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Ag in the House: Sept. 29

Ag in the House: Sept. 29

Defence Minister Bill Blair answered ag questions in the House of Commons

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Farmers and agriculture came up a few times during question period in the House of Commons on Sept. 29.

During an exchange about carbon pricing, Richard Lehoux, the Conservative MP for Beauce, Que., said the Liberals “do not understand how to help our farmers, who are a fundamental part of our ability to eat,” while calling for the federal government to scrap the carbon tax.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault provided the response.

He cited Quebec’s cap-and-trade system to manage greenhouse gas emissions, and the experiences he’s had meeting with farmers.

“I meet with farmers who are experiencing the repercussions of climate change,” he said. “Too much water, not enough water, too much heat, not enough heat.”

He also accused the Conservatives of not having any solutions for helping farmers deal with climate change.

Another carbon tax question related to farmers came from Martin Shields, the Conservative MP for Bow River, Alta.

He highlighted that a carbon tax affects everyone in the supply chain leads to higher prices for consumers, and asked if the government would remove the carbon tax.

Defence Minister Bill Blair answered, saying available programs are there to help farmers deal with climate change.

“Canadian farmers are on the front line of climate change, and that is exactly why we are investing nearly half a billion dollars in programs like the agricultural technology program and the climate solutions program,” he said. “We will continue to do everything that is necessary to help our farmers deal with the increasing effects of climate change.”

A question related to ag organizations and the federal government came from Yves Perron, the ag critic for the Bloc.

He spoke of a Radio-Canada report indicating federal officials and industry groups drafted GMO reforms together under the name “Tiger Team.”

Perron asked the government if it would hire independent experts to review the Tiger Team’s changes.

Defence Minister also answered this question, saying engaging with stakeholders is a normal practice.

“It is common practice for the government to actively engage with implicated stakeholders when discussing regulatory matters,” he said. “The tiger team process was intended as a time-limited mechanism through which multiple stakeholders in the grain supply chain would have an opportunity to provide their views on the very complex topic of plant breeding and innovation.”

Perron pushed back on this, saying “it is outrageous to let people making money from a product decide what rules apply to their product,” and again asked when the government would launch a review.

Minister Guilbeault answered Perron’s follow-up question.

He, along with former minister of agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau and former minister of health Jean-Yves Duclos, worked on this file together.

“The former minister of agriculture and agri-food, the former minister of health and I worked together to start implementing the reforms the hon. member is talking about,” he said. “In fact, that work led to the federal government's announcement that pesticides would no longer be used on any federal lands.

“It is also what led to a review of the way pesticides are approved in Canada. We are allowing more independent scientists to review each of these pesticides. We are in the process of carrying out the review that our hon. colleague has asked us to do.”

Cathay Wagantall, the Consverative MP for Yorkton-Melville, asked the government about AgriRecovery.

The Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association in September asked for the federal government to provide its share of AgriRecovery funding, in addition to the $70 million the provincial government is making available to help ranchers overcome the challenges brought on by this year’s drought.

“Winter is coming. Time is running out,” Wagantall said. “When will the NDP-Liberal government provide its share of AgriRecovery funding?”

Minister Blair answered the question, highlighting other investments the government has made. But he didn’t provide a specific answer about when this funding may come.

To read about the other ag exchanges during question period for the week of Sept. 25, click here.

Going forward, will post its Ag in the House articles on Mondays to ensure all of the week’s question periods are covered in one piece.

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