The Passing of Friends

As we get older we find that relatives and friends pass on more frequently. Some from natural causes, others from sickness, and still others by their own hand.

During my lifetime I have witnessed death first hand many times. The death of strangers can harden a person to what they witness but the death of a close friend or relative affects one differently. When it's personal its hard to get over.

Harvey Oberfeld wrote about the death of one of his colleagues recently and his writing has prompted me to write this.

I haven't been posting here very much since January and the bride remarked on that fact. She also remarked that I seemed to be more than upset at a friends death recently. She was correct of course as she always is when observing my moods. You see that friend died by their own hand and it was I who discovered her body.

A young friend had called me to say he needed me over at one of his relatives cabins as he feared something was wrong. The urgency in his voice made me react instantly. You see this young mans development and fears will not allow him to investigate anything he even remotely thinks may be tragic. Thus he called me. When I arrived at the cabin he was standing out in the street pacing back and forth. I asked him what was wrong and he told me he thought his aunt may be in he vehicle but he couldn't go check it out. I walked over to the vehicle and looked in the window but because of the tinted glass couldn't make out any real form so I tried the door. It opened and there was his aunt sitting in the drivers seat. I spoke to her and got no response. She was wearing a fur coat with a hood and I moved the hood to see if she may be asleep. Alarmed I reached for her wrist to check the pulse. My heart was beating so fast that All I could feel was my own pulse so I tried the artery in her neck. Nothing. I checked her left hand. Nothing. Panic. Then I checked for any breath and as I turned away that's when I noticed the gun. I lifted her hood to check for damage and to check her eyes and there was no visible damage so I slowly pried apart her coat between the second and third buttons and there was the damage, in the center of her chest.
It was more than two hours before I could leave the scene having to give a statement to the police and dealing with my young friend and his family. You see, he isn't the only one who couldn't deal with the death of his favourite aunt. And as it turned out with my silence afterward, neither could I.

A couple of days after reading Harvey's tribute to his colleague I received word that another friend had passed away after a battle with cancer. And although this is not the same type of death it is still sad that I will never see "Big Jim" again. A gentle giant that never had a bad word for anyone unless he was severely provoked.

There was a article in a local paper on symptoms of depression in the workplace but the paper got used to start the woodstove. I was going to use it here but had to get this out so I can move on. I will check the local paper for back issues at the end of the month and will do something on that at that time. Usually at this time of year there is a spike in suicides that can be attributed to many things but I submit that the lack of daylight hours is a big contributor.

And so I have written my piece and my friends are at peace. It's time to move on.


Gag Law (or dictatorship in full swing)

The Gordon Campbell government has enacted a new law that forbids third party advertising 88 days before an election.
The law limits election advertising by any person or organization that is not a political candidate, riding organization or party to $3,000 in a single electoral district and $150,000 overall.

So I say to Campbell "bring it on". We have the right to freedom of speech and expression in this country and NO I repeat NO ass of a law enacted by anyone to take away my freedoms will be obeyed.

"election advertising" means the transmission to the public by any means, during the period beginning 60 days before a campaign period and ending at the end of the campaign period, of an advertising message that promotes or opposes, directly or indirectly, a registered political party or the election of a candidate, including an advertising message that takes a position on an issue with which a registered political party or candidate is associated, but does not include

(a) the publication without charge of news, an editorial, an interview, a column, a letter, a debate, a speech or a commentary in a bona fide periodical publication or a radio or television program,

(b) the distribution of a book, or the promotion of the sale of a book, for no less than its commercial value, if the book was planned to be made available to the public regardless of whether there was to be an election,

(c) the transmission of a document directly by a person or a group to their members, employees or shareholders, or

(d) the transmission by an individual, on a non-commercial basis on the internet, or by telephone or text messaging, of his or her personal political views;

Third party advertising limits

235.1 (1) In respect of a general election conducted in accordance with section 23 (2) of the Constitution Act, an individual or organization other than a candidate, registered political party or registered constituency association must not sponsor, directly or indirectly, election advertising during the period beginning 60 days before the campaign period and ending at the end of the campaign period

(a) such that the total value of that election advertising is greater than

(i) $3 000 in relation to a single electoral district, and

(ii) $150 000 overall, or

(b) in combination with one or more individuals or organizations, or both, such that the total value of the election advertising sponsored by those individuals and organizations is greater than

(i) $3 000 in relation to a single electoral district, and

(ii) $150 000 overall.

(2) In respect of a general election conducted other than in accordance with section 23 (2) of the Constitution Act, the limits under subsection (1) do not apply to the period beginning 60 days before campaign period, but do apply to the campaign period.

(3) In respect of a by-election, the limits under subsection (1) do not apply to the period beginning 60 days before campaign period, but the limits under subsection (1) (a) (i) and (b) (i) do apply to the campaign period.

(4) Section 204 applies to adjust the amounts under this section.

So my rather broad interpretation of this attempt to remove freedom of speech in BC is that as a blogger writing on the net for a total of $52.71 does not meet the $3000 limit.

The other day I had an opportunity to watch the slanted news on Global. During the newscast they broke for one of their several commercials. The first one up depicted the Fast Cat Ferries with an overview of what happened. Within that ad and following the "fast cats" was a concoction of things that Global had been following over the years.

Now all this would not have been so bad if the ad in my view wasn't just a blatant attempt to discredit the NDP by starting the ad with the fast cats then following up with a bunch of quick photos and mumbo jumbo about the monuments built over the last eight years sucking our treasury dry and giving the premier another photo op. The least they could have done was remind the people about the mismanagement of our money by this government. Or maybe they couldn't because they didn't cover it properly in the first place, sweeping it under the rug The Fasr Ferries are fast becoming a drop in the bucket when you look at the added costs to everything in this province since 2001. Does convention center and the German ferries ring a bell?

Watch for more biased political ads disguised as what the news media has been doing for us. And if you see any notify the Chief Electoral Officer and for that matter the RCMP Commercial Crime Squad.


The Food We Eat

This cheese we eat
Wendy Holm
Western Dairy Farmer
January-February 2009

Who would have thought it would come to this? Who could have predicted that Canada's milk processing plants - once local cooperatives created by farmers to serve farmers - would slam their doors in the face of Canadian cows? Who would have imagined that milk derivatives, imported from far-flung, global markets, would ever replace wholesome Canadian milk in wholesome Canadian cheese?

Counter-intuitive, right? Yet Canada's big three cheese-makers, Saputo and Parmalat (who for more than a decade have been buying up and shutting down Canada's regional, cooperative dairies), together with Kraft Canada, are doing just that.

When milk protein concentrates first showed up in the late 1990's, they were imported under several different tariff classifications. Some entered correctly as dairy products and tariffs were paid, some entered as food product proteins and no duty was paid. In 2006, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld a Canadian International Trade Tribunal ruling that dropped the duty for properly classified over-quota imports of milk protein concentrates from 270 percent to 6.5 percent, widening the tear in the tariff wall and encouraging a flood of imports.

Saputo, Parmalat and Kraft's rapid substitution of imported milk protein concentrates for higher quality Canadian milk in the manufacture of cheese and other dairy products would never have occurred were the plants still farmer-owned cooperatives. With 37 percent of Canadian milk destined for cheese production, the switch to milk protein concentrates by the big three cheese-makers is costing Canadian dairy farmers $250 million a year in surplus removal costs.

From an industry perspective, the use of milk derivatives erodes the integrity, quality and reputation of Canadian-manufactured cheeses. For consumers, the use of globally sourced derivatives in domestic cheese production not only compromises taste; it also increases risk associated with standards, inspection and traceability.

After a government-appointed industry committee failed to come up with a solution, the Canadian government acted, introducing two legislative changes last fall to resolve the problem.

In September, after several years of negotiations with European Communities and Switzerland, a new category for milk protein concentrates was added to the Import Control List and a tariff rate quota was put in place to reduce incentives for import. This closed the loophole for derivative imports.

In December, consistent with GATT, the WTO and all other major cheese-producing countries, changes to the Canadian Food and Drug Act established minimum domestic milk content for four categories of Canadian cheese: Traditional Cheddar (100%), Fine Cheeses (95%), Cheddar Cheese, Mozzarella and all cheese other than pizza mozzarella (83%) and Pizza Mozzarella (63%). This assured consumers Canadian cheese would be made from wholesome Canadian milk.

Problem resolved? Not quite. As evidenced by the butter-oil sugar blend debacle, when it comes to the global agri-food sector, shareholder profit trumps sustainability every time.

Last October, Saputo, Parmalat and Kraft Canada petitioned the Supreme Court for a judicial review of the new cheese regulations, arguing they are unenforceable, lack uniformity and objectivity, improperly delegate discretionary authority to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and have as a purpose providing an economic benefit to dairy producers at the expense of dairy processors and others. Also challenged is the authority of the Canadian government to regulate cheese standards, arguing the regulation of milk is controlled by the provinces.

The Court accepted the application and gave the Crown until December 22nd to file evidence. Ex-parte hearings are January 12th. Full hearings are scheduled for March 30th and 31st. A quick decision is expected.

In a year dominated by stories of peak oil, escalating food prices and high-profile food contamination scares - melamine, listeriosis, salmonella - the move by Saputo, Parmalat and Kraft to challenge Ottawa's new cheese regulations seems particularly ill-advised. Canadian consumers are focused on food like never before. Food safety, food miles and 100-mile diets regularly capture the attention of talk show hosts and columnists. And it would be hard to find a food product Canadians more identify with than cheese. (We are referred to as "cheese-heads" after all!)

Fortunately, this attempt by concentrated multinationals to close their doors to Canadian milk is getting good play in the main stream media, raising the ire of Canadians consumers, who expect their cheese - whether it's cheddar, camembert, mozzarella, or any one of the over 450 types produced in Canada - to be made with high quality Canadian milk from Canadian cows. Likely, this will boost demand for cheeses from artisan, regional and cooperative dairies, which have been making good Canadian dairy products with good Canadian milk all alongÅ 

In a vain attempt to manage the public backlash, Saputo is now calling for reductions in prices to dairy farmers, claiming they can't afford to make cheese with Canadian milk. It doesn't take much to blow holes in this one: no fewer than seventeen independent surveys over the past decade have found Canadian milk prices average 15% below US product.

This is, of course, not about price, it is about globalization. Just as Wall Street's addiction to financial derivatives fueled the global economic meltdown, the use of imported milk derivatives by Canada's big three cheese-makers undermines the quality and integrity of Canadian dairy products and threatens the future of Canada's supply management system.

Until agriculture becomes a part of culture, things won't change. But Saputo, Parmalat and Kraft's unprecedented attack Canadian cheese and Canadian farmers just might open that door in the heart of consumers that says "enough is enoughÅ  "

Uppermost in the minds of Canadians is our economy. But foremost on our lips is Canadian cheese.


Werndy Holm

Many thanks to Wendy Holm and the Western Dairy Farmer for permission to post this article