Federal parties answer agriculture questionnaire

© Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald One of the Blocka brothers whizzes past on a combine, on the Olympia Farm lands just southwest of Prince Albert.

The federal parties’ commitments to farmers and the agricultural sector are highlighted in a questionnaire released by the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Tuesday.

The questionnaire was sent to all registered political parties and consisted of five questions exploring their view on priorities for farmers overall, on transporting grain, trade barriers and carbon pricing.

As of Oct. 14, six parties had sent answers — the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, Green Party, Christian Heritage Party and Marijuana Party of Canada.

The questions were sent to the parties back in September and were based on topics the organization thought would be of interest to members, especially prairie grain farmers.

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers said that the survey will be updated if other parties submit their answers.

The Conservatives and NDP focused on contrasting their platforms to the Liberals, while the Liberal Party aimed to highlight what it has done so far and what it hopes to continue doing.

The Green Party, by contrast, highlighted its plan to encourage the shift to “more sustainable production systems” for both crops and livestock, including subsidies for farmers shifting from conventional to organic and regenerative farming systems and funding for programs to expand local small-scale agriculture and help new farmers get started.

Parties were asked to outline their priorities for farmers and the agricultural industry.

“The current federal government has taken Canada’s agriculture sector for granted the Conservative party wrote.

“Four years have shown that farmers are not a priority for the Liberals.”

The Conservatives said they would cancel the carbon tax, take a more aggressive approach to open new markets and break down trade barriers and work to reduce unnecessary regulation.

The Liberals promoted their goal of creating $75 billion in agriculture exports by 2025.

“Our government is committed to diversifying trade and opening new markets for Canadian exporters – including Canada’s farmers,” the Liberals wrote.

“We will also stand up for Canadian farmers who are facing non-tariff trade barriers that restrict trade. Our high-quality agriculture and agri-food products are in demand around the globe and we want to help our farming families to make the most of that.”

The Liberal answer highlighted $50 million to help create new technologies and systems to make farms more efficient and vowed to collaboratively review business risk management programs.

“Agriculture isn’t just the backbone of our economy, farming is an incredible source of pride for our communities and our country,” said the NDP in their answer about agricultural priorities.

“For too long, out of touch governments in Ottawa have promised to focus on the priorities of farmers and the needs of the agriculture industry, but when we needed them the most, the only priorities they cared about were their rich friends and wealthy corporations.”

The NDP said that both the Liberals and Conservatives do more for lobbyists and insiders than for producers.

“Just like farmers built our country, farmers built our party. We’ve always had the backs of farmers and we’ll always be in it for you,” they said.

They highlighted the plan to create a national food strategy to better address regional needs and priorities and vowed to invest in agricultural communities to better support young and new farmers.

Answering the same question, the Green Party vowed to restructure food markets “provide farm families with a fair share of the consumer food dollar and shifting to more sustainable production systems for both crops and livestock.” Their plan would also improve food security and sovereignty while reducing pollution and increasing the soil’s ability to store carbon, they said.

When it comes to Trade, the Conservatives vowed to “respond forcefully” to non-tariff barriers and foreign subsidies by challenging them at the World Trade Organization and retaliating with sanctions of their own. They would also insist on chapters dealing with non-tariff trade barriers in future trade deals.

The Conservative plan also includes an accelerator to help businesses find buyers in new trade markets and share better information about the agreements with Canadian businesses.

The liberals promised to find new markets for Canadian farmers and to invest over $1 billion to help exporters access markets formed by new trade deals. They also promised to “knock down” tariff and non-tariff barriers.

The NDP said they would defend Canadian workers in trade negotiations and stand up against unfair tariffs, along with working with producers to increase the amount of Canadian food sold, processed and consumed at home.

Carbon pricing was another key theme of the Wheat Growers’ survey. The Conservatives said they would cancel the carbon tax and focus on technology, forcing major emitters to invest in green technology.

The Liberals outlined their carbon pricing backstop, with the requirement that all revenue from carbon pricing return to the jurisdiction it came from.

“Our pollution pricing policy also reflects the realities of our agricultural industry. Gasoline and diesel fuels for on-farm use have always been exempted under the federal backstop, and in Budget 2019, we clarified that fuels obtained from card lock facilities are included,” they said.

“Our system for heavy industry – the Output Based Pricing System – supports industry and businesses that are emissions intensive and trade exposed in reducing their emissions, while continuing to be competitive. We know that farmers complete in global markets – which is why the OBPS covers fertilizer production, and why a similar system applies to the greenhouse sector.”

They vowed to develop an offset system here companies participating can buy offset credits to reduce emissions not part of the carbon pricing system, which would provide an opportunity to receive compensation for reducing agricultural emissions. They also vowed to review their carbon pricing backstop in 2022 and do an early review in 2020 focused on competitiveness in trade-exposed industries, such as agriculture.

The NDP, while supporting carbon pricing, said they would make the system “fairer” and roll back breaks given to big polluters.

The Green Party said it will maintain a revenue-neutral carbon fee on all sources of carbon dioxide pollution, which will be returned to Canadians as a dividend.

The Christian Heritage Party said it does not believe that man can control the climate, while the marijuana party said carbon pricing systems are manifested “through fundamentally fraudulent financial accounting systems which dominate the whole of Globalized Neolithic Civilization, whereby private banks are able to create the public money supplies out of nothing as debts, while governments enforce those frauds. A Civilization which was completely crazy and corrupt to the core criminalized cannabis, and it is that same civilization into which cannabis is undergoing bogus “legalization.”

The full survey and complete answers are available at wheatgrowers.ca