I’m glad the election campaign is over. It was frustrating listening to all the campaign rhetoric. Agriculture was neglected and not discussed.
Justin Trudeau claims one of his most important responsibilities as leader of our great country is to protect Canadian jobs. Based on his leader debate performances, you have to wonder whether he’s even aware that the number one economic driver in Canada today is agriculture and the agri-food business.
He’s certainly much more concerned about protecting the 9,000 jobs at SNC Lavalin, than he is with the 2.3 million employed in the agriculture and agri-food sector nationally. Not once in either of the debates do I recall him mentioning the word “agriculture.” Little wonder our industry receives little or minimal respect in government circles.
Contrast this to our primary competitive jurisdiction immediately south of our border. President Trump has started the biggest trade war in history, and readily recognizes how it has negatively impacted “the biggest and most important industry in the nation.” It seems every day he mentions agriculture somewhere in tweets, interviews, or press conferences. Since he recognizes how seriously his actions have impacted agricultural exports, his administration has implemented “Market Facilitation Payments,” which in the case of soybeans (considered most impacted) has amounted to US $1.65 per bushel for 2018, followed by another US $2 for 2019. Canadian market prices are directly linked to prices in the U.S., yet there was not even a mention regarding anything similar for Canadian producers in any of the political debates, by any of our leaders or their agricultural proxies. It’s such a contrast to USA, and so depressing for our farmers.
The focus of the Canadian election was almost entirely on climate change, carbon tax, indigenous people’s issues, and immigration. I’m not suggesting these are not important, but in my circles, not the most critical issues on anyone in the real world’s agenda. Even in the agricultural debate, hosted by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, where supposedly each party sent their key emissary, it was very evident there is a great lack of understanding of important agricultural issues by Canadian politicians, including our Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. It was pretty obvious she was simply spewing rhetoric provided by equally unknowledgeable staff or PMO (Prime Minister’s Office).
In the leadership debates, the only significant mention of agriculture was when Maxime Bernier accused Andrew Scheer of not having the guts to dismantle the dairy cartel, and other apparently less significant supply managed systems. Somehow the dairy sector has secured access to the ear of the agriculture minister, and the last federal budget acknowledged this. The supply-managed sectors were the only segment of the industry awarded any support for trade injuries, and dairy received by far the greatest portion.
In actual fact, however, other sectors of agriculture have been much more seriously impacted through both the Canada/China and USA/China trade disputes.
Both the Green and NDP positions seemed to believe that all of agriculture’s problems can be solved by creating more domestic demand and adapting a vigorous “Buy Local” initiative. The Greens are so naïve as to think Canadians should only buy local food, and this would greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since that would very significantly reduce transportation requirements. They don’t seem to recognize that’s not a reality, as many food items Canadians enjoy regularly cannot be produced domestically. And Canadian crop farmers depend on foreign markets for their vast acreages of crops. We cannot eat our way through the canola, soybeans and wheat as it was suggested in a debate.
The Green and NDP advocate transitioning away from fossil fuels in part to create jobs in the renewables sector. Agriculture wholeheartedly supports the increase in renewable fuels initiative but not solar farms or construction of massive wind turbines.
Now, the really big question? How can we bring our Canadian politicians back into the real world? They will never get there on their own, or even through the assistance of their extensive support staff. We need agricultural organizations that are in most cases elected to represent us, the extremely efficient agricultural producers of this country, to do a much better job of making our politicians aware of what our serious issues are. Perhaps the industry needs to hire professional lobbyists, who know how to gain the ear of those who make the critical decisions in government.
Surely the nation’s most important economic driver deserves a whole lot more attention than it was getting in Election 2019.
Maynard van der Galien is a Renfrew-area farmer and agricultural writer. In his riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke there were 10 candidates running in the Oct. 21 election.