Weekly Commentary  

What's in a name?

‘Swine’, that name down through the centuries has not always enjoyed a happy connotation. Now, attaching it to a type of flu has not exactly enhanced its already dubious distinction. As a matter of fact, it has created significant problems for one of Canada's premium and most sought after products...pork.

Canadian pork products have been upheld as risk free to human health in terms of the H1N1 virus. The major international health and scientific agencies which test food products around the globe have been very clear on this point. H1N1 is not a risk by consumption of the meat and specifically not in Canadian pork.

The problem comes through some media and other sources using the term 'Swine flu'. People wrongfully assign its dangers to pork when there is no reason to do so.

Further complications...around the world, a number of countries have seized on this wrongful stigma and used it as an excuse to ban the import of Canadian product. About 20 nations which our farmers ship to, have taken this tactic. Since this is a matter of International Trade as well as Agriculture it has given me the responsibility (and opportunity) to personally contact these nations and their Ministers of trade to push them to drop their bans.

One advantage I have had is that I have already met a number of them around the tables of global trade negotiations. At those times I take the opportunity to build relationships and to keep in touch after the meetings. So, when I called several of them regarding their countries' misplaced pork bans they already knew whom they were talking to.

In some other cases, where an actual face to face meeting was required, I was helped by the fact that I had the backing of the World Health Agency along with the good name and reputation of Canadian pork. My colleague, the Minister of Agriculture also had met with some of the key people. So we used a 'tag team' approach on a number of them.

When it's a matter of multi-millions of dollars in trade it's not always easy to get another country to drop its bans. At the time of writing this report to you we've been successful so far in about 13 of some 20 cases. I'll keep you posted on further results.

When it comes to discounts there has been a very irritating one for us here in the constituency and from coast to coasts. It's discount crime. As regular readers of this column know, we have been working hard to try to change this frustrating situation.

The so-called 'discount' occurs this way. Somebody is charged with a crime. When the person is a serious or violent offender they are often denied bail while they await trial. Therefore they may spend a year or more in a remand centre waiting for their trial to come up.

Why does this delay not bother them? Because if they are finally found guilty and convicted they often wind up getting extra time off their sentence before they even start serving.

It works like this. Let's say the trial took a year to complete and let's say they get a four year sentence. The judge will consider the fact that they have already been in jail a year. But instead of simply deducting a year from the whole sentence the Judge may declare a double or even triple discount.

The Judge may say "Well, since you were held for one year already, I'm going to multiply that by 3 and deduct 3 years from your 4 year sentence." That gift means the offender would only have to serve one year. If the conditions are right for parole they may only be in the slammer for a few months.

So, for example, somebody with a previous record of violence, convicted of a home invasion with serious aggravated assault on a senior, may wind up only spending a few months in the slammer. We promised to change this situation three years ago. It has been consistently delayed and opposed by the opposition.

The latest attempt to stop us from changing it was by the Liberals using the Senate. Finally, after a public outcry pressuring Mr. Ignatieff to tell his red chamber colleagues to back off we managed to get it through (and half of the Liberals there still voted against the change). That, along with their recent demands for an election which nobody wants, may explain their plunge in the polls.

Bottom line, the day of discounts for serious criminals is finally over.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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