Posted on May 5, 2020


EDMONTON - The NDP Official Opposition today announced their intention to call for an emergency debate on the outbreak of COVID-19 at meat packing facilities when the Legislative Assembly resumes sitting.

“The workers at Cargill were ignored by the UCP Government,“ said Heather Sweet, Official Opposition House Leader. “Then, they ignored the rush of COVID-19 infections among employees and the plant became the site of the largest outbreak in North America. 

“A worker has died and nearly half of the workers at the plant have tested positive for COVID-19. Many unknowingly passed the deadly virus onto their loved ones. We are seeking an emergency debate to halt the operations of the plant until a third-party investigator assesses safety procedures at the plant and workers’ voices are actually heard.”

Sweet noted the Government has also failed at the JBS plant in Brooks, where one worker has died and hundreds are infected. As well, it surfaced Tuesday that the Harmony plant in Balzac has continued to operate for a month after federal worksite investigators were pulled due to safety concerns. 

“If these sites aren’t safe enough for investigators, how can they possibly be safe enough for employees?” Sweet said. “Or is it just that Jason Kenney and the UCP don’t care about these workers? We will keep fighting for them. If the UCP has any compassion, they will agree to debate this matter in the Legislature.”

As of the most recent COVID-19 update from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, there were 936 cases of COVID-19 in Cargill meat-packing plant employees, 469 cases among employees of the JBS meat packing plant in Brooks. 

On April 18, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen assured Cargill workers that their “worksite is safe.” On April 20, just two days later, Cargill idled the plant.

“The workers of these plants are scared and are worried that their voices are not being listened to by this government,” continued Sweet. “Eighty-five per cent of the workers at Cargill reported that they are afraid to return to work at that plant. Our caucus intends to bring their voices, concerns and fear into the Legislature with this emergency debate.”

The motion that the Official Opposition intends to bring forward would include a call for an out-of-province investigator to monitor the ongoing activities at all meat packing facilities in Alberta, and calls for a public inquiry into the Cargill outbreak, once the public health state of emergency is lifted.