Feds’ prairie rep reassures farmers on grain drying

More prairie people are needed at the centre of the federal government, Jim Carr told the Canadian Crops Convention March 3.

And with everything that society has learned from the trend toward working remotely during the pandemic, that’s more possible than ever to make real.

“I think there are going to be some significant changes coming out of the pandemic, and how we understand we can talk to the country, to parts of the country,” Carr, who is prime minister Justin Trudeau’s special representative for Western Canada, said while speaking remotely from his home in Winnipeg.

“Maybe it’s possible to live on the Prairies and function at the centre of the federal government.”

Carr reiterated agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau’s encouraging words about mitigating the impact of the federal carbon tax on grain drying, but spoke more forcefully about it.

“We know this is an irritant. We understand why. I just want you to take some reassurance in what minister Bibeau said last week and will be discussed internally and made public before too long,” said Carr, who held a number of roles before becoming sick with cancer, including trade diversification minister and natural resources minister. He has been a long-time member of Trudeau’s team of dependable ministers.

“We’re going to make some significant progress on this issue.”

Carr’s role was created in the wake of the 2019 election, in which Liberal party representation was wiped out in Western Canada outside Winnipeg, Vancouver and urban enclaves.

Heavyweight minister Ralph Goodale of Regina lost his seat in the wipe-out.

Carr’s task is to build bridges with the Prairies, something he seemed keen to do with the Crops convention by embracing the desire for changes to grain-drying taxes and the desire for improvements to prairie representation on the port of Vancouver board.

Canola Council of Canada President Jim Everson noted that the Prairies ship 85 percent of the port’s business, but only have nine percent of the board representation. Prairie industries like agriculture aren’t happy about that.

Carr was supportive in the campaign to “make sure there are more western Canadians on the board.”

Carr seemed comfortable and confident in acknowledging western concerns that too often aren’t seen east of Thunder Bay. The grain-drying tax is one of those issues, flaring out of the bigger carbon tax on agriculture issue.

“I believe it’s important that the government of Canada has a better insight into why there is so much heat, and why farmers have taken the position they have, on a price on pollution (the government’s term for the carbon tax) and why they think there ought to be rebates and exemptions,” said Carr.

Contact ed.white@producer.com

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