The three major federal parties have released their platforms ahead of the Sept. 20 election.
While most Canadians won’t spend much time with these plans and promises, the agricultural community could find some good, light reading ahead of casting a vote. But good luck finding many differences among the top three players.
The farm community comprises about two percent of the Canadian population, so it’s no surprise that farm and rural issues aren’t front and centre in Canadian politicians’ minds. They have little time to invest in attracting the few undecided farm votes still available, especially in Western Canada.
That shouldn’t prevent farmers and their organizations from using the election forum to extract further commitments for agriculture beyond the proffered paltry platforms.
With regard to improved rural internet speed and cellular coverage, all parties continue to promise the same things they’ve been promising since 1998. Individual farmers are the best judges of whether connections have improved in their areas over that time.
The Liberals promise to take a hard line with companies that have won bandwidth auctions only to limit distribution and investment to more profitable urban communities.
The Conservatives have the largest set of platform promises for agriculture. Unlike the Liberals, however, (at the time of writing) they haven’t costed any of it.
The party suggests it will do a better job of advocating for agriculture in international trade discussions while still providing protection and compensation for supply managed industries. That position is indistinguishable from those of the Liberals and the NDP.
Conservatives say they are better able than other parties to get trade agreements from the United States, China and other nations, but details on their approach are scant.
A grocery supply code to work with retailer and wholesaler pricing is on the Tory agenda and is also in the NDP’s plans. So are promises of perishable produce market protections as they related to cross-border relationships with the U.S. The Liberals have been working on both as government.
All three parties promise renovation and reform of the federal-provincial farm safety net programs. The Liberals have rolled out changes but getting provincial buy-in has been tricky in provinces with large farm economies and smaller populations.
Despite some producer demands for an end to carbon taxes, at least as they apply to agriculture, none of the three parties offer much in their platforms, presumably because it would create issues with other Paris Accord partners and with buyers of Canadian farm products.
The Liberals and Conservatives say they are developing carbon offset programs or markets but neither party provides details.
The Conservatives suggest they would be tougher on rural crime than other parties. However, law enforcement has to be equally applied and funding has provincial and municipal ramifications. The NDP might have a greater effect on crime reduction through its plans to reduce rural poverty, but no one expects an NDP federal government to take shape.
Other parties in the race have agricultural positions, but with little chance of electing representatives, and an even smaller chance of holding a balance of parliamentary power post-election, there’s no point in detailed examinations. However, they might serve to motivate, infuriate or bore farmers who peruse them.
Agriculture and its future health are vital to Canada and Canadians, but this is another federal election in which the sector doesn’t play a major role. It is ever so.
Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen and Mike Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.