Producers urged to question their devotion to Conservatives

Farmers might want to ask themselves, what has the Conservative party done for them lately? On issues such as carbon pricing, the Conservatives now support the policy and any continued farmer opposition will fall on sympathetic, but mostly deaf, ears. | File photo

Producers on the Prairies are expected to once again support the Conservative Party of Canada .

Polling suggests the Conservative vote share could be on the rise, and there is a chance the party sweeps all the seats in Saskatchewan again, this time with a higher share of the vote than in 2019.

We’ve seen this play out in previous elections.

Farmers won’t be seen as a valuable voting bloc and outside of a few ridings, don’t expect parties to put in any particular effort to win over the rural vote.

Political organizers in opposition parties know the 14 Conservative-held seats in Saskatchewan, for example, are likely to stay that way.

Most prairie seats are considered Conservative strongholds and the major parties won’t dedicate a lot of party resources to those areas.

We have a good idea of what a Liberal government brings to agriculture. It has formed the government since 2015.

But farmers might want to ask themselves, what has the Conservative party done for them lately? It is tough to deliver results from the opposition benches, and the Conservatives haven’t been in power since 2015.

As of this writing, the Erin O’Toole-led Conservative party seems destined to stay in opposition.

In the absence of being able to govern, many looked to Conservative members in recent years to form a viable opposition to the Liberal policies.

Here, the Conservative party has largely failed. Producers opposed carbon pricing, but the Conservatives were unable to do anything to stop it from affecting farmers.

Conservative provincial governments on the Prairies couldn’t stop it, either.

Any tweaks to carbon pricing, such as offering further exemptions on certain fuels, came more at the behest of agricultural lobby groups than the Conservatives.

Once seen by some as a threat to modern agriculture, carbon pricing has now been in place since 2019 across the country and is poised to stay.

The Conservatives now support the policy and any continued farmer opposition will fall on sympathetic, but mostly deaf, ears.

Farmers, compared to other industries, don’t need to rely on opposition members to represent their interests.

Producers support, and pay out of pocket, for a litany of organizations to represent their interests in Ottawa, perhaps more than any other industry.

Canada’s agriculture minister regularly ranks among the most lobbied of politicians. For what it’s worth, none of these lobbying efforts were able to stop carbon pricing, either.

It is also difficult for the Conservatives to now oppose the Liberals because since the 2019 election, Liberals have regularly been supported by the opposition party.

Conservative MPs helped usher in Liberal policies during this minority government.

Sure, there have been a handful of Conservative private members bills, such as one offering more punishment for animal activists who trespass onto a farm.

These will be welcomed by farmers, but in terms of substantive issues, they don’t rank near issues like carbon pricing.

When it comes to agriculture, the Conservatives have failed as an opposition, but they continue to be seen as the party with a better understanding of agriculture and most farmers will vote Conservative no matter what. This is likely why there is little related to agriculture in the Conservative platform to get excited about.

The party’s ag proposals are almost identical to what the Liberals are doing.

That makes sense because despite some challenging times, under a Liberal government, agriculture has continued to be a stable and growing industry.

Producers will once again support the Conservatives in the 2021 election. But before doing so, they should ask themselves why.

D.C. Fraser is Glacier Farm Media’s Ottawa correspondent. Reach out to him by emailing dfraser@farmmedia.com.

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