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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 6, 2020
The challenges facing the West are diverse. The solutions need to be diverse, as well.
While the Trudeau government rightly appears to realize that it needs to mend fences with the West, success is not Chrystia Freeland and Jason Kenney laughing together during a photo op, and failure isn’t them having a falling out. It’s much deeper than that.
Different industries have different problems and needs, and involve different governments and regions.
A healthy agricultural and food sector is anchored on understanding and trust. We need leaders who can identify our specific needs and place them in context of the global and complex mechanisms supporting crop production, food production, processing, transportation and sales.
Canadians were given the opportunity to better understand the sector when China shut its doors to our canola and soybeans. The message then was that the health of global markets is critical to Canada’s economy and the nation’s farmers. But, the message was also that these global considerations are part of what it means to farm in Canada.
Then, when CN’s trains stopped rolling over a labour dispute, another opportunity presented itself. Lobby groups immediately began applying pressure on the federal government to reconvene Parliament early to address the situation.
At one point during the eight-day strike, more than 30 vessels were waiting to load in or near Vancouver’s ports, some of which were large-capacity bulk ships coming from elsewhere on tight turnaround times. The disruption felt on my 1,200-acre farm reverberated across the ocean. Ships earmarked for Prairie commodities waited, disturbing tight schedules and frustrating overseas customers.
Agriculture is a largely unknown quantity and the sector supporting it is so established and independent that our leaders feel comfortable leaving its operations in the hands of the Cargills and Viterras and Richardsons of the world. That is, until those same leaders need a scapegoat.
Farmers pushed the Prime Minister to rectify Canada’s trade relationship with China and spoke to newspapers across the nation sharing stories of hardship and disappointment.
Commodity prices plummeted this year. The weather heading into fall became erratic and damaging to crops, and amid all that a carbon tax was implemented ultimately driving already high input costs even higher.
The energy sector is reeling, understandably. While a tax may be the best way to incentivize greener practices, a carbon tax that vilifies an industry on which everyone is reliant seems counterproductive.
This is a jagged pill, and it’s one that is doing a lot of damage in the West. Farmers are not wholly against the move towards greener practices. In the right context — specifically one that respects and acknowledges what the agriculture sector has already done to ensure its practices are leaving the soil healthier and more fertile — farmers would be willing to talk about a tax.
The problem is as bright as the sun when lawmakers who may not even see soil on their way to work, but instead live and work in concrete skyscrapers, drive vehicles, touch steel and use plastic, tell a farmer that he or she will have no access to helpful business risk management programs and that he or she will have to pay an additional, environment-related tax.
The West has coalesced around demagogic, anti-government rhetoric. I am not in support of that. I believe our lawmakers need to do better. The Trudeau government and the rest of the House needs to understand the roots of the agriculture sector’s historic discord with the Liberal government — and perhaps government, in general — and strive to really understand the global tableau to which each and every farm in Canada is connected.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019