I had a nice chat with Neil Waugh of the Edmonton Sun yesterday about the twisted trail of E. coli from Canada. I am hurt (not really) that he called me a “legal vulture.”

Fallout from ‘dirty’ Alberta beef plant felt on both sides of the border

According to Mr. Waugh:

Ranchers Beef Ltd. of Balzac collapsed on Aug.15 after company president Tony Martinez reported in a court affidavit that his outfit was "in the midst of a severe liquidity crisis". In other words it was broke. And likely would have stayed that way if the United States Department of Agriculture hadn’t blown the whistle on what Ranchers and the feds’ controversial Canadian Food Inspection Agency were doing – or apparently NOT doing -last summer. Which might or might not have resulted in the death of "one elderly individual" from E. coli poisoning, another 44 cases in Canada, plus 40 cases with 26 "known hospitalizations" as of last Friday in the U.S.

The above is shocking, however, here is the most ominous part, Ranchers was funded in large part by the Canadian Government:

The company business plan was "developed in the wake of the 2003 BSE crisis," Martinez told the court, as a result of the "near decimation" of the Canadian cattle industry when the U.S. border was closed. And it wasn’t just a brainwave of 45 unidentified ranchers plus Sunterra Foods and Picture Butte feedlot kingpin Cor Van Raay. In an attempt to "ameliorate the reliance" on U.S. markets, the Alberta and federal governments "developed policies to encourage construction of Canadian-based meat processing facilities." The feasibility study costs were split between the partners and the Alberta Tories. Then the taxpayers’ grease really started to roll. There was a $46.5-million loan from Alberta Treasury Branches, the feds’ Business Development Bank and the National Bank of Canada. A $20-million "credit enhancement" from the federal ag department added to the taxpayers’ exposure. The Alberta Agricultural Financial Services also kicked in $9.35 million in "credit facilities" so investors could "purchase" company preferred shares.

Now Mr. Waugh tries to hurt my feelings (assuming I actually have any):

And now there are legal vultures hovering over the border planning on following the DNA fingerprints all the way back to the Alberta Tories and their BSE Bingo boondoggle. "We will clearly have to look at additional assets," said Seattle lawyer Bill Marler, who has already filed a class-action suit against Topps. "We’re going upstream looking at who supplied the meat," said Marler, who has already collected more than $250 million in food poisoning litigation. "Who owns them and what’s their backing."

Hey, do I get to wear a wig when I go to Canada?