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Saskatchewan premier chides Trudeau for granting 'no concrete support' in canola crisis

Sask. Premier Scott Moe and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Sask. Premier Scott Moe and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Scott Moe said he was encouraged by a phone call with Justin Trudeau less than a month ago, but no more.

It’s been almost a month since Premier Scott Moe and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talked canola, in a phone call that sounded like a rare meeting of minds.

“I have every reason to believe that he is taking this seriously,” Moe said on March 26, the day he pitched his ideas for dealing with a worsening market access crisis for one of Saskatchewan’s biggest cash crops.

But in a letter sent to Trudeau on Tuesday, Moe said those encouraging signs have turned to frustration at seeing “no concrete support” from Ottawa.

“I was initially encouraged that your government seemed prepared to act quickly on our Advance Payments Program proposal,” he wrote in the letter, which was posted to the premier’s Twitter account . “However, it has been close to one month and Saskatchewan has yet to receive a response regarding this proposal.”

Canola producers have seen their seed exports essentially blocked from their largest market ever since China stripped Richardson International of its export registration. That’s led to depressed prices and cash flow issues for Saskatchewan farmers.

To help producers weather the trade storm, Moe’s government proposed changes to the federal Advance Payments Program, which grants cash advances to farmers. Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit pitched a plan to increase the ceiling on payments to $1 million .

The federal government has not yet committed to doing so.

“Saskatchewan is becoming increasingly concerned that your government has offered no concrete support for Canada’s canola producers,” Moe wrote. “As such, I am repeating our request that the changes to the Advance Payments Program be made immediately.”

Moe also repeated his offer of assistance on seeking “either scientific or diplomatic solutions” on the canola blockade. China has pointed to hazardous pests in canola to account for its actions, prompting scientific and technical discussions to resolve the impasse. But Moe and others have cast doubt on that explanation and warned that the matter may need to be “escalated” to a political level.

The timeline is pressing for farmers, who have pointed to concerns over canola they still have in the bin. They need income to fund this year’s operations but worry about selling last year’s crop at depressed prices to pay for inputs.

Trudeau was in Saskatoon Tuesday for “private meetings”, according to his itinerary. He was not expected to make any public appearances.

awhite-crummey@postmedia.com

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