So many questions.
That’s what we’re left to think in the Prairies after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals swept to power on Monday night.
A party that has not been welcomed on the Prairies for many years is now in power in Ottawa. And times have changed significantly since prime minister Paul Martin held power in 2006.
While much of the country embraced the Liberals, the Prairies barely gave it a hug. The Liberals garnered 24 percent of the vote in Saskatchewan, 24 percent in Alberta and 44 percent in Manitoba. (Ok, that was a kiss on the cheek.)
It means prairie farmers won’t have as much of a voice in government. The Liberal agriculture critic is Mark Eyking, of Nova Scotia, who was once a farmer. He has said Canada would not accept a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that opens up Canada’s dairy market to American milk imports, yet that’s what the TPP does, albeit, to a fairly small degree. Where does Liberal policy fall on the deal? We’re not sure.
During the campaign, the Liberals promised to spend $160 million on the Agri-Food Value Added Investment Fund, $100 million on agricultural research and $80 million for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. They also promised a costing review for rail.
All very well, but how much of a priority will these have in a government that is largely based in the East, whose support base in agriculture comes mainly from dairy farmers and those who support them in Ontario and Quebec?
The transition of the Canadian Wheat Board to private hands leaves the new government handling hot issues it would not have wanted. The Conservative government, for example, reacted to the transportation crisis in 2013 by forcing rail companies to carry more grain. What will the Liberals do should they be caught in a similar situation? Fortunately, Regina’s Ralph Goodale, a former agriculture minister, is still around to advise the new prime minister.
Who will be the agriculture minister? Critics aren’t always promoted to ministers because they have to live up to their own words, which as we know in politics, can be difficult.
If not Eyking, would Goodale step into those shoes? We could hope so.
Will the Liberal government be as persistent on the country-of-origin labelling issue in forcing the Americans to comply? Ritz had threatened retaliatory tariffs if COOL legislation wasn’t repealed. Will that file be as high on the new government’s agenda?
Prairie Conservatives, who are used to having the ear of government, will now have to operate from the opposition, bringing pressure to bear on the Liberals in the House, or marshalling public opinion. It is a very different talent.
Canadians had their say on Monday. Fair enough. But prairie farmers will likely have to work harder now to have theirs in Ottawa.
To see all of our election coverage visit Western Producer’s Election 2015 page