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What our local federal election candidates have to say about agriculture

Posted 10/20/2019 6:58am by Mrs. Funny Duck.

Every year, the NFU posts a list of questions that they send out to each political party. (You can see the questions asked when you read Lorraine Rekmans answers.)

This year, I sent these questions to each of our local representatives for the Conservative Pantry, the Liberal Party, The NDP, and the Green Party.  

As per usual, when I call or write with questions, the Conservatives and Liberals don’t even bother replying.  There was someone who tried to open a dialogue in person about climate with our local Conservative incumbent, but it didn’t end well. You can read about that here and here.  

 

I did however, get a reply from Michelle Taylor, NDP candidate for Leeds and Grenville within hours of asking, and Green Party candidate Lorraine Rekmans answer came in an hour or two later.  Way to go, ladies!

I've added some orange to Michelle's answers, and some green to Lorraine's so it's easy at a glance to see which party is replying. 

 

Here is what NDP’s Michelle Taylor had to say:  

Thanks again for reaching out on these important topics. I hope you'll find these notes helpful in addition to watching the Ag leaders debate. The main point from the NDP as a party and me as a candidate is that we see the agriculture community as partners in so many aspects of our society including feeding Canadians, helping our economy thrive and fighting climate change.  

We appreciate that you are experts in your profession and that you must be included as stakeholders in decisions and policy-making. Over the last year, I've talked to so many members of our local Ag community and have been very excited to see their growing support for the NDP's progressive plan.

 Going back to the origins of the NDP and previous CCF party, we've always stood for farmers and we haven't changed. Our plan has main pillars that include universal Pharmacare, affordable Childcare and helping young farmers get into the business, all while investing in the new technology needed to transition to a low-carbon economy. 

 

Then, she gave me some of her policy notes from the Ag debate: 

AGRICULTURE IS THE BACKBONE of our economy, an incredible source of pride for our communities, and a high-tech industry that depends on a talented and skilled workforce. It supports thousands of families. It keeps our rural communities strong. And it produces the fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, eggs, and meat that Canadian families count on.

Food is at the heart of our homes, our  communities, and our economy. But farmers and agricultural workers feel enormous pressure today. Not only do they have to contend with unpredictable weather, but they have had to put up with the consequences  of devastating decisions by Liberal and  Conservative governments. ​

Despite the importance of our food system, Liberal and Conservative governments alike have left farmers to cope with a rapidly changing climate and mounting financial stress on their own, while negotiating away critical protections in trade deals. ​It’s time to make different choices. It’s time for a government that’s actually working on  the side of Canadian farmers, producers, and farm families. 

New Democrats have a plan for a Canadian Food Strategy that will take a whole-of- government approach to address regional needs and priorities by investing in our agricultural communities, supporting young and new farmers and taking steps to ensure that rural livelihoods are good and sustainable.

Supply management protects our family farms, rural communities, and hundreds of thousands of jobs. New Democrats are committed to fully protecting supply management and ensuring reciprocity in all trade negotiations, and supporting our supply managed sectors  as they innovate and grow.

We’ll make sure that farmers are fully compensated for the losses they have incurred in Liberal and Conservative trade negotiations, and we’ll defend Canadian agricultural products like canola from unfair retaliation in overseas markets.It’s a challenge to grow a business without modern communications infrastructure.

That’s why New Democrats will make sure that high-speed broadband and cell phone infrastructure is available to connect our  farmers and rural communities to the services and tools they need, no matter where in the country they are. Rural Canadians should be as connected to markets, opportunities,  and each other as anyone who lives in  urban Canada.​ ​

To make it simpler for young people and women to get into agriculture and build a  life on the farm, we’ll work with the provinces  to improve training opportunities across the  country, and provide low-cost start-up loans  for new farmers. And we’ll provide support for succession planning and end the unfair tax treatment of family farm transfers – making  it easier for family farms to stay in the family.​ 

Mental health matters, and too many Canadian farmers are living with high levels of stress, anxiety and depression. We can do more to provide targeted help – and a New Democrat government will bring together farmers and  the provinces to develop a national strategy  to address mental health challenges facing farmers, and to ensure that farmers can get  the help they need, when they need it.

Canola is an example of a home-grown  success story with roots in public research. To keep Canadian agriculture on the cutting edge of knowledge and innovation, and provide direct economic benefit to our farmers, New Democrats will invest in public agricultural research and data collection. We’ll also ensure that rail transportation treats farmers fairly and helps them get their products to market efficiently and affordably. ​ 

Our fresh fruit and vegetable producers  grow healthy, nutritious food for Canadian  families and they support local economies across the country. Many of them also  depend on the ability to export their products to buyers in the U.S., but without a reciprocal payment protection program in place, the financial risks of exporting can be too high.

That’s why New Democrats will introduce a payment protection program for produce growers and take immediate steps to restore protection for growers selling to the U.S. under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.​ ​

Finally, to build on the pride and quality of  Canadian agricultural products, we’ll work  with producers along the supply chain to  increase the amount of Canadian food that  is sold, processed, and consumed in local  and regional markets.   

The way we grow crops, raise livestock, and use food also has an impact on our climate future – and nutrition for all Canadians. We’ll work to connect communities to farmers through local food hubs, and develop a  national food waste strategy to reduce  the huge amounts of food that currently go  to waste in Canada.

A New Democrat  government will also partner with farmers  and communities to support biodiversity  and to monitor and protect pollinator health.  

 

HEALTHY FOOD IN EVERY COMMUNITY: WE BELIEVE THAT EVERY CHILD IN CANADA should have access to nutritious food – and that no one should have to try to learn on an empty stomach. A recent UNICEF report ranked Canada 37th out of 41 countries in terms of access to nutritious food for children11 -- and despite the urgency, the Liberal government has failed to improve access to healthy food for kids.​

New Democrats will partner with provinces, territories, municipalities, and Indigenous  communities to work towards a national school nutrition program that will give every child in Canada access to healthy food, and  the food literacy skills to make healthy choices for life. We’ll aim to make culturally-appropriate food available to children in every community in Canada, so that all children can grow and learn.​

We know that supporting our local food  systems is essential to ensuring that  Canadians have access to healthy,  affordable food. We’ll work to connect  Canadians to farmers with initiatives like  local food hubs, community supported  agriculture, and networks to increase the amount of food that is sold, processed, and consumed in local and regional markets.  

New Democrats will also work together  with farmers and food producers to develop  a National Food Policy, making our food  systems stronger all across the country –  including food labelling and traceability, so  that Canadians can be confident in what  they’re purchasing to put on their family’s  plate. We’ll also work to put in place a food waste strategy to reduce the huge amounts  of food that currently go to waste in Canada.  

Our government will support Indigenous food sovereignty, working in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities to expand access to healthy food, including traditional and country foods. Working together with northern communities, we’re committed to reforming the Nutrition North program to improve food security for northern families.  

 

QUALITY, AFFORDABLE CHILD CARE  WHEN YOU NEED IT: YOUNG FAMILIES NEED ACCESS TO  quality, affordable child care. But today, there  is an affordability crisis in child care across the country. Families are struggling to find child care spaces and get on waitlists – before their children are even born. Costs are unaffordable in many cities. And parents are forced to make  impossible choices between delaying their return to work or paying huge amounts for  the child care they need.​

The pressure that parents feel today is the result of inaction by Liberal and Conservative governments. For ten years, the Conservative government worked against every effort to make quality child care more accessible to  Canadian families. And since taking power,  the Liberal government has offered only a patchwork approach that hasn’t made a  difference for families struggling to find  the care they need. The result is a broken  system with child care costs that are among the highest in the world, and enormous worry  in the lives of Canadian families.​It doesn’t have to be this way.​

Our vision is to give families relief. Every  parent across Canada should be able to  find the child care you need, when you need  it, with a licensed provider who is making a  fair wage. We’ll work with other levels of  government, Indigenous communities,  families and child care workers to ensure  that care is inclusive and responsive to the needs of all Canadian children. And we’ll introduce legislation that enshrines Canada’s commitment to high-quality, public child care  in law. Public early childhood education and child care that is affordable and available to  all families helps our economy and gives  parents real choices.

In the absence of federal leadership, provinces have stepped up to take strides towards  affordable, accessible, quality child care.  Quebec continues to be a leader, and New Democrat governments in British Columbia  and Alberta have shown that investments in child care make a real difference in the lives of children, women, and families. ​We will build on their work to make child  care better for families by investing $1 billion in 2020 and growing that investment annually, along with the provinces and territories. We’re on the side of parents to ensure affordable, quality child care for all – because no one should be forced to choose between having  a family and having a career. 

 

MEDICINE FOR ALL IN THE DAYS BEFORE MEDICARE, NEW  Democrats saw their neighbours suffer  because they could not afford the health  care they needed. We saw people lose their homes, their farms, and their businesses as they struggled to pay their medical bills. We saw illness destroy entire families.​In response to that reality, New Democrats  led the fight to establish universal public health care for all Canadians. Medicare changed the lives of millions of people – and it is one of our party’s proudest achievements.​

But today, decades later, as we look across this country, we see the pain of inaccessible and unaffordable health care once again.​Millions of families cannot afford to take the medications they need because they have  no employer-provided drug coverage. The  number of uninsured people forced to skip  their medications is growing as more people work on contract, are self-employed, or in jobs that just don’t come with health benefits. And too many seniors are putting their health at risk ​ because they don’t have drug coverage and can’t afford to pay out-of-pocket.​

The stress and worry that people feel isn’t  an accident. It’s the direct result of deliberate choices made by Liberal and Conservative  governments. They have chosen to let drug companies gouge patients. And they have  chosen to leave millions of people uninsured  or underinsured, paying hundreds or thousands out of pocket for medicine they need. ​Today, Canada is the only wealthy country in the world with a universal health care system that lacks universal prescription insurance  coverage. We pay the third highest prices  for prescription drugs in the world, and have  to deal with a patchwork of programs and  coverage – if we’re lucky enough to have  coverage at all. 

For ten years, instead of addressing  the growing costs of drug coverage, the  Conservatives made the problem worse  by reducing health care funding to the  provinces and undermining efforts towards  a national approach to pharmaceutical pricing. Now, the Liberal government has spent four years stalling, promising lower drug costs  but delivering delays and more of the same  piecemeal system that is failing Canadians  and costing us more. This Liberal government’s patchwork approach will create a two-tier  system based on private insurance that  won’t help the majority of Canadians. 

New Democrats believe that we must do  better. Just as our party led the fight to  establish universal public health care for  all Canadians, we are leading the fight to  expand Medicare – to include quality  prescription drug coverage for everyone,  regardless of your job, where you live, your  age, your health status or how much money you make.

We will begin working with the  provinces right away to target a late 2020  start date, with an annual federal  investment of $10 billion.​That means access to necessary medicines in the same way that we have access to medical and hospital care – free at the point of care, financed by a public insurance system that covers everyone. It means that you’ll need your health card – not your credit card – at the pharmacy till. And it puts an end to costly co-payments, deductibles, and premiums that cost families hundreds and even thousands  a year.​

Our plan will guarantee that every Canadian can get the medication they need. And it will mean big savings for employers who currently pay for employee benefits, helping to reward good employers and boost economic growth. It will also cost our system less overall, as a result of pooling the purchasing power of the entire country.​

Most importantly, our pharmacare plan will mean a healthier Canada where no one has to make the impossible choice between the medicine they need and other essentials, like rent and food.​   

 

 

Here are answers from the Green Party’s Lorraine Rekmans,

1) I'm a farmer worried about extreme weather events. What will you do to help farmer manage the transition to a low-emissions future so we can help feed our neighbors in a changing climate?

• Fund research and extend support for farmers shifting from conventional to organic and regenerative farming systems which work with nature, not against it, to produce food.

• Encouraging farming methods that increase carbon sequestration and decrease water requirements;

• Establishing GHG emission targets for all components of the agri-food system, and collaborating with industry to meet targets;

Restructuring Canada’s Business Risk Management Programs to help farmers cope with climate risk, especially in disaster assistance.

Renew the national Environmental Farm Plan Program to help farmers protect wildlife habitat areas and marginal lands, maintain water quality in streams, lakes and aquifers, and retain and improve soil quality, increase carbon sequestration and decrease water requirements.

2) How will your party support efforts by new and young farmers to start and keep farming? One party’s platform includes increased financial assistance for first time home buyers. What help will you offer to new, first-time farm buyers in a market where new farmers are competing for land with pension funds and farmland investment corporations that are driving prices out of reach for our next generation of farmers?

- Invest $2.5 million per year into a land and quota trust program and farming apprenticeship programs to expand local small-scale agriculture and help new farmers get started.

- Protect supply management systems while allowing production for local markets outside this system.

- Reinstate the Canada Land Inventory program to provide a comprehensive record of existing and potential agricultural land.

- Provide effective fiscal incentives to other levels of government to preserve farmlands under their jurisdictions.  

 

3) Whether it's tax dollars or farmer check-off dollars, plant breeding research is still funded by farmers, and we should have a public and transparent say in how our public money is spent. The farmer-run western grains research foundation directs tens of millions of dollars in cereals breeding research every year. Will you pledge to support farmer interests, and oppose the corporate-driven agenda to put seed breeding research and seed variety ownership into the hands of unaccountable corporations?

I agree that we must focus on regional self-sufficiency to be food secure and to reduce carbon emitted from the transportation of food across long distances. Greens will protect the right of farmers to save their own seed and promote heritage seed banks and seed exchange programs. We commit to reviewing the impacts of abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board and considering re-establishing it to ensure the fair trading of high-quality Canadian grains.  

 

4) What policies will you bring in to support healthy food and sustainable farms serving their local communities?

We support the focus on increasing access to healthy food including a national school lunch program, a Buy Canada program, increasing food security for northern communities and reducing food waste. Greens will assist in re-establishing the infrastructure for local food production in canneries, slaughterhouses and other value-added food processing.  

 

5) What help do you propose to farmers to help mitigate risk that doesn't involve taking on new farm debt?

Restructuring Canada’s Business Risk Management Programs to help farmers cope with climate risk, especially in disaster assistance.  

 

6) What will you do to help farmers diversify away from risky foreign markets for their products in a volatile world faced with trade wars?

Set a target to replace a third of Canada’s food imports with domestic production, increasing regional food self-reliance and returning 15 billion food dollars back into our economy.  

 

7) Will you support universal Pharmacare to help reduce the financial burden health care can impose on self-employed farmers?

Yes, the Green Party supports universal Pharamcare.  

 

8 ) Will you support universal childcare, to allow for more equal participation of all farmers in their agricultural work?

Yes, the Green Party supports universal childcare.