Parties unveil platforms, including ag, as election winds up

After two months on the campaign trail, Canada’s federal leaders are about to make their final vote pitches to Canadians — in a race that remains too close to call.

As of Oct. 9 the polls showed a two-way race emerging between the Conservatives and the Liberals, thanks to slipping NDP support. Two-thirds of those polled are consistently demanding change.

None of the major parties are expected to form a majority government.

Both the Conservatives and the NDP revealed their full platforms Oct. 9 ahead of the Thanksgiving weekend, in time for political talk to accompany the turkey and stuffing at the dinner table.

The Liberals revealed their full platform Oct. 5.

All three parties’ platforms include promises for Canadian farmers.

The Conservatives re-committed themselves to see the TPP through, arguing the deal is essential to Canadian agriculture.

The Conservatives also pledged to invest $100 million over three years to the Agri-Innovation program.

Projects driven by universities and colleges would also be eligible for funding, the party said.

A Conservative government would also increase support for the Agri-Marketing Program, which promotes Canadian agriculture products internationally. The Market Access Secretariat would also be expanded.

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As for the ongoing rail review, to be delivered to Parliament later this year, the Conservatives said they will “take action to improve Canada’s transportation network and support market access for Canadian farmers, based upon the recommendations of the transportation review.”

Meanwhile, the NDP have said they will spend $85 million on “flexible start-up grants and direct capital support” for young farmers that can be used “towards access and down payment programs.”

The NDP also reiterated its commitment to defending supply management, which recently saw small concessions made at the TPP table. Mulcair has repeatedly called the TPP deal a “secret deal” and has said in his view he is not bound by the negotiations that occurred during the election.

The NDP also promised to expand rural broadband across the country, introduce a payment protection plan for produce farmers and “ensure business risk management programs adequately protect and stabilize farm family incomes.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency would also see investments, the NDP said, but it did not specify how much.

The Liberal plan includes several funding announcements that are of interest to Canadian agriculture.

If elected, the Liberals said they would invest $160 million, over four years, into an Agri-Food Value Added Investment Fund.

The fund would be used to provide technical and marketing assistance to help food processors.

The party will also provide an additional $100 million for agriculture research, while promising to “establish a transparent process that involves food producers” to ensure funding is better allocated.

The Liberals would give the Canadian Food Inspection Agency $80 million in additional funding over four years “for more food safety inspections of domestic and imported foods.”

Soil and water conservation, development and infrastructure issues are also on the party’s radar, the Liberals said.

With the campaign homestretch in sight and the number of undecided voters still high, the coming days will make it or break it for all three parties, particularly in swing regions like southern Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia.

Two months ago, few would have expected the political race to remain this tight.

At that time, the farm community expected ongoing labour shortages, transportation and supply management to dominate the agriculture election discussion, with many, including myself, predicting supply management could become a major election issue.

Let that be a lesson on why journalists really shouldn’t make election predictions.

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