It was a very Canadian agricultural debate
Canada’s agricultural political leaders seem to get along very well, at least on public outings. Last week’s agricultural debate, held online, was no exception. They got along so well that it was difficult to tell them apart.
Other than a few political photos of the Liberal Agriculture Minister, taken by Conservative Ontario farm critic Dave Epp, there hasn’t been much back-and-forth to the debate sponsored by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. Agriculture. The four participants agreed on most of the topics and questions posed by the moderators.
If farmers wanted their vote to be influenced in some way by this debate, they probably didn’t find anything convincing. Statistics on website users indicate that approximately 1,800 people watched or logged into the article online, including those who saw it live on September 9.
All debaters were well informed and the quality of the discussion was high. With the exception of the Liberal Marie-Claude Bibeau, the others sit on the parliamentary committee on agriculture: Epp, Alistair MacGregor from the NDP and Yves Perron from the Bloc QuÃ©bÃ©cois. All of them know their way around agricultural problems.
Some western farmers who watched the event said they appreciated Perron’s positions and his suggestions that business risk management programs should be expanded and made more financially competitive with US programs.
Representatives of all participating parties said BRM programs need the ongoing overhaul, although they differ slightly on what is needed. Bibeau pointed to the recent injection of $ 95 million into these tools and the commitment of $ 400 million to improve AgriRecovery funding, which will be provided if the Prairie provinces play along. She said the Conservatives cut hundreds of millions of dollars from these programs when they were in power.
Epp, from southwestern Ontario, said the Conservatives will cut red tape for producers and industry and get better guidance from the agriculture industry on improvements to ERMs. He didn’t provide any details and that’s where the devil usually lies.
He suggested that the same would apply with regard to research. The Conservatives would reduce the regulation of genetics companies and create more partnerships with industrial players in agriculture.
Bibeau said the Liberal government has invested to replace the $ 400 million in research cuts made by the Harper administration. This included reopening the research facilities, adding 70 more scientists, and creating the Protein Super Cluster and its partnerships.
MacGregor said the NDP would put more scientists back on the ground and provide long-term predictable funding for agriculture. Perron has lashed out at Health Canada and its PMRA, canceling pesticide registrations without approving or helping develop replacement tools for farmers.
Each side wants more investment in roads, bridges, rural internet and cellular connectivity. Perron and Bibeau agreed that a recent federal-provincial effort and investment in expanding Internet coverage and bandwidth has shown positive signs.
Debaters have all come out in favor of changing the tax regulations for intergenerational transfer of farmland, proposed during this session in Bill 208, which has now become law.
The Liberals want more changes to the law, but even on a point that the four debaters disagreed with, they actually agreed.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture deserves praise for hosting this debate, which gave these candidates the opportunity to discuss the issues and potentially differentiate their party’s platforms from others.
In the end, it was a very Canadian type of gathering, very agricultural, polite and pleasant.
Karen BriÃ¨re, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen and Mike Raine collaborate on editorials for Western Producer.