Calgary

Political Panel discusses Western Feedlot closure

Western Feedlots is pointing to Alberta’s economic and political environment as the reasons it is shutting down operations in southern Alberta, so what kind of impact will a headline like that have on the provincial NDP government?

'There are politics that are going to be involved'

Political Panel

6 years ago
Duration 7:26
Members of the CBC Calgary News at 6 Political Panel discuss the pending closure of Western Feedlots.

Western Feedlots is pointing to Alberta's economic and political environment as the reasons it is shutting down operations in southern Alberta, so what kind of impact will a headline like that have on the provincial NDP government?

The company announced this week the shutdown of sites near Strathmore, High River and Mossleigh were the result of "strong head winds" in the cattle industry, as well as what it calls a "high-risk/low-return environment."

The CBC Calgary News at 6 Political Panel members offered their take.

"This is an interesting story because it pushes the narrative that many want to attribute to the NDP, which is that this government is unsympathetic to business at large," said Zain Velji, a senior campaign strategist with Hill and Knowlton.

"While the oil price [issue] is one they can say 'look at the oil price going down, we don't control it,' this is one that is a little bit more nuanced and you've seen the opposition jump on it. The one piece of advice I would give the NDP is you have to have real empathy in this situation, a one line release that says 'we're concerned about the jobs' isn't the solution."

Longtime political pollster Janet Brown said it could have an impact on public opinion, especially for those living outside major centres.

"We're a pro-business province, we really believe it comes down to business to stimulate the economy and create jobs so when you have a large employer like this, and particularly one in the rural areas, this is really going to impact people who live in rural areas," she said. When they're saying 'we have a marginal business, we have very small margins' and these small changes to things like the carbon tax, Bill 6, even the minimum wage, these very small changes are going to hurt businesses that work on the margins and the government has to be ready to respond."

The Alberta correspondent for Maclean's Magazine, Jason Markusoff, said it isn't surprising those in the ranching industry aren't happy with the NDP.

"There are politics that are going to be involved," he said.

"Yes, obviously as they've said, there's the commodity factor here, like oil, prices are down, it's going to hurt your sales. But, can they argue that certain new input costs from the government policy are going to affect them? Yeah. And do they like the NDP? No, they inherently don't, so are they happy to take a swipe at them to hurt their political chances? Of course."

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