Hog barn application turned down in Cartwright-Roblin

Council members vote to refuse a conditional use order for an 18,000-head HyLife weanling operation


Following last Wednesday’s long and well-attended public hearing regarding a HyLife hog barn application, local councillors have voted to turn down the request.

HyLife had made application to the town for the construction of an 18,000 head weanling barn enterprise, comprised of three barns (each holding up to 6,000 animals), in the Municipality of Cartwright-Roblin.

But opposition was fierce in the tiny town, with around 100 cars and trucks attending the public hearing, which officially began at 7 p.m. on April 28, and did not conclude until around midnight. 

Held during Code Red pandemic restrictions, the attendees were confined to their vehicles for the duration, and listened in via 88.7 FM, or through an outside loudspeaker trailered in for the occasion. 

Their honking, following personal presentations of objections to the hog barn application, and being delivered deep inside the Clipperdome, were heard throughout the town over the long night.

Those who chose to speak, either for or against the proposal, were escorted safely, and one-by-one, by municipal staff, to the inside of the Clipperdome. 

There, they walked up to make their address by microphone, amidst three long tables, where panels of council, government representatives, planners, and others, listened.

On the following Tuesday, May 4, the town was buzzing with the information that council had apparently gathered in the building to discuss and vote regarding the application for a Conditional Use Order, #CU-21 (Crown Royal TRC 12-080), for a weanling barn on the northwest quarter of 30-2-15 WI.

The quarter itself lies just north of the community of Holmfield, on PTH (Provincial Trunk Highway) #458, over the historic 1925 Beam Bridge and past the Holmfield Cemetery, and a mile or so north.

By Wednesday afternoon, as emotions roiled in the streets, word came out that the vote had been announced, and it was negative. 

A resolution, passed by the council members, was later emailed to a number of people, and included the following wording regarding their decision.

“… the Municipality is not satisfied that the proposed operation will be compatible with the general nature of the surrounding area, or will not be detrimental to the health or general welfare of people living or working in the surrounding area, or negatively affect other properties or potential development in the surrounding areas. Therefore be it resolved that the Council of Cartwright-Roblin Municipality reject conditional use application CU1-21.”

Appeal can be made by HyLife regarding this outcome, according to the 23 West Planning District.

“The decision can be appealed by HyLife, to the Provincial Municipal Board – that’s a Provincial body – and that would lead to a hearing,” said Kevin Cameron, development officer for the district. “This appeal process is a relatively new process, through Bill 19, and this would be the first case.”

PUBLIC HEARING FOR HYLIFE BARN PROPOSAL – This was the sunset scene in Cartwright on Wednesday evening, April 28, during the massive public hearing being held regarding HyLife’s conditional use application, CU1-21CR,  for permission to establish an 18,000 weanling barn, ‘Crown Royal,’ in the municipality. Council voted against the proposal, citing a number of reasons for their decision. See the full story below on last week’s hog barn hearing.

Pig barns, parked cars, and a late night on air

Overwhelming turnout for hearing regarding 18,000-head HyLife hog barn application in Cartwright-Roblin


Two wildly separate worlds operated in tandem on Wednesday night, April 28, during a carefully orchestrated and highly emotional event concerning a hog barn.

It was a public hearing, held during Code Red COVID-19 restrictions, via a broadcast tower and a radio station, in the tiny community of Cartwright, Manitoba. 

And the turnout of cars and trucks who packed in side-by-side on the grassy verge of Veteran’s Way to tune into the broadcasted hearing (88.7 FM) was massive. 

More drivers found a spot in the gravel parking lot next to the Clipperdome ice rink. 

By early evening, some 100 vehicles, plus people in their nearby homes, had tuned into the presentations inside. 

As tensions built outside, the blaring of horns could be heard deep inside the arena, following most of the speakers who read their letters of opposition to the silent panel.

The applicant was HyLife, who also own hog barns, a feed mill, and a truck wash in Killarney-Turtle Mountain.

HyLife is currently seeking approval for a Conditional Use order, #CU-21 (Crown Royal TRC 12-080), from the Municipality of Cartwright-Roblin, to establish an 18,000 head weanling nursery barn operation on the northwest corner of 30-2-15 W1. 

This is a quarter located on Provincial Trunk Highway #458, which runs north off of Highway #3, past the community of Holmfield, over the 1925 Beam Bridge, and then around a mile north. 

The proposed hog barn site is located on the east side of PTH #458, in the Municipality of Cartwright-Roblin. Across the #458, on the other side of the road, sits the Municipality of Killarney-Turtle Mountain. 

The public hearing was a chance for the local council, for representatives from HyLife, for members of various provincial government ministries, and for people in the public domain, to present their views and information regarding the proposal.

Inside the Clipperdome, on the arena’s cement base, were three long tables, set up like a letter U, to allow some 14 of these official representatives a socially-distanced seat.

Inside the wide U stood a microphone on a stand. Those who had registered to speak, either in favour, or against the project, were escorted in, one at a time, to address the council with their concerns.

But it was a long wait for many, confined to their vehicles.

The meeting began at 7 p.m., with opening remarks from head of council Jamie Dousselaere, who called the meeting to order, and outlined the protocols.

Outside, people listened in to the proceedings from their car radios, or from the loudspeakers, which produced excellent clarity of sound.

This was followed by an explanation (with storyboard) by Don Malinowski, of the provincial government’s Technical Review Committee process, and the steps that applications for hog barns must go through.

He also explained how the process included looking for “showstoppers,” or elements in the application that might halt the proceedings of the application from moving forward, and how they would “seek to resolve issues” that came up.

Next was Sheldon Stott, of HyLife, who presented the proposal itself, for the erection of a three-barn complex, with housing capacity for 18,000 pigs, and an underground manure storage facility beneath the barn structure, which would mitigate some odour from the hog barn. 

He explained that the nearest neighbour to the proposed site was a “partner” in the project, and that HyLife over the past year had made contact with other residents in the area to explain about the project, and had listened to feedback and comments.

The hearing also included Kevin Cameron, building inspector and development officer for the 23 West Planning District, who read a number of letters of support regarding the conditional use application. 

The first personal appearances, selected from those waiting their turn outside, and confined by pandemic protocols to their vehicles, then began. 

In turn, six people addressed council, to speak in support of the project.

Positive comments included the generosity of HyLife towards a number of community projects in Killarney-Turtle Mountain, including financial support to the Tri-Lake Hospital. HyLife has also invested in Killarney with the new feed mill, and the new truck wash, said delegates. 

“Their positive impact is strongly appreciated,” said Janice Smith, acting mayor for the Municipality of Killarney-Turtle Mountain. 

Peter Wolf, who is partnering with HyLife in the proposed project, added that he liked the idea that the kids could stay on the farm. 

Another farmer reported that two smaller hog barns, located near his home, north on the #458, produced odour only “around five or six times a year, usually on a cold January morning,” which was not an issue for his family. 

This was followed by a slew of letters read out by Cameron, from those who had sent letters to council in opposition of the project.

While these were being read aloud, the first in a long list of those waiting to speak personally in protest had been escorted into the building. He waited in a disinfected plastic chair for his eventual turn at the microphone. 

It was not until 9:18 p.m. that Jim McDonald, the first speaker in opposition, was able to make the long walk into the centre of the rink and speak into the microphone.

Inside the arena, behind high sheets of puck-deflecting plexiglass and netting, were two members of the press, sitting on the spectator’s aluminium stands. We were admitted only after some insistent discussion with municipal leaders regarding our right to observe the hearing.  

The sound was poor, and the speakers had their backs to us. They were permitted to remove their masks as they spoke, and replace them when they were done. 

It was quiet, and spacious, and cold. The seated panel members did not respond; they simply listened. It was a world of its own inside the grey, reverberating Clipperdome arena. 

Some speakers who vehemently opposed the application became highly emotional as they read their prepared statements. The shoulders of one tall man could be seen shaking and convulsing, as he broke down during his presentation to council. 

Topics by delegates in opposition included effects on wildlife, water quality issues, health risks to humans, odours and toxic components released by vented barns, effects on area recreation, concern for the pigs, effects on people with health issues such as respiratory conditions, the cost of relocating for those seriously affected, the drop in house values in the vicinity of the barn and its odours, contamination of watercourses in the area, including the Long River, with manure spreading, the dust and mud created on the #458 by HyLife trucks, the speed of the trucks (90 km limit on this gravel road), and the potential loss of the 1925 single lane historical Holmfield Beam Bridge.

Outside it was a different story. The sun was setting, lighting up the old Cartwright elevator, and reflecting off the long line of vehicles, filled with over 100 masked occupants who had tuned in. 

They complied with the rules, they stayed in their cars, and they listened carefully to all of the speakers. 

It got dark, and still the 12 speakers in opposition continued to take their turns inside the lit-up rink. The hearing was still continuing at 11:25 p.m., and we don’t know when it finally concluded.

Banned from attending the public hearing inside the Clipperdome, due to COVID-19 restrictions, people inside their cars and trucks used the only form of communicating they had with those sequestered inside – and honked. 

And honk they did, loud and long, to voice their support for a speaker, as they concluded their representation in opposition to the proposed hog barn in the municipality. 

It was reported to have been the biggest, and longest hearing so far for a HyLife application.

Council reported the following day that they do not yet have a date regarding their vote on the application for the conditional use order. Those who made representation will receive a letter with the outcome, they added.

HyLife is an international pork company, with their head office in La Broquerie, Manitoba. Itochu, a Japanese firm, owns 49.9 percent of HyLife, while the majority 50.1 percent share is owned by Charoen Pokphand Foods Limited – a company based in Thailand.

LOUDSPEAKERS AND LISTENERS – This was the scene in Cartwright early on Wednesday evening, as a public hearing took place inside the Clipperdome ice arena regarding a proposed HyLife hog barn in the municipality. A loudspeaker was set up outside for the event (left), and listeners could also tune in on FM radio. COVID-19 restrictions meant attendees had to remain inside their vehicles during the long and protracted event.

WAITING IN THE WINGS – Delegate Jim McDonald (left) waits on a sanitized plastic chair for his chance to address the council of Cartwright-Roblin regarding his opposition to the proposed HyLife barn. He was the first on a list of at least 11 more like-minded speakers, and didn’t reach the microphone until 9:18 p.m.

CLIPPERDOME IN THE DARK – Night fell on Wednesday night, as a conditional use hearing, regarding HyLife’s application for an 18,000 head weanling barn continued inside Cartwright’s Clipperdome arena – lasting until nearly midnight.