On April 27th, SaskCanola Board & Staff gathered with other canola industry stakeholders at a farm near Gray, SK, to meet with Prime Minister Trudeau and Ministers MacAulay & Goodale to discuss the impact of canola on the Canadian economy. Advocacy is one of SaskCanola's four key pillars that we work on behalf of farmers on under our strategic plan to provide a positive influence on legislation and policy to improve the landscape for producers. While there wasn’t consensus in the room on all issues (ie. carbon tax), it is in the best interest of all farmers that the Prime Minister be aware of the issues impacting farmers today. Below, we’ve captured a few of the conversations our team had with Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Goodale...
SaskCanola Executive Director, Janice Tranberg - When I spoke with Prime Minister Trudeau, I thanked him for the work he did in China with canola, especially as we work to make linkages with one of our key trading partners. I also overheard CCGA General Manager, Rick White, mention the importance of our canola trade, $3.5 billion, to the US and the importance of the NAFTA agreement. In talking to Minister Goodale, we discussed the BeGrainSafe mobile education unit that SaskCanola sponsored and plan to meet in the future to talk more about this and other ways we can work together on farm safety initiatives.
SaskCanola Board Chair, Doyle Wiebe - My soundbite comes second hand but I believe it speaks to the broader benefit that this event was set up for (ie. to have the Prime Minister visit a canola farm and more broadly to have him visit "a" farm). Todd Lewis (owner of farm the event was hosted on) relayed to me that while in the combine with Prime Minister Trudeau, they were talking about the use of all wireless technology and the shortcomings, and Prime Minister Trudeau said "Oh yeah, my cell signal is actually pretty weak out here." With all due respect to all formal lobby efforts, that on the ground reality check may be as important as any of it in achieving results.
SaskCanola Director, Wayne Truman - I had a short visit with the Prime Minister. I thanked him for his work with the China dockage file and said we still have some more work to do in the next 4 years. I said, "We will work collaboratively to achieve our goal, right?" and Prime Minister Trudeau replied, "Absolutely!", and we shook on it.
SaskCanola Director, Gerry Hertz - I had a quick conversation with Minister Goodale about the need to promote farmers' social license. The Federal government monitors agriculture through the PMRA, Health Canada, and other bodies, and even those institutions are being criticized. Although we have the safest food in the world, conventional agriculture is under attack and the federal government must do more than just provide lip service. The Federal government has to come to our defence and stand behind conventional agriculture so we can continue to adopt the advanced technologies that you saw today.
SaskCanola Research Manager, Errin Willenborg - When I had the opportunity to speak with the Prime Minister, I highlighted the importance of funding for public canola research in order to ensure continued innovation, sustainability, and increased economic impact.
Former SaskCanola Director, Brett Halstead - Jack Froese, Charlene Bradley, Todd Lewis (event host), Rod Lewis, and I had a chance to talk with the Prime Minister about the technology in hybrid canola seed which lead to a conversation about disease resistance in new seed varieties versus old varieties, which lead to a discussion about trade with China. We thanked Prime Minister Trudeau and his government for their work in finding a resolution to that dispute. We explained the importance of trade to our industry and the importance of markets like China. We also mentioned the importance of the USA and all the NAFTA talk lately. The Prime Minister asked a lot of good questions on most things at the farm but when it came to China market access, he was definitely knowledgeable. When the event moved to the rink in Gray, we had a good chat with Minister MacAulay about carbon taxes, the positive things farmers do now, and our competitive concerns. We talked about the good our crops do by being a carbon sink; he had no response, just listened to what we had to say. We then had the same conversation with MacAulay’s Policy Advisor, Abed Harb. Recognition of our farms being a sink didn’t really get an answer so follow-up will be needed. While we may not agree with aspects of this tax, it’s important to have these discussions with elected officials to express our concerns.