I am a western Canadian. I was born in Winnipeg, and have lived in Alberta for more than 20 years.
I now live and work in Ottawa — and right now, it is a complicated place to be.
In the aftermath of the Oct. 21 federal election, the Conservatives hold every riding in Alberta and Saskatchewan — except one.
While this certainly sends a strong message to Ottawa, it also has western Canadian farmers rightfully feeling at a disadvantage. I have heard from plenty of family, friends, and colleagues who are frustrated, and who feel that they are on their own.
As the executive director of a national agricultural organization, it is a source of pride for me that we represent the diverse interests of our members from coast to coast. For our western partners, I know how you feel and I promise you that the Grain Growers of Canada is listening.
The challenges that you face are not uniquely your own; they belong to all of us as an industry. From business risk management programs and market access to the carbon levy and the modernization of the Canada Grain Act, GGC is more united than ever in its efforts to ensure that its members’ priorities shape the national agenda.
It is no secret that this new minority government will add a layer of complexity to the way we navigate our advocacy strategy in the nation’s capital. What was an already convoluted bureaucracy will become more so. However, we are not new at this, and we are ready for the challenge.
As we seek to inform decision makers and push the levers of power in a more favourable direction, we will continue to build positive and productive relationships with elected officials from every political party, regardless of whether we agree with their politics. While some parties and officials have been more vocal in their support for the interests of export-oriented farmers, the fact remains that others will take more convincing.
The numbers don’t lie. Statistics Canada reported that the country’s farmers saw net farm income fall by 45 percent to $3.9 billion in 2018. This is the second-consecutive annual drop in income and the lowest reported in eight years.
The status quo is not good enough. Farmers cannot wait for another party to form government. We have to work with the one we’ve got as well as the opposition parties in a minority parliament, who will have heightened abilities to influence government policy. So, for as long as this minority government lasts, GGC is committed to leading by example.
We will foster relationships with elected officials interested in working collaboratively.
We will advocate for a unified approach to legislation that benefits farmers across the country.
We will work with the ag advocates in each party to get this done.
That is what you sent us here to do, and we need our national voice to be as loud as ever.
Erin Gowriluk is executive director of Grain Growers of Canada.