of work to be done."
Merritt said the first fatality happened Monday and involved a 56-year-old man who was on a scaffold that rolled into a 1.2-metre hole on a work site near Wainwright. Merritt said the worker was ejected from the scaffold, hit his head during the fall and was taken to hospital by air ambulance. The man died on Thursday morning.
On Wednesday afternoon, a man fuelling a forklift at Mo Tires in Lethbridge was pinned between the vehicle and a shed. He was pronounced dead in hospital.
A third worker died about 10 a.m. Thursday after falling inside a chimney stack at the Battle River power plant southeast of Edmonton. He died at the scene.
Later that day, around 1:30 p.m., a 19-year-old man died after a ramp fell on him at the Blackgold oilfield site near Conklin.
A fifth worker was killed at about 4:45 a.m. Friday at a work site 25 kilometres south of Grande Prairie. In that case, a 29-year-old man died after being crushed between a piece of heavy machinery and a tank.
"Any time we see a fatality at the workplace it's tragic," Merritt said. "Investigating this number of fatalities in such a short period of time is equally tragic, if not more so."
Merritt said investigators are also looking into a case where three workers were injured at a site northwest of Edson on Thursday morning. The three were hit by a disconnected snubbing hose and were taken to hospital, one by air ambulance, with undisclosed injuries.
Stop-work orders have been issued at all of the sites, and investigators are looking into what happened in each case.
"Our Occupational Health and Safety investigators are determined to investigate each incident rigorously and ensure that the results of this investigations help us learn how to prevent similar incidents in the future," Merritt said.
McGowan said the deaths should be a "red waving flag" for government and industry, showing that the issue of workplace injury and death is still not being properly addressed.
He said the deaths underline a need to increase the number of workplace safety inspectors in the province, which he said still lags behind other provinces.
With about 20 per cent of the province's population working in high-risk industries such as construction and the oilfield — more than double the percentage in most other provinces — McGowan said Alberta should also have a greater than average number of inspectors.
"We hear a lot of rhetoric from the government and employers, but neither group seems to be putting its money where its mouth is," he said. "The death toll continues to mount."
Human Services Minister Dave Hancock was not available for comment on Friday.
There have been 103 work-related fatalities in Alberta this year; 37 workplace fatalities, 28 motor vehicle accidents, and 38 from occupational diseases. There were 43 deaths from workplace fatalities and 28 from motor vehicle accidents in 2011.
Merritt said there are currently 122 OHS investigators in the province, and there will be 132 by the beginning of 2013, an increase of 30 officers from 2009.
"The department is continuously looking at how best to use its resources to achieve its ultimate goal — to have no workplace injuries or fatalities in the province," he said.
Edmonton and District Labour Council president Brian Henderson called the week's deaths "horrible."
"When we have this many fatalities in one week, it just further elaborates how much workplace safety needs to be given priority with this government," he said.
Henderson said in addition to more investigators he wants to see stiffer penalties for companies found guilty of workplace health and safety violations.
"It's not just finding an employer guilty and giving them a fine ...," he said. "With five (deaths) alone this week, what is really being done out there?"
Jeff Wilson, Human Services critic for the Wildrose Party, said he, too, thinks government should do more to support workplace safety, including by further increasing investigators and identifying high-risk employers.
"The strength of our economy rests on workers being safe and secure in our workforce, and we have to do what we can to make sure they get home safe every night," he said.
The Edmonton Journal, Friday Oct 19 2012
Byline: Jana E. Prudent
Food inspectors say a management takeover at the plant at the centre of Canada's largest beef recall will not impact their decision about if and when the facility can reopen.
In a statement issued Thursday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said the fact management of the shuttered XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta., will be handed over to a subsidiary of processing company JBS USA will not affect its review of the facility's procedures and products.
Wednesday's deal also gives JBS the option to buy the Brooks plant as well as other XL facilities and operations.
"The CFIA's decisions have been, and continue to be, based on scientific evidence and a precautionary approach to protect consumers," said the agency.
The meat-processing plant currently at the centre of Canada's largest beef recall, which includes about 2,000 products, had its licence suspended Sept. 27 following concerns about E. coli contamination.
The CFIA last week began an inspection of the plant after XL said it had made the required changes to get its licence back.
On the weekend, the company temporarily laid off 2,000 workers, then recalled 800 of them Tuesday so inspectors could continue their assessment. The employees were back out of work Wednesday.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford Thursday said reopening the plant continues to be a priority for the province, as does the promotion of Alberta beef as a safe and healthy product.
"We've been working very hard to get that plant open as soon as possible so that it doesn't adversely impact either beef producers or employees," she said.
Provincial Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson said he's taking the transfer of management to JBS as "a good sign that XL is serious about the continued operation of the plant," adding JBS is highly respected in the industry.
Olson, who is in continued talks with federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, wouldn't comment on whether the JBS deal suggests previous management problems at the Brooks facility.
"We are not looking to point the finger at anybody who's at fault here. We're not looking for a public flogging, we just want the plant open, producing safe food," he said.
Meanwhile, Doug O'Halloran, president of the union representing XL workers, said he and Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, sent Redford a letter asking her to reconsider a public inquiry into the situation surrounding XL.
He also wants food-safety inspections to be moved under the federal government's health division as opposed to the agriculture division.
SunNews, Thurs Oct 18 2012
Byline: Jenna McMurray
About 200 workers from the UFCW Local 1118 are on the picket line outside of the Lilydale Foods Inc plant, which processes Turkeys near Yellowhead.
Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasure of the Alberta Federation of Labour tells iNews880 the workers make much less than employees working at a Chicken processing plant and turkeys are much bigger.
"They're actually making less than other workers processing poultry," explains Furlong. "They are quite different processes, but in the Lilydale turkey processing plant the work is harder because these birds are much larger."
Despite the timeline of events, Furlong says the workers remain optimistic.
"These workers have been steadfast in their desire to get a collective agreement and they aren't being paid the same as workers in other parts of the province and they should be," explains Furlong. "They need a settlement that will give them a decent living."
Furlong says workers also want a guaranteed 36-hour work week.
"They're going to insist these workers have to vote again on an offer they rejected eight weeks ago," explains Furlong. "We were having a rally today to show these workers that the rest of the labour movement actually supports their right to make this decision and to take strike action if they can't get a decent contract."
The workers will vote Tuesday on an offer they rejected 8 weeks ago, but Furlong says if they can't get a decent contract the workers will be taking more strike action.
The workers remain on the picket line outside of the plant.
iNews880, Mon 2012 Oct 15
Byline: Travis Dossier
Cleanliness suffers as beef moves too fast at Alberta meat plant shut down over E. coli concerns, union says
BROOKS, Alta. — The union for workers at an Alberta meat packer shut down over E. coli concerns says the pace of slaughter operations forces workers to take shortcuts around cleanliness and puts the health of beef-eating Canadians at risk.
Doug O'Halloran, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, said the processing line at the XL Foods Lakeside plant in Brooks moves too quickly and he wants to see a public inquiry into the problems that led to the plant's shutdown.
O'Halloran told a news conference Wednesday that between 300 and 320 carcasses go by workers every hour and employees make between 3,000 and 4,000 cuts a shift. That has resulted in less time in which to make sure knives are sanitized after each cut.
"It's just not enough time," O'Halloran said. "We are calling on Lakeside to take it seriously. You can replace all the aluminum, all the stainless steel you want at the plant, but if you don't give your workers the tools to perform the job properly, we're not going to solve this problem."
O'Halloran cited other examples of poor hygiene at the plant.
He said cattle are supposed to be washed before they enter to ensure their fur is free of manure. But sometimes the water is not hot enough to get off all the excrement.
He also said excrement from the cattle has backed up on the killing floor at times and forced workers to traipse through the waste and track it through the plant.
O'Halloran said the plant's increasing reliance on temporary foreign workers is also a problem. The company has not worked with the union to ensure the workers are properly trained and know what their rights are, he added.
The union boss said whistleblower protection is needed for workers who are afraid to speak out about problems for fear of reprisal.
"Lakeside, you've got one chance to get this correct. We understand you're spending lots of money, but you're still not listening to the people who are the most important in your food safety — the workers who are doing the job. "They are going to get you through this day and it's time you woke up and listened to them."
There were about 80 front-line workers from the plant packed into the media conference room at a Brooks hotel. Most refused to comment, saying their English was poor or they were fearful of getting into trouble.
Wilfer Garcia, who has been working at the XL Foods plant for close to two years after coming to Canada from Colombia, expressed sympathy for those on the line.
"To do a piece of meat, they need, say, 30 seconds to do each one, but because there's less people, more pieces are coming and they have to put pieces on top of the other ones. It makes a problem," said Garcia, who works in packing.
Even if several employees don't show up for work, the pace and expectations remain the same, Garcia said.
"One way or another there's not enough employees for the 4,000 pieces that they process every day," he added.
No one from XL Foods Inc. was available for comment. The company has limited its communication to news releases since an expansive recall began.
Earlier this week, co-CEO Brian Nilsson issued a statement saying the company had fixed the problems that forced food safety officials to shut down the plant. He expressed regret over "the illnesses caused by the consumption of beef products."
Inspectors with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency were at the plant on Tuesday for what was termed a pre-inspection. A report from that visit was being reviewed Wednesday.
Agency spokeswoman Lisa Gauthier said the pre-inspection is just one step in a multi-step process to determine if the plant is safe to resume operating.
O'Halloran said the food agency and the federal government share some of the responsibility for what has happened.
He said while the 46 agency staff the federal government says are positioned at the plant do a good job, they are overworked and don't have the authority they need to shutter operations when things go wrong.
"Somebody better wake up and put some teeth in the CFIA because they don't have any teeth now."
Although the workers have been paid for 32 hours a week since the plant has been shut down, it's a far cry from the 40 hours most work on a regular basis.
"You don't know where your money is coming from," added Christa Josephson.
Her friend Jenn Lupanko said the workers wake up every day hoping to hear some good news. The uncertainty has been tough, she said.
"It's quite difficult when you have a family and you have rent and bills and cars, but you do what you have to do," she added.
"But I think it will be fine. I think Lakeside will come out of this and it will be better than it was."
Gil McGowan with the Alberta Federation of Labour and Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason said the province has a role to play in pushing for more oversight.
"Our provincial government has to do more than act as cheerleaders for the industry," McGowan said.
"This has damaged the brand of Alberta beef in a way that has been very, very serious," added Mason.
To date, 12 people in four provinces have been infected by a strain of E. coli that has been linked to the plant. The latest case is in Quebec, the Public Health Agency of Canada said Wednesday.
The bacteria in beef from the Brooks plant was first discovered in tests done by U.S. officials at the border on Sept. 3.
The U.S. stopped accepting shipments of beef from the company on Sept. 13. A recall of ground beef was eventually issued Sept. 16 and has been expanded numerous times.
The CFIA revoked the plant's operating licence on Sept. 27.
More than 1,800 XL Foods products have been recalled across Canada, along with more than 1.1 million kilograms of beef exported to the U.S. and 20 other countries.
Simply allowing the plant to reopen will not solve all of the problems that the recall and closure have caused the beef industry.
Officials estimate the Brooks facility sends about 60 per cent of the beef it slaughters to the United States. More than two dozen retail chains in more than 30 states are involved in the beef recall.
The XL Foods plant in Brooks has 2,200 workers, the town's largest employer.
O'Halloran did commend the company for paying workers during the shutdown.
Brooks Mayor Martin Shields said there hasn't been much of a ripple effect in the community since workers are still getting paid.
"Brooks is a little sensitive to a lot of the negativity that is being focused on our community that we don't think is accurate," he said. "Does this add to that negativity? Yes, but we believe the cattle operation will be back. "
A lot of the union's complaints are not new, Shields added.
"People have a short memory because I've heard this with the previous owner and the owner before that. To me, this is a union lobbying for things that they want," he said.
"It's an opportunity for them to gain some airtime for their issues and their issues can be very valid, but to me that's a union employee and a business issue and it is up to them to work that out.
"What you see is concern and the workers are anxious: 'Am I going to go back to work? Do I have a job?' Because the rumours are just unrelenting in what could happen. If you're a worker there you're absolutely concerned.
"I'm optimistic the plant will be reopened soon."
National Post, October 11 2012
Byline: Bill Graveland, Canadian Press
The union representing workers at the XL Foods facility in Brooks says plant officials are ignoring their concerns about food safety.
Doug O'Halloran, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, says managers will not meet with them to discuss outstanding issues.
He says cleanliness and safety need to be the priority.
The union is holding a news conference Wednesday, along with the Alberta Federation of Labour just one day after the owners issued a statement saying they have corrected all problems outlined by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Meantime, one top researcher believes those who have gotten sick from eating contaminated meat will need to be monitored for several years.
Dr. William Clark studied the long-term effects of E. coli infection after the massive outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario, more than a decade ago.
Clark believes those individuals will be at risk for long-term health problems moving forward.
But many Albertans appear to be unfazed about E. coli and are still willing to back the beef industry.
A Sun News online poll found 60 per cent of respondents are comfortable with eating beef in the midst of the nation's largest meat recall.
Twenty-four per cent said they're not eating beef; 16 per cent say it depends on how it's prepared and if it's on the CFIA's recall list.
E. coli was first detected at the Alberta plant on September 4th and the first public health alerts were issued 12 days later.
Twenty countries have received affected products, including the United States where officials estimate more than 1.1-million kilograms have crossed the border.
660 News, Oct. 10, 2012
Union holds news conference to discuss safety protocols, meat production expectationsThe union representing workers at XL Foods Inc. is calling for a public inquiry into the massive beef recallat the company's meat-packing plant in Brooks, Alta.
Doug O'Halloran, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, said the federal government is to blame for cutting back on much-needed funding.
"We don't think the government can do the inquiry, we think they are part of the problem," he said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
O'Halloran said Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors are doing a good job, but added there needs to be more of them.
He also voiced concerns that CFIA inspectors don't have the authority to shut down a line if they think there is a safety concern.
O'Halloran said employees have been getting paid since the closure of the plant, and urged employee involvement going forward.
“It’s tragic that we had to have this situation, but I think in the long run we’re going to have an industry that’s better, that’s greater," O’Halloran said.
"We want to work with XL, we want them to be part of the solution, but they’ve got to listen to the workers.”
Employees speak out
XL Foods employee Wilfred Garcia says workers feel pressure to keep production lines moving — sometimes at the expense of food safety practices.
"There's not enough employees for the 4,000 pieces they process every day...and that's why there's this problem too," Garcia said.
XL 'saddened' by union claims
XL Foods released a statement late Wednesday afternoon in response to the union. The company said management has always been open to discuss plant operations with workers.
“I am saddened that the UFCW has chosen to attack the workmanship of its many members. We have extensive training programs for new workers and hold our workers in the highest regard for their abilities,” said co-CEO Brian Nilsson in the release.
The statement also noted that the line speed at XL Foods is within regulatory requirements.
Quebec E. coli illness confirmed
O’Halloran's comments came just before a 12th case of E. coli was confirmed. A Quebec investigation linked an illness in the province two weeks ago to E. coli O157, the strain at the centre of the XL Foods investigation. The affected individual has since recovered.
That brings the total of E. coli cases to 12 — seven cases in Alberta, one in Newfoundland, one in B.C. and three in Quebec — according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
'Culture change needed'
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said Wednesday there needs to be a change to the employer's approach to food safety.
"There is a culture in that plant that puts priority on quantity over quality and until that changes we’re going to continue to struggle," said McGowan.
Keith Warriner, director of the University of Guelph’s food safety and quality assurance program, said there has been a lot of finger-pointing over food safety at the plant.
“In a lot of ways, it’s passing the buck,” said Warriner.
“Workers passing the buck to the management, management passing the buck to the CFIA.”
Warriner also said it was “obvious” to him the CFIA is complacent in stepping back.
XL Foods silence 'damaging'
Alberta's Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith said XL Foods’ silence over the E. coli problems at the Brooks, Alta., plant has been damaging. “I think that the principal responsibility now for communicating with the public comes down to the company,” said Smith.
“I'd like to see XL Foods, someone, stand up in a press conference with the regulators at their side and talk about what they're doing to restore confidence to make people aware that they've taken this seriously, they apologize for it.”
Smith also said federal and provincial officials may not have done everything possible to deal with the situation.
Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason said repeated comments from federal officials that the system works well were ridiculous.
“They're not interested in getting to the facts and finding out what went wrong and being honest and straightforward and transparent with the public about something as important as the safety of the food that they eat and serve their children," said Mason.
"We need to have an inquiry and find out what in fact went wrong.”
The Lakeside Packers plant shut down Sept. 26 after the CFIA linked the facility to several beef products tainted with E. coli. More than 1,800 products have been recalled.
CFIA expanded its beef recall again Wednesday night to include some beef jerky sold in New Brunswick and corned beef sold in Quebec. Product details can be found on the CFIA's website.
Agency officials said they will check safety controls and determine if XL Foods has fixed the problems that were uncovered by federal inspectors.
On Tuesday, XL Foods said it had addressed all the safety issues and concerns raised by the CFIA.
"The company has completed implementing corrective action requests issued by the CFIA following the findings of their investigation," XL Foods said in a statement.
CBC News, Oct 10 2012