In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Senate Finance Committee

Posted 3/25/2009 by Senator Grant Mitchell

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The Senate Finance Committee met Tuesday as part of the regular review of the annual estimates bill - this is another way of describing the law that actually authorizes the money for the coming year's government expenditures. The committee has to review all the budget bills.

We had officials from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. We asked a lot of questions about what the impact of the credit crunch and the economic crisis will have on their mortgage portfolio. Their position was that of the $334 billion they have insured a very low percentage are bad and they are really not overly concerned with their portfolio. They have bought $53 billion of mortgages from the banks to give them enough cash to function. It was interesting, perhaps eerie even, that they did not seem very intense about the current crisis.

Then we met with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Interestingly, the lead official did not mention listeria at all in his opening comments. Why not? Surely that is the single greatest issue facing this agency since BSE (Mad Cow Disease) and 21 people died from listeria while no one died from BSE.

I asked why it was that Drake Meat Processors in Saskatchewan can meet provincial inspection standards but has to go through another set of federal standards if they want to export their delicious sausages to other provinces and internationally. It seems like so much duplication and red tape. I wonder if the people of Saskatchewan get sick more often than they would if food like the sausages were federally regulated? I somehow doubt it. Why can't someone fix this duplication? I got no real answer to this. Somehow there needs to be a determination from both levels to give something up in the interest of breaking down trade barriers in the country.

If we want one set of standards for food inspection, then we would probably have to go to the highest standards. Those are apparently the federal ones and it is expensive for a business to meet them. Maybe a federal assistance program could make it more affordable for small food processing companies  to upgrade their facilities to meet federal standards. They could then expand their businesses by getting access to national and international markets.

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