Farmers say the re-elected Saskatchewan Party government must now work with the federal Liberals to develop strong agricultural policy.
As expected through the ho-hum 27-day campaign and from polls that didn’t significantly change, the Saskatchewan Party was re-elected to its third consecutive majority government April 4. At press time, the party was elected or leading in 51 of 61 seats.
Premier Brad Wall easily won his Swift Current constituency, one he has held since 1999. NDP leader Cam Broten lost a tight race for his Saskatoon Westview seat.
Wall found some irony that he gave his winner’s address from the Palliser Pavilion in Swift Current, named after the explorer who gave a dismal, 19th Century view of southern Saskatchewan.
“Palliser concluded that ‘no one should live here, no one should farm here.’ In this province you had better be careful when you tell someone something can’t be done,” said the third term Premier.
Wall made no agricultural campaign promises but during the next few years Growing Forward 3 will be implemented, and thorny issues such as a national carbon tax sorted out.
A review of the current agricultural policy framework is expected to be complete by the July meeting of federal, provincial and territorial agriculture ministers, leading to work on GF3.
The province’s most recent agriculture minister, Lyle Stewart, re-elected in a new constituency of Lumsden-Morse, wasn’t happy about changes made to business risk management programs in Growing Forward 2 that saved governments money but didn’t provide the income safety net that farmers wanted.
Wall has staunchly opposed a carbon tax and said his government would vigorously defend provincial interests.
“You can expect a government that is proud of oil and gas … proud of modern agriculture and proud crop science, the likes which is growing amazing canola crops and feeding the world,” said Wall after telling supporters his government would ensure a continuation of low taxes and royalty rates.
Norm Hall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said both federal and provincial governments have to do what’s best for producers.
“We will be lobbying both provincially here through APAS and federally through (Canadian Federation of Agriculture) to ensure there’s a good relationship and that the programs are farmer friendly as opposed to government friendly,” he said.
APAS has recently surveyed its members on business risk management programs and results are expected soon.
Doug Gillespie, president of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, said his industry would like to see livestock price insurance as a permanent part of the business risk management program. It is currently a pilot in western Canada.
He said the cattle industry would also like to see the two governments work together to streamline regulations and expand trade.
Provincially, Gillespie commends the returning government for continuing to improve infrastructure such as highways.
“I would hope that they maintain the direction they’re going,” he said.
He is encouraged by the recently announced improvements to forage insurance and said his organization would continue to push for an assurance fund to protect producers when selling cattle, and changes to the horned cattle fund.
Glaslyn area farmer Daryl Fransoo said he will be watching for action on grain transportation and inaction, from Ottawa, on a carbon tax.
“The Sask. Party has done a great job saying no carbon tax,” Fransoo said. “We’ve got to make the feds realize that we’re actually a carbon sink in agriculture and that we should be recognized as such if they do implement a carbon tax.”
Fixing grain transportation concerns is a matter of determining proper and balanced regulations to help farmers and railways at the same time, Fransoo said.
“We’ve got to start with keeping inter-switching alive for right now until we can figure out how we can get a more competitive market. We’ve got to modernize the maximum revenue entitlement so it benefits the farmers but at the same time incentivizes rail to move our grain and spend money on infrastructure for grain handling.”
Both Fransoo and Hall also said governments must do more to encourage young farmers.
“We already lost a lot of the generation above me. If we lose the generation below me who’s going to take over the farm,” said Fransoo, who is 30.