A new federal government

FROM THE CEO'S DESK

Barry Senft, CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario

OCTOBER SAW THE election of a new federal government led by Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada. His promise of ‘real change’ resonated with voters looking for something different after nearly 10 years of a Conservative government. The majority of those voters were in urban centres across the country, and in a similar scenario to Ontario, we can now see a clear urban (Liberal) — rural (Conservative) divide across the country.

What does that mean for farmers in Ontario? It’s hard to know for sure at this early stage how government agriculture policy will change. During the election, the Liberals promised to invest in agricultural research, food safety inspections, and conservation efforts (read more on page 14). How these promises will actually manifest themselves in new government expenditures or new regulations is open to speculation. What we do know for certain is that we will need to do our part to ensure that agriculture stays a priority — or becomes a priority — for those members of parliament (MPs) within urban ridings.

Even though Grain Farmers of Ontario is a provincial organization we have garnered recognition on a national scale. We have established successful partnerships with other eastern grain growers including the Atlantic Grains Council and Producteurs de grains du Québec that will continue to help us bring forth our issues to the federal government. We reached out to all of the federal parties during the election campaign to share our concerns and vision for the future of agriculture. We now look forward to working with the new government and Lawrence MacAulay, the new minister of agriculture and agri-food. In particular, I look forward to a minister putting focus and attention on the eastern grain industry.

MacAuley has been the member of parliament for Cardigan, P.E.I for the past 25 years. The economy in his riding is dependent upon fishing and mixed farming. Before entering politics, MacAuley himself was a seed potato and dairy farmer. Given his experience and background, MacAuley will recognize the importance of our grain industry and agriculture as a whole.

Farmers should also make note of several other ministers who will have an impact on the success of our industry. Jane Philpott now handles the Ministry of Health, of which the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) operates under. Catherine McKenna has been put in charge of the newly named Ministry of Environment and Climate Change which plays a key role in shaping policy that impacts all businesses, including farming. And Jim Carr, responsible for the Ministry of Natural Resources, will help to shape policy around future ethanol production and biofuel programs.

Prime Minister Trudeau is putting a new emphasis on science. He created a Ministry of Science in addition to the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. We will have to see what this actually means as they begin to govern and introduce new legislation.

Our industry can only move forward if policies are in place that support innovation and sound financial protection programs. This means we will need to help educate new MPs about agriculture, the support we need from the government, and the significance of our sector to the national economy. We are planning  a reception in January to spend time with MPs and share our priorities. Hopefully, by fostering positive early relationships with these new political leaders, we can establish the groundwork for meaningful support of agriculture over the next four years. •

About Barry Senft 64 Articles

CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario