The Bush administration cites public safety in trying to block admission of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, but has agreed to expand imports of Canadian beef and cattle despite cases of mad cow disease, Montana’s Democratic governor complained Saturday.

“President Bush was recently here in Montana and we had just one question for him,” Gov. Brian Schweitzer said in his party’s weekly radio address. “Why allow bad beef to enter the U.S. from Canada and not allow safe medicine?”

Schweitzer, who was elected in November as the state’s first Democratic governor in 16 years, has been a staunch proponent of allowing drug imports from Canada, saying they could dramatically cut costs for senior citizens and others on fixed incomes.

“For five years now, the federal government has had the ability to lower the prescription drug cost for everyone in America by as much as 50 percent,” he said. “And if five years, they’ve not delivered.”

During an earlier, unsuccessful campaign for a Senate seat, Schweitzer became known for chartering buses to take older people to Canada to buy their prescription drugs.

He said he often gave those on board clipboards and asked them to make note of the number of Canadian trucks headed into the United States carrying cattle, hogs and lumber.

“Yet prescription drugs made in the U.S., shipped to Canada, aren’t allowed back across the border. This makes no sense,” Schweitzer said.

Drugs purchased from Canada and other countries are often far cheaper than the same ones bought in the United States, but the administration has opposed the practice, contending it’s unsafe.

Schweitzer noted that a top official of the Food and Drug Administration acknowledged last year that there had never been a documented case of an unsafe drug imported from Canada.

He also noted that after a case of mad cow disease was discovered in Canada, the United States closed the border to beef and cattle shipments, but later allowed some imports to resume.

The administration has proposed expanding that even further on March 7, despite two more recent cases of mad cow disease in Canada.