The Nation of Quebec incorporated has the financial power…. The Nation of Alberta Has No Incorporated Alliance Equivalent – Part 2
If the success of Quebec’s dairy and pork sectors are examples, Quebec Nation Incorporée (QNI) has served the interests of agricultural production and processing in Quebec rather well. I am talking about the alliance of investment entities of the Government of Quebec, Quebec insurance companies, banks, financial institutions, Quebec pension funds and giant producer cooperatives in Quebec. Two successful examples of this alliance are Olymel, the huge pork and poultry processor, and Agropur, the huge dairy processor. Both operate across Canada and abroad. Both got their start in Quebec, with what I’m suggesting is practical financial support from QNI for the sole reason that they were headquartered in Quebec; both belong to large cooperatives of Quebec producers. I suggest that other processors in Canada are financially disadvantaged simply because, as non-Quebec entities, they do not have access to financial support from QNI. I should say that some may be affected by QNI’s activity, generally as targets for takeovers by Quebec companies supported by QNI. Quebec Nation Incorporée, I suggest, has the full political support of Union Producteurs Agricoles (UPA), the powerful union of Quebec farmers. Membership in the UPA is compulsory and it is considered the leading group of agricultural producers in Canada when it comes to exercising formidable political power both in Quebec and in Ottawa. Such power invariably helps the QNI cause. I suspect that the Quebec government’s farm subsidy programs and regulatory regimes are all created with full cooperation, if not submission to the powerful UPA. It is a very powerful blend that supports Quebec agriculture like no other in Canada.
Alberta and the rest of the Prairie Provinces once had similar powerful producer co-operatives, such as the Wheat Pools, United Grain Growers, and the large dairy co-operatives. We also had one-stop-shop pork marketing boards in every province. All of them have been designed to maximize farm gate prices for growers and producers. The wheat pools, in particular, had commercial clout, owning thousands of elevators and giant sea terminals. Most have also looked at farm supply companies and other related businesses. These large cooperatives are now all gone, with the exception of the UFA supply cooperative, which has its own unique history. One would assume that if they and the hog boards had survived as they did in Quebec, we might have had the founding of an Alberta Nation Incorporated (ANI) in the provincial agricultural sector. I know the comparisons between the two provinces are not that relevant, but we should learn from QNI’s success in the Quebec and Canadian agricultural production and processing industries. But Alberta has no tangible equivalent to the QNI Economic Alliance, no big Alberta-based insurance companies or banks, no giant farmer co-ops, and no politically powerful and universal binding farmers / ranchers union. . But Alberta has a few QNI elements that could be tinkered with to counter the QNI ag juggernaut which has all the signs of getting bigger and more powerful not only in Quebec but across Canada.
Before suggesting what could be done to create an Alberta Nation Incorporated, I should note that some of this may already be happening or be developed by the province. If not pursued in some form or another, it would at least show a lack of insight. I learned a long time ago that governments initiate countless agricultural industry studies and economic analyzes of various sectors. But much of it is either put aside or faded into the mists of time as senior civil servants dissipate, wither or retire. For example, several years ago the Alberta Department of Agriculture did a comprehensive analysis of the livestock feedlot industry; it was not the first time, but in my memory it was not released, and one wonders what it revealed or suggested. The feedlot industry is quite large; it is an alberta success story created from insignificance 50 years ago to a multi-billion dollar industry. Two world-class beef packing plants were built as a result of this success. The feedlot and processing sectors were initiated by a strategic plan from the Lougheed government. All of this was supported by government grants, tax breaks and loan programs from the predecessor of the AFSC. Of course, that was another era, but what I mean is that what was done for the beef and veal industry in Alberta is what Quebec did for its dairy and pork sectors. . The difference is that Quebec, through QNI, continues to facilitate their expansion not only in Quebec but even in Alberta. I think we may have lost our vision of the agriculture industry in Alberta. More next time.
Will Verboven is an agricultural opinion writer and agricultural policy advisor.