What a Liberal majority gov’t means for farmers

Farm leaders say they don’t expect the Oct. 19 win by the Liberals and Justin Trudeau to change Canada’s commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trudeau was non-committal on the trade deal signed during the 78-day election campaign, saying his party supported free trade but he wanted to see details before endorsing it.

He promised a full debate in Parliament and public scrutiny of the deal if the Liberals formed government.

But Martin Unrau, past-president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, said he isn’t concerned.

“I expect it to move forward the way it is being proposed,” he said election night. “The TPP is something we know Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal party were in favour of.”

Liberal gov’t likely to bring few ag changes

Unrau said the CCA asked the party for its position on trade and was told the Liberals support free trade agreements like the TPP because of the jobs and prosperity they create across the country.

Gary Stanford, president of the Grain Growers of Canada, came in from fall fertilizing to find a massive shift in the Canadian political map but he too said the organization could work with the new government to make sure it understands the deal’s importance to grain and oilseeds producers.

“That’s a challenge for us as grain growers … to go in with a good attitude and say we’re here to help you,” Stanford said. “I don’t see him trying to defeat the work of the TPP. When you take all the aspects of it, there wasn’t many negatives for Canada.”

Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Ron Bonnett, who spoke before boarding a plane to Ireland for agricultural meetings, and before the election result was known, said he expects any discussion to be around the compensation package for supply-managed sectors affected by the deal.

“Canada can’t really be outside of a trade deal this huge,” he said.

University of Guelph food institute professor Sylvain Charlebois said he believed Trudeau would go ahead with it.

“I think Mr. Trudeau showed a lot of wisdom to not commit too much,” he said from Austria where he is on sabbatical. “Obviously we’re dealing with a government that is supportive of trade.”

He said the Conservatives erred in not providing enough information to the public and to farmers.

The new government should better communicate the benefits of this deal and the agreement with Europe, he said.

“Even in the agriculture community we need to better understand what is at stake,” Charlebois said.

He also noted the Liberals emphasized science during the campaign, a move that he described as refreshing and needed in the agricultural community particularly as it relates to water resources and climate change.

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The party promised to address the issue of grain handling and Charlebois said he would be watching for that.

Bonnett added that labour issues, the next agricultural policy framework and a long-term strategy for grain storage and movement are issues the CFA would raise with the new government.

Charlebois suggested whomever Trudeau appoints to the agriculture portfolio should be comfortable in both the rural and urban worlds in order to build bridges.

All three farm leaders said they had worked hard to build relationships with representatives from all three main parties and were confident they had the ear of the Liberals.

“As soon as they get the House back in order in Ottawa we’re going to try to get in the door right away with the new agriculture minister,” said Stanford.

Bonnett also said the CFA would be asking for meetings with key ministers as soon as possible.

The leaders thanked the outgoing Conservatives for their hard work.

Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz was re-elected in his Battlefords-Lloydminster riding as the rural Conservative base on the Prairies held.

Liberal agriculture critic Mark Eyking was re-elected in his Nova Scotia riding of Sydney-Victoria with more than 70 percent of the vote, but NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen lost a tight race in Niagara Centre to his Liberal opponent.

Numerous high-profile names went down to defeat, including Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin and finance minister Joe Oliver.

Lisa Raitt, who was transport minister, was re-elected in Milton and trade minister Ed Fast won in Abbotsford, B.C.

In Saskatchewan, Ralph Goodale will once again carry the Liberal red and is destined for a high-profile job in the new government as one of the most senior MPs. He previously served in finance and agriculture, and other portfolios.

At press time, the Liberals were elected or leading in 185 seats, the Conservatives in 100, the NDP in 42, the Bloc Quebecois in 10 and the Green Party in one.

The Liberal party went from 34 seats, third party status and trailing in the polls at the start of the campaign to the overwhelming win.

“The people are never wrong,” said Conservative leader, and prime minister for nearly 10 years, Stephen Harper. “We’ve put everything on the table. We gave everything we had to give and we have no regrets whatsoever.”

Harper did not tell supporters he would resign but the party issued a statement saying he was stepping down as leader.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who saw the party’s 103 seats drop by more than half, said he accepted the voters’ decision but did not indicate his future plans.

“Since the beginning this election was a question of change and tonight Canadians have turned a page on 10 long years and they rejected a policy of fear and division,” he said.

Trudeau urged his supporters to have faith in themselves and their country.

“We won this election because we listened,” he said. “You built this platform. You built this movement.”

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