Manitoba NDP starts talking ag

On July 21, the Manitoba NDP issued a news release defending the interests of commercial grain farmers.

When I read the release, I almost dropped my phone into a bowl of Cheerios.

NDP leader Wab Kinew said the Progressive Conservative government broke a promise to Manitoba farmers because it didn’t conduct a survey of grain drying costs.

This spring, federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the carbon tax doesn’t significantly increase the cost of grain drying and it won’t be exempted from the tax.

Kinew said the lack of a Manitoba government survey illustrating how the carbon tax does add thousands of dollars to the cost of grain drying shows the PCs failed to stand up for farmers.

“Grain producers are the heart of Manitoba’s agricultural industry and our economy,” he said. “Westman farmers deserve better.”

The release was a “phone dropper” because the Manitoba NDP rarely mentions commercial farmers. It prefers to talk about things like urban food deserts and farmers markets.

There’s a reason why Kinew suddenly cares about grain farmers. In the 2016 and 2019 provincial elections, the NDP won zero seats in rural Manitoba — zero.

Starting in the 1960s, the NDP routinely won seats in places like Dauphin, Swan River and the Interlake. Those victories, combined with strong support in Winnipeg, helped the party stay in power from 1999 to 2016.

Then, in the early 2010s, the NDP brand became toxic outside of Winnipeg. The party ignored rural concerns and didn’t make ag a priority.

“The NDP will not form government (again) until they have a good rural and agricultural strategy,” said Tom Nevakshonoff, who represented the NDP in the Interlake from 1999 to 2016.

“NDP governments form power in this province when they come back down to earth and … focus on things that matter to people.”

As a glaring example, former NDP Premier Greg Selinger never made an effort to appear at Ag Days — Manitoba’s largest agricultural trade show. Kinew, to his credit, may have learned from such mistakes. He showed up at Ag Days this year.

Some rural voters might be cynical about Kinew’s interest in commercial grain production, but it’s actually a good thing.

It’s unhealthy when one political party dominates in cities and another party gets 80 percent of the vote in rural Canada. If Kinew does ever become premier, he’ll know that farming and farmers matter.

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