Smiths Falls, dairy farmers and Mexico – like Canada, hockey and palm trees (updated)

Update: Kudos to the people of Smiths Falls and area, who are clearly not going to lose Hershey without a spirited fight [1], [2], [3]. (The third link, Ottawa’s Sunday Sun, just so happens to highlight some of the corporate-speak, from earlier in the week, that I remarked about last evening [below]. To be fair, however, the Sun also has word of a compelling election year petition, circulated at yesterday’s rally, with some constructive – and, yes, construction – ideas for Premier Dalton McGuinty.)

Hershey’s kisses Monterrey’s ass

The underbelly of the aging NAFTA beast has been rearing its ugly head in the eastern Ontario town of Smiths Falls recently with the announcement by Hershey that its plant there, popular with tourists and locals alike, would be closing.

The company’s international headquarters, based in the Pennsylvania town which bears its name, calls the move – get this – part of “a comprehensive, three-year supply chain transformation program”.

The Easter Bunny will have an extra Hershey’s & Reece’s Pieces Candy Egg for the company MBA who thought up that bit of Orwellian biz-speak. Among the company’s goals, according to the business press, is the regaining of market share from archrival Mars.

Reese’s are from Hershey’s, M & M’s are from Mars – is there a book title in there somewhere?

Having blogged earlier today about urban issues, and yes I do live in a big city, I now must add my voice to those who see the family farm, and ancillary interests, being systematically killed by the ‘free trade’, Wal-martesque, McCorporate agri-business sector in North America.

Paranthetically, while I grew up in a suburban Montréal industrial town, the demographics of the language-based school system there meant that I was bussed to a rural, regional English-language high school whose students were mostly all either from families working small local farms or were employed by closely-related businesses. The same can be said for the area where Mom and Dad came from, twelve to fifteen miles from Smiths Falls. Living, and working as a reporter, in the Niagara Region in my 20s, too, sensitized me to issues of urban sprawl on unique agricultural lands. So, I hope, I have at least some empathy, if not direct knowledge, whereof I speak.

When a plant like Hershey’s closes in a small town it’s more than the company parking lot that empties out. There is a lot of milk on surrounding farms that will be looking for new markets. The Tim Horton’s that Hershey’s employees drive through (or “thru”) will see a difference. The independent retailers of Smiths Falls, already dominated by Wal-Mart and, to a lesser extent, the local Conservative Member of Parliament’s own Giant Tiger discount stores, will find few reasons to stay.

Hershey’s, whose Canadian operations, incidentally, have – for quite awhile now – been based in the Toronto-area mega-suburb of Mississauga, is (as part of this #$%# transformation) outsourcing production of some products and building a “cost-efficient” manufacturing plant in Monterrey, Mexico.

Hmmm…so the best eastern Ontario farmers could expect might be to have refrigerated rail cars of their milk being shipped to Mexico.

As if…

Meanwhile the well-paid, union workers at Hershey’s in Smiths Falls will be replaced…er supply-chain transformed… by sweatshop-equivalent jobs in Monterrey. An even better, principled, reason for Canadian tourists, who already seem to have targets on their backs there, to boycott Mexico.

Hershey’s latter-day Mississauga headquarters removed the Smiths Falls name from its candy wrappers years ago. Now it boasts of the Hershey Centre arena and its Ice Dogs hockey team in Hazel McCallionville.

You can still smell chocolate in the air as you travel into Smiths Falls…for now anyway. That’s the size of town it is.

You’ll still be able to smell some of the natural odours of dairy farms, even after Hershey’s closes, but – in addition to employment assistance programs for older workers who will be displaced – is it not time that this country, and this province, too, had better, more comprehensive agricultural policies which would make farming here better supported and more viable? The farm crisis is real. As farm families proudly declare, “Farmers feed cities”.

Meanwhile, as Montreal Simon reminds us in his comment below, the deep commercial integration of Canada-through the U.S.A.-to-Mexico is well underway. Hence, I’ll add a plug for one of my blogroll sites Vive Le Canada!

NO Deep integration!

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