It appears a federal election is on the horizon. Rising like an angry, smoky red sun, when it dawns it will deliver rays of sunshine and likely a few burns.
For the governing Liberals the questions from agriculture should be related to what they have done lately for the industry. For the opposition and other parties, we must ask what they would have done differently. And all parties should be asked what they will do, as opposed to what they say they will do. The latter is another matter entirely.
The pandemic makes it hard to measure the government’s efforts based on what was promised during the last federal election. Three years ago, the federal Liberals said they would get a renewed trade deal with the United States and Mexico. Despite some gnashing of teeth and a few mostly idle threats from the Americans, a deal was made.
There were also promises that the supply-managed sectors wouldn’t be sold down the Missouri or the Mississippi River, depending on where you live. And, for the most part, those producers found themselves intact or compensated for changes brought about in trade deals.
Government investment in new farming and food technologies has rolled out, some of it renamed to meet pandemic needs. The protein super-cluster has been funded to the end of its five-year mandate as promised.
Increased spending on food and livestock inspection is on the books. The government, like the four previous administrations, promised to review and improve federal-provincial risk management programs. That is taking place, but this time it’s the provinces that are having trouble finding a path back to the table and are reluctant to further open their wallets.
The federal government pledged to increase federal support for AgriStability and that did happen. A national food strategy is also in the works.
Ottawa imposed a carbon tax on agriculture, which is tangled up with the provinces. Most producers and their representative organizations have a problem with carbon taxes, especially the way this one is applied.
The government has been slowly delivering the bad news about producers not being granted offsetting carbon credits for their inventories held in the soils or for past carbon-saving measures such as zero-tillage practices. That won’t improve Liberal popularity in the next election.
A goal was set to increase agriculture and food exports to $70 billion by 2025. A poor crop this year, despite higher prices, won’t help the government reach that number. But COVID-19 may have thrown a monkey wrench into that anyway.
For the opposition, throwing wrenches is part of the game. Ahead of the last trip to the polls, the Conservatives vowed to stop taxation on carbon, take an aggressive approach to encouraging international trade and to stand up to global trade bullies. The party also offered support for supply management, although it was light on details.
And the Conservatives promised to reduce regulations, without specifying which ones.
The NDP said during the last campaign that, if elected, it would focus support on smaller farms and research for organic agriculture. It didn’t shy away from putting a price on agricultural carbon.
Of course, there were promises by all about expanded rural broadband and better internet and cellphone communications. That hasn’t happened. No government since the start of those promises in the late 1990s has delivered a completed file on that topic. They have all been hoping technology catches up with their promises in time for the next election.
If we find our politicians out on the hustings this fall, we must challenge them on the details of their promises. Voting for or against what is known is a lot easier than voting for a set of vague promises. No politician should be allowed to take our votes for granted.
Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen and Mike Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.