Ag groups welcome new Tory leader

Agricultural groups are looking forward to working with the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Erin O’Toole’s Aug. 24 victory marks a new era for the party.

Grain Growers of Canada chair Jeff Nielsen said he is looking forward to engaging the new leader, who replaced Regina-Qu’Appelle MP Andrew Scheer.

“He’s engaged with the questions that we asked him, and we look forward to seeing, of course naturally, who he has in his shadow cabinet,” he said, noting he believes the position is currently being filled by someone with “great experience” in Foothills MP John Barlow.

Nielsen singled out a specific commitment from O’Toole, highlighted in the new leader’s acceptance speech.

“He has made some promising comments already about western alienation,” said Nielsen.

During his opening news conference, O’Toole told reporters “we’re going to see more western alienation, we’re going to see less jobs and uncertainty for Canadians in Ontario and Atlantic Canada” if Canadian resources are not brought to world markets.

“We need to make sure that Canada’s strength in natural resources is part of that economic plan. We can do that while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but we have to be proud of what we produce here in Canada,” he said.

Nielsen also pointed to O’Toole’s commitment of eliminating the carbon tax and reforming business risk management programs as other positive signs.

The Grain Growers chair said O’Toole’s chief rival, Peter MacKay, “came across knowing a bit more understanding of basic needs of agriculture” and said the solid third place showing of Dr. Leslyn Lewis was “excellent.”

Pork Council of Canada chair Rick Bergmann said that pork producers “work with whoever is in leadership.”

“Usually, if people are in opposition they have limited impact, we have limited uptake and discussions. For sure there has been some significant change there, and we’ll see how it goes,” he said.

“The reality of the work that we do on the farm, I’ve always had the decision that food should not get political. Lumber can, shoes can, rubber tires can, but something like food, that keeps us alive and without we will die, should not be connected to anything political.”

O’Toole’s platform highlighted a number of measures for the sector:

  • Respecting supply management for dairy and poultry, and ensuring that farming families are engaged in any trade negotiations on programs that impact the sector.
  • Ending the Liberal carbon tax, which is driving up farm input costs like diesel fuel, natural gas, fertilizer, transportation and electricity.
  • Supporting more agriculture research and harmonization of farm product regulations with trading partners, especially the United States.
  • Ensuring farm safety net programs are “predictable, bankable, and manageable.”
  • Implementing a plan to tackle rural crime and ensure that farm families feel safe.
  • Developing policies with community stakeholders to facilitate the transfer of family farms from parents to their children.
  • Amending existing laws in order to allow livestock owners to use local slaughterhouses, reducing both stress to the animals and the production of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from transportation to distant facilities.
  • Recognizing the critical environmental stewardship provided by Canadian farmers and examine public good recognition for the positive impacts they have on wetlands conservation, carbon sequestration, reforestation, species protection and maintaining pollinator habitat.
  • Launch a national Alternative Land Use Systems pilot project to examine incentives for environmental stewardship by farmers.
  • Protect food supply by implementing a food security strategy including redirecting some federal agricultural research funding, to partnering with the private sector to develop methods to grow more crops in Canada year round in greenhouses.
  • Launching programming to build clusters of greenhouses by funding infrastructure and cutting the red tape to get them built quickly.
  • Reassessing all federal regulations concerning the labelling of food products to ensure that both their contents and country of origin are clearly identified.

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