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Election confusion – Just who is best for agriculture?


April 1, 2008
By Marg Land


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Ah, January. That month Canadians
love to loathe, complete with frigid temperatures, blowing snow, soggy
mittens, sore throats, runny noses – oh yeah, and a federal election.

Ah, January. That month Canadians love to loathe, complete with frigid temperatures, blowing snow, soggy mittens, sore throats, runny noses – oh yeah, and a federal election.

On January 23, depressed, chilled and grumpy Canadians (at least those who can’t afford to head south for the winter or are not hospitalized from the effects of seasonal affective disorder) will trudge through the knee-deep snow to cast their ballot for the next leadership of the country. And, if the election platforms remain similar to what they’ve been to date, there may be a lot of pick-up trucks remaining parked in farmyards across the country.

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Most of the major political parties’ positions on agriculture are dismal, if not just unknown. Visit the Conservative Party’s website and you’d be hard pressed to figure out what its position is on agriculture. Sure, there are lots of wonderful statements such as “supporting Canada’s farmers and resource industries such as forestry, fishing and mining,” or “defending foresters, farmers, and other primary producers against unfounded trade challenges and opening up new markets in the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region.” But what exactly does that mean? How are the Conservatives going to defend farmers? How is the party going to open up new markets?

Stop by the New Democratic Party’s Internet site and you’re bombarded with a flurry of negativity and rebuttal but very little substance.

“Liberals now propose what they denied farmers 25 days ago,” screams one headline. “Renewable fuels won’t help Ontario farmers,” states another. Well, that might be so, but why not explain what the NDP would do differently? Don’t just keep rehashing the same old garbage over and over again. Where’s the vision, where’s the ideas for the future?

If you’re not too disillusioned with your first glimpse of the NDP site, you may be tempted to click on the button advertising the party’s position on agriculture. Once again, the reader is met with a flurry
of Liberal and Conservative party put-downs. “The Liberals have abandoned farmers to unfair trade deals the Conservatives support too,” it states. “We know that Liberal farm support programs often don’t work.” Once again, an actual statement of the NDP’s position on agriculture appears to have been deleted.

So, what about the Liberal Party? According to various press releases sent out by the non-partisan National Farmers’ Union and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Liberals appear to have an edge in the agriculture vote.

“The federal Liberal Party’s promise to ‘implement the main recommendations of the Easter Report’ is encouraging,” states NFU president Stuart Wells.

“We are pleased to see a party leader acknowledge that agriculture is a vital part of our economy,” echoed CFA president Bob Friesen. “Mr. Martin recognized Canadian farmers are facing some serious challenges. He made some important commitments to working with farmers in addressing those challenges.”

But the farming federations aren’t completely convinced: “If he wants to prove the sincerity of those commitments to farmers, he will need to work with farm groups and propose more substantive policy,” said Friesen.

“To implement these changes, however, would require a complete turn-around of existing AAFC bias toward corporate agribusiness,” said Wells. “It will be a challenge for the Liberals to follow through on this promise.”

So, what’s a farmer to do? Should you vote for the devil you know? Or for the devil you don’t know?

During my university days, there was a theory for how best to choose an answer on a multiple-choice test when you just didn’t know which one to choose. It was called the four-finger method. The way it worked was you designated a letter for each of your four fingers (a, b, c, etc.) and then slammed your hand as hard as you could on the desktop. Whichever finger tingled the longest was the answer you would pick. Scientific? No. Did it work? Hey, I’m a magazine editor, not a medical doctor. But when all else fails …


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