NDP leaders call for AgriStability funding

The three provincial parties join forces to demand their provinces’ governments agree to increase the compensation rate

Prairie NDP opposition leaders last week called on their provincial governments to fund the proposed increase to compensation under AgriStability.

Alberta’s Rachel Notley, Ryan Meili in Saskatchewan and Wab Kinew in Manitoba said the economic recovery from COVID and the prosperity of the Prairies depends on farmers.

“That’s why we’re joining here today to call on the three conservative prairie premiers to sign on to the full federal proposal for AgriStability and agree to increasing the compensation rate from 70 to 80 percent,” said Meili during a joint virtual news conference.

He said while removing the reference margin limit was positive, the provinces shouldn’t leave federal dollars on the table.

Kinew said the prairie provinces delayed in making even that decision and in the end took only a half-measure to help farmers.

“We would like to see that move from the 70 percent to 80 percent so that the full impact of the AgriStability program can be realized,” said Kinew.

Notley said Alberta farmers have been clear they want the full package of changes. She said 11 commodity and general farm organizations sent the government a letter urging that to happen.

“When you see that kind of collective call from several different sectors, it tells us that the UCP was not listening,” she said.

The former Alberta premier said the economic recovery will rely on agriculture, and the Alberta government could easily afford its $8-million contribution if it cut its $30-million energy war room.

“It is actually jaw-droppingly mystifying that these folks don’t get what an easy fix this is and how it’s an opportunity,” she said. “There’s consensus across the board within the agricultural sector that this is low-hanging fruit and if this is being delayed simply because of political positioning, well that is ridiculous. It’s irresponsible.”

Saskatchewan agriculture critic Trent Wotherspoon raised the issue in the Legislature April 22, asking minister David Marit to “stop blocking this needed fix for producers in Saskatchewan.”

He said the Saskatchewan Party pretends to be champions of agriculture.

“But it’s an act because where the rubber hits the road this government fails to step up for producers and to get the job done where it counts,” Wotherspoon said. “All hat, no cattle, Mr. Speaker. All talk, no walk.”

Marit noted the province was successful in its effort to exclude private insurance revenue from program year margins and agreed to remove the RML. He later said he couldn’t see any circumstances under which the province would change its mind.

The cost to increase compensation would be about $10 million in Saskatchewan and about $8 million in Manitoba.

Kinew added that Manitoba’s contribution “would hardly be more than what they’re spending on mailing cheques out to everybody as part of their latest political stunt when it comes to the property tax rebate.”

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