Fence fines could come this summer, reports the CBC:

… farmers who don’t comply could face fines of up to $300,000.

I’m all for keeping cattle out of streams. I would also go to the barricades to support any farm family that was fined the crazy amount of $300,000 for violating cattle-in-streams rules.

Doesn’t it strike anyone that $300,000 is an absurd amount, so absurd, indeed, as to make it ineffective as a deterrent?

For the cattle operations I know, $300,000 isn’t a “slap on the wrist” or a “woah, we’ll never do that again,” it’s a “shut down the business and be in debt for the rest of our lives.”

There’s an amount for fines that says clearly “this is a serious problem and you need to pay attention.” Then there’s an amount like this that says “that is so crazy that they can’t possibly mean it.”


Mitch's picture
Mitch on April 9, 2004 - 01:11 Permalink

Your umbrage should be directed at the the lax reporting on the issue, which is all too common on legal matters. $300,000.00 is the maximum possible fine, which as a matter of general principle is reserved for the worst offender in the worst circumtances. The minimum is likely quite low…often no minimum is specified so that the widest variety of cases can be covered.

For instance, the Criminal Code provides that “break and enter” can carry up to life in prison, but no minimum…manslaughter as well. Another regulatory example is shipping regulations, which often have penalties ranging up to several hundred thousand dollars, but a small minimum (sometimes zero) such that everything from Lukey’s boat to the Irving Whale can be contemplated. Alas, the press seem to consider the story more newsworthy (i.e. sensational) by quoting only the maximum, misleading otherwise thoughtful and well-informed people.

Alan's picture
Alan on April 9, 2004 - 02:03 Permalink

Quite so, Mitch. It is a good maximum in that it could well represent the cost of fencing the largest farm in PEI were that farm to willfully resist and the government need the funds to put the fencing in place that the law requires. As you say, a sensible extreme that would be rarely if ever needed.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on April 9, 2004 - 02:37 Permalink

If I ever need to name a new company, I will name it Umbrage Inc..

Mitch's picture
Mitch on April 9, 2004 - 13:48 Permalink

Egad…for fun I Googled the terms “farmer, fence, fine and umbrage”, and found this gem from a South Shore NS MP in Hansard, expressing opposition to animal cruelty amendments to the Criminal Code:

I still take great umbrage to those two paragraphs. We are leaving the definition of

Ken's picture
Ken on April 10, 2004 - 23:37 Permalink

Cattle trodding the banks of a river flatten it out into a swamp killing most of the life that would live happily undisturbed.

What is the cost of a dead river?
Who bears the loss of a river?
How does any given river benefit you?

Marcus's picture
Marcus on April 11, 2004 - 01:23 Permalink

$300,000 for not fencing your farm from a watercourse…

Just the other day, CBC reported the Russian-flag trawler Olga was fined $113,000 for dumping oily bilge water off Newfoundland.

The Canada Shipping Act states the maximum fine for a summary offence of dumping a pollutant, such as oil, in Canadian waters is $250,000/6 months prison, and for an indictable offence it’s $1,000,000/3 years prison.

Since the fines imposed never go anywhere near the maximum, even for guys owning huge pollution-prone ships like Paul Martin or Aristotle Onassis (if he were still alive), then the average livestock farmer out in Earnscliffe, Rose Valley, St. Louis, or New Zealand likely won’t have to worry too much.

At least they aren’t forcing crop farmers in to fence in their itinerant crops… I just hope when they state “fencing” that there are aesthetic considerations taken into account. While I doubt any livestock farmer would have the money these days, nor the intent to do so, I’d hate to see 4-metre high tennis court style, chain link fencing along our rural roads…

I’m just waiting for environmental laws to catch up with pickup/SUV drivers…