Editorial: Local counts during election campaigns

Editorial: Local counts during election campaigns

An uninspiring election could be an opportunity for agriculture inroads

The federal election has been a bit of a snoozer so far, with no defining issues and little widespread attachment to any of the parties and leaders.

Movement in the polls started in late August with a hint that in the absence of any defining reason to call an election, the electorate questioned the prime minister's motivation.

I've yet to find anyone who thinks the timing of the election had value, other than those highly invested in giving the Liberal Party a majority.

There's risk for a political party to wade into an election without a defining direction. It leaves too much open to interpretation, and provides too much room for new and unexpected issues to take the election in an unanticipated direction.

It's not that there aren't major issues facing the country, including management of the pandemic, an extraordinary increase in national debt due to pandemic spending, Indigenous reconciliation, a changing climate and years of hard work paid for in Canadian lives in Afghanistan that is falling into ruins. None of the parties has put forward alternatives to those issues that have caught the imagination of the public.

This ill-defined blob of an election campaign could be an opportunity for agriculture.

Is there a way to engage a bored electorate and prospective Members of Parliament who aren't dealing with issues that are defining the campaign?

Farm organizations say that the best way to influence elections is locally, for farmers to talk directly to their potential MPs.

They create simple and clear messages for their members. How many of you take the time to call or visit your potential MPs? What would stop you from doing so?

Not everyone is comfortable wading into politics and for some, cynicism is their premier emotion relating to politicians.

The next government will most likely determine the direction of the next Agricultural Policy Framework. The federal government partners with provinces to deliver programs across the country in a spirit of cooperation that is rare in governments. There's big money that flows to technology and environmental protection. Many of you have benefited from it.

In a post-pandemic world where we will need some austerity, will agriculture get its share?

The big risk management programs in the current framework called the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, have been dysfunctional to the point that they are not used by many farmers. They are badly needed this year, especially in drought-hit portions of the province.

Tune into an agriculture debate hosted and livestreamed by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture on Sept. 9.

The major programs aren't the only issues in the federal agriculture file. Trade deals, especially the CETA deal with Europe, aren't working for Canadian farmers as the EU continues to put up serious non-tariff trade barriers that are too costly for Canadian exporters to mitigate.

The carbon tax is significantly hitting grain farmers and those with barns and greenhouses to heat.

The various federal government platforms contain scant detail on these important farm policies other than that they will be made better or will be made fairer. In fact, one could argue that there's not a lot of difference among Conservative, Liberal or NDP agriculture policy.

That is actually another opportunity. Ask local candidates to provide the detail that isn't missing, and if there's no huge difference among the platforms, all parties can be kept on task if they vary from their vague policy promises.

Talking to local candidates also can be an opportunity to educate Members of Parliament because many of them will have little understanding of modern agriculture, even if their grandfather or uncle once farmed.

Creating allies in the general public is a long-term laudable goal, but it isn't something that's going to happen in the brief span of an election campaign. Local, farmer boots on the ground talking directly to future Members of Parliament can yield results.

About the author

Editor

John Greig

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig

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