Alta. farm leaders hope to work with new gov’t

Provincial groups say they want carbon tax exemptions, more research funding and improved international trade

Alberta farm leaders are congratulating Premier-designate Jason Kenney for his election win, hoping the new United Conservative Party government will work with them on key issues.

Team Alberta, which represents the province’s main crop commissions, said in a news release last week it wants to collaborate with the UCP government on improving international trade, enhancing research, introducing carbon tax exemptions and overcoming regulatory hurdles.

“We’ve been sequestering carbon through improved farming practices for a long time,” said Dave Bishop, chair of the Alberta Barley Commission, in the news release.

“Currently, the crop sector isn’t being rewarded for our positive contributions in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, we are being penalized by the carbon tax.”

Kenney’s government received a majority mandate from voters on April 16, with unofficial results showing it will likely send 63 MLAs to the legislature. The UCP received about 55 percent of the popular vote.

The NDP will form the province’s official opposition, likely sending 24 MLAs, mostly from Edmonton. The party received 32 percent of the popular vote.

None of the other provincial parties won seats.

Kenney has promised to axe the provincial carbon tax, though it’s expected the federal levy will kick in if he does.

He also said he would repeal and create new farm safety legislation, following years of contention between farmers and the NDP government over the issue.

Many expect the UCP government will allow farmers to choose Workers’ Compensation Board coverage or private insurance, and exempt small farms from having to abide by the new regulations.

“Farm safety is a priority for us all, but we’re confident the government is willing to sit down and develop something that is going to work a little better,” said Charlie Christie, chair of Alberta Beef Producers. “It’s going to take commitment from industry and government. We’re well represented in the government now.”

The UCP has also promised to cancel Notley’s $3.7-billion rail car deal to ship more oil, a move likely to ease anxiety among farmers who felt it would affect grain movement.

As well, the UCP is putting agriculture research on the agenda, promising to let farmers lead initiatives

“Innovative agronomic and genetic research directly affects our bottom line on the farm,” said Gary Stanford, chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission.

“To ensure farmers remain competitive, we seek to build strong funding partnerships with the provincial government and collaborate on crop production research and extension.”

Kenney told reporters April 17 he expects his party to form government April 30, which is when he will appoint members to cabinet.

The spring sitting in the legislature is expected to begin the third week of May.

Kenney said the UCP will bring forward Bill 1 when government forms to repeal the carbon tax.

Following that, legislation will be introduced to reduce corporate tax rates, slash the minimum wage for youth to $13 per hour and create new farm safety legislation, repealing the previous NDP law.

“To bring in our major changes would be at least several bills, so I would see a late spring, early summer session,” he said. “I’m pretty sure we can wrap up by the time (the Calgary) Stampede starts.”

Christie said ABP also wants the UCP to implement the renewed grazing framework, which would tie lease rates to the price of cattle, resulting in a general rate increase.

He said the framework is necessary to avoid a trade dispute with the United States, which could argue that the current model acts like a subsidy for Canadian beef producers.

“This is one of the most important issues and it’s ready to go to be implemented,” he said.

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