The 2015 Agriculture Debate in Canada

What do agricultural politics and chocolate cake have in common?

Well, you can blog about them both, of course. And I did just that. This week I wrote a blog post about my Grandma’s favourite chocolate cake recipe – a 4th generation recipe. And  I also watched the debate on agriculture with agricultural leaders from five major parties in Canada (Conservative Party, Bloc Quebecois, the Liberal Party, the NDP and Green Party). It took place in Ottawa, and luckily it was live streamed so I was able to watch it from my café office.

I think all the leaders did well in the debate. There were many topics on the table, including agricultural research investments, labour shortages in agriculture, young people in agriculture, social licensing and agriculture, trade and international markets. There are a lot of issues facing Canadian agriculture and many opinions on the table. We all need to eat, and most people have opinions about what they would like to eat or how their food is grown.

The debate opened with each leader summarizing his (they were all male) party’s platform surrounding agriculture. NDP leader Malcom Allen spoke first and called for the need for a National Food Strategy in Canada and highlighted the work the NDP has done in this area. He also stated his party’s commitment to invest in infrastructure beyond the farm, such as railways and food safety initiatives. He ended by saying how the NDP supports supply management in Canada.

Liberal leader Mark Eyking took the mic next, saying how the Liberals would reinvest in agricultural research and research stations and work to re-establish trade relationships with the US. He also pointed out how trade agreements can hurt mechanisms like supply management and how recent cuts to the agriculture sector are hurting the industry. He pointed out how the federal government has to be a partner with the agricultural sector.

Conservative leader and current Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz spoke next and pointed out how under Conservative leadership trade has gone up and Canada is witnessing a growing number of young people entering farming. He stated that the Conservative Party would continue to support supply management and work to make loans available for new farmers before closing within saying now is in ideal time to be involved in agriculture.

Green Party leader Andrew West was up next and said how the Green Party would invest in agriculture and distribution centers, investigate the effects of TPP on Canadian farmers and support local and small-scale farmers. He said how the Green Party would shift research priorities into organic and sustainable production research and provide transitional assistance for organic farming practices. Improving food safety and removing the agribusiness representative from the Federal Food Policy Advisory Board are also actions the Green Party would take, he said.

Yves Lessard said how the Bloc Quebecois defends the Quebec model of agriculture and how issues that concern producers follow the path of that model. He said how the Bloc Quebecois Party supports supply management and will work to protect and defend supply management.

The debate lasted for almost two hours. What’s clear is that all of the parties have affirmed their parties’ commitments to defend supply management. It’s also clear that there are big issues facing the sector and that coordinated, focused dedication is needed to ensure Canadian farmers are able to survive financially and run a business in these changing times. The leaders acknowledged agriculture’s role as the backbone of the economy and the supplier of food and nourishment.

My favourite quote during the debate was when Mr. Ritz pointed out how “you can’t get fat eating salad.” I agree with him (well, unless you load your salad with greasy things), and what I personally would like to see is an agriculture sector that prioritizes environmental, human and animal health. I would also like to see continued programs in place to protect farmers from market changes as we become more involved in world trade, but I know this is no easy task.

What a great debate!!

food and peace

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