The federal government launches a new agenda in October for the final two years of its current mandate.
The agenda will include a glimpse of agricultural plans to 2015.
The Conservative party lags in the polls midway through a majority mandate and after more than seven years in power.
A new parliamentary session will be part of the government attempt to re-calibrate its way, ahead of the 2015 election with a refreshed cabinet and a new throne speech laying out a re-election vision.
Farm sector lobbyists and opposition MPs expect no centrepiece agricultural initiatives.
“I really think it will be the same old, same old, although there is much they could be announcing to repair some of the damage they did in the past few years in cutting research and food safety resources,” said Guelph Liberal MP and former agriculture critic Frank Valeriote.
Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Ron Bonnet said he expects no grand vision in the throne speech.
Instead, he thinks the speech will promise continued work on initiatives already launched, including completing food safety regulations and promoting the benefits of trade deals now being negotiated.
“I really don’t think you will see many radical ideas in the throne speech,” he said. “But there could be some surprises.”
He said any government decision to tighten rail transportation rules in the wake of the Quebec oil car explosion that killed 47 people in July could negatively affect hauling grain by rail.
“Our sector could be sideswiped a bit by that.”
Bonnet said it is also possible the government could announce progress toward a national food strategy promised by prime minister Stephen Harper in the 2011 election campaign.
The CFA and the Conference Board of Canada are working on versions of a national food strategy, with the conference board set to unveil its proposals in the spring.
“That report could be a platform for the government to announce at least some movement toward the goal,” said Bonnet.
Last week, the Conservative government was saying nothing publicly on a renewed agenda for agriculture and rural Canada.
In the past two years, agriculture minister Gerry Ritz has fulfilled a longstanding party pledge to eliminate the CWB export monopoly and started reforming the Canadian Grain Commission mandate.
The government also eliminated the controversial long gun registry.
A source within the agriculture department said the outline of the new agenda is still in flux.
Ritz will receive a new “mandate letter” from Harper early after the new parliamentary session begins that will outline what the government expects of him.
“There will be a new mandate letter, but it is impossible to speculate on what will be in it,” said the source.
“There are things on the horizon, but it is in flux. The work we do evolves in reaction to what is happening in the industry.”
However, with a party convention planned for Calgary at the end of October, the party base grumbling and Conservative support levels in the polls stalled, “it is fair to say there is an expectation across the board that we must do better.”
Items on a renewed agricultural agenda will likely include:
- Completion of Canada Grains Act reforms, including changes to the grain commission governance structure.
- Changes to variety regulation rules.
- Completion of food safety rules so that the Safe Food for Canadians Act can take effect in 2015.
- Promises of benefits from trade negotiations with the European Union and Japan as well as a vow to continue defending meat exporters against U.S. country-of-origin labelling rules.
Liberal agriculture critic Mark Eyking said whatever the new agenda, the government will have to be held accountable in the next two years for the effects of food inspector cuts.
Eyking said the next two years will also likely be the first test of recent cuts to farm safety net programs as commodity prices fall and production costs rise.
“When the storm comes, and it will come, farmers will be shocked.”