Greens weigh in on agriculture

A Green party government in Canada would implement national use standards for nitrogen fertilizer and move away from what it calls industrial livestock production.

Leader Elizabeth May released the party’s full platform last week.

It notes that a report from climate scientists in August said agriculture must be transformed to meet climate change goals.

“Canada has a huge opportunity to become a world leader in reversing climate change through regenerative agriculture practices,” the document says. “The soil will be the unsung hero, a game-changer in fighting climate change.”

Reducing nitrogen use, reducing erosion while rebuilding soils to retain carbon and supporting the transition from industrial to regenerative agriculture are key platform planks.

The Greens say that agriculture in Canada has moved from family owned mixed farms to industrial production and that the resulting crops and livestock are produced in quantity and for export, not quality and nutrition.

It says transnational corporations control the food supply and that agriculture degrades soils and has become a major source of pollution.

“Shifting to mostly local, organic production systems for both crops and livestock will reduce climate-changing pollution while increasing the soil’s ability to store carbon and retain productivity in the face of climate change,” the platform says.

Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Agri-Food analytics lab at Dalhousie University, said this type of platform is designed to appeal to the urban voter.

“The focus is to get votes from people who don’t really have much of a connection to agriculture in general,” he said in an interview. “I’m not saying that in a demeaning way, but the language that we hear in cities about agriculture is somewhat uneducated.”

But Charlebois also said that the Green party is focusing on these issues because they could hold the balance of power in a minority government.

An Angus Reid survey, supported by the Dalhousie lab and conducted with 1,524 consumers Sept. 9, found that the Greens ranked second in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces as the political party best positioned to support consumers and the agri-food sector.

Nationally, the Conservatives were first in every region, followed by the Liberals and Green party. In Saskatchewan, the People’s Party of Canada was ranked second; nationally, the PPC support is equal to the NDP.

Notably, the number of respondents who were unsure was high at 42 percent nationally.

“When it comes to plastics and food waste the Greens are actually seen as the best positioned party to address those issues,” Charlebois said. “But when it comes to trade and economic growth, the Conservatives are number one. But when it comes to affordability it’s the NDP.”

The margin of error for the survey was less than three percent, 19 times out of 20.

It also found that less than one- third of Canadians think agriculture and food will be a priority election issue.

Three out of five respondents said food security and affordability were the top issues.

The Green policy includes a long list of promises, including increasing regional food self-reliance, restoring the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration and restructuring business risk management programs.

The full platform can be found at www.greenparty.ca/en/platform.

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