Sparks fly on critical issues in Canadian agriculture

National Agriculture Leaders’ Debate shows parties’ priorities for the sector

Tuesday, September 24th, OTTAWA – The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) hosted the Agriculture Leaders’ Debate on September 24th. The debate brought together all major parties to question them on the pressing issues affecting Canadian agriculture today.

Participants for the debate included:

A recording of the debate can be viewed here.

The debate was moderated by Reuters reporter Kelsey Johnson, and questions covered the three key benefits that Canadian agriculture provides to Canada as outlined in CFA’s Producing Prosperity in Canada campaign: Economic growth, food security and environment stewardship. Questions also touched on chronic labour issues, risk management programming, China and more.

The debaters had an animated and lively discussion, where they laid out their vision for the future of Canadian agriculture and how their parties would deal with current issues in the sector. While all four parties were supportive of Canada’s agriculture sector, they differed in their visions of its future and how to help the sector achieve its potential.

China and Trade Disruptions

In regards to China, all parties agreed that the situation was serious and difficult to manage.

Conservative Agriculture Critic Luc Berthold questioned Minister Bibeau on how the government “dragged its feet” to provide support for farmers in light of the trade disruptions around canola, beef and pork. He noted Canada could also put pressure on China by halting support for the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank.

Minister Bibeau reiterated how the government had just recently appointed an ambassador to China, and had requested a bilateral consultation at the WTO to attempt to solve the current crisis.

NDP Agriculture Critic Alistair MacGregor acknowledged how historically China has enacted punitive trade actions in response to political issues, and that care needed to be taken when dealing with them.

Supply Management

Liberal, NDP and Conservative parties all reinforced that they would continue to support the supply management sector, while the Green Party candidate noted that the system should be altered to protect smaller family farms.

However, we did not hear unanimous support of all parties’ to fully and fairly mitigate the impacts of the CPTPP on Canadian egg and poultry farmers nor a unanimous commitment to no further access to supply managed commodities in future trade agreements.

Labour Shortages

All candidates other than the Green party candidate acknowledged the importance of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in filling positions where Canadian are not available. The NDP and Liberal debaters agreed that pathways to citizenship should be introduced for these workers.

MP Berthold noted that the Conservatives had not unveiled their platform on labour at this time but it would address significant labour issues.

This topic led to a heated discussion between candidates on their differing views on the topic.

Agriculture platforms

MP Berthold spoke on how agriculture would be a “top priority” for a Conservative government. They would be focused on ensuring that Canadian farmers are competitive and have the support they need as the climate and global trade environments change.

“It is crucial that agriculture is a top priority of the next government and that is what the Conservatiev party intends to do,” said MP Berthold.

Kate Storey of the Green Party put forth her party’s plan to transition the Canadian agriculture sector in “organic and regenerative agriculture”, with a focus on supporting smaller farm operations to rejuvenate rural communities. They also plan to reduce emissions from Canadian Agriculture by 50% in the next ten years.

MP MacGregor remarked that Canadian agriculture is well positioned with its abundant natural resources, world-leading standards and emerging technologies to increase production to meet the demand of the growing global population. He detailed the NDP’s plan of developing local food hubs in communities across Canada and taking “a whole-of-government approach looking at food from farm to factory to fork.”

Minister Bibeau pushed the various investments that the Liberal government had put into Canadian agriculture, including the development of superclusters, funding for agricultural research, the Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table and the various measures they had adopted to help farmers affected by climate change and trade disruptions to show how Canadian agriculture is already a priority for their government.

“CFA is very thankful to have representatives from all major parties take part in this debate. Since early spring, CFA has been promoting the fact that Canadian agriculture brings benefits to all Canadians and agriculture is a win-win area for the government to invest in. We hope to see agriculture as a prominent point in all party platforms,” said Mary Robinson, President of the CFA.

“CFA looks forward to working together all representatives in our next federal government to help Canadian agriculture reach its vast potential.”