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Finding ag’s place during the election campaign

Finding ag’s place during the election campaign

Agriculture is likely to be attached to other topics rather than stand out on its own, a university professor said

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Along the 2021 federal election campaign trail, Canadians have listened to party leaders discuss various topics including housing, reconciliation and the country’s continued COVID recovery.

Agriculture, however, hasn’t received the same attention as those topics. This despite the industry’s role in the Canadian economy.

In 2017, for example, the Canadian agriculture sector employed one in every eight people, accounted for $112 billion in product sales and for 6.7 per cent of the country’s GDP, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council reported.

So, why doesn’t the sector get as much of the spotlight during election campaigns?

Because politicians tend to engage in pocketbook politics, said Dr. Kim Speers, a University of Victoria professor with food policy and politics research interests.

“Leaders try to make the election pertinent to the individual rather than getting lost in broader policy issues,” she told Farms.com. “The agricultural industry is a relatively small portion of the Canadian electorate, so that may also be why ag policy isn’t on the top of minds. I’ve been covering elections for 20 years and it’s just kind of always been this way.”

Outside of the Sept. 9 ag leaders’ debate, agriculture hasn’t been put into the spotlight on the campaign trail.

The industry would likely be attached to other major issues.

Climate change and affordability, for example, are areas where ag policy can be discussed in detail, Speers said.

“It’s challenging for some issues to break into the top tier because there are just so many,” she said. “But when you watch the news and see the stories of farmers struggling because of the drought, I’m surprised (agriculture) hasn’t been given a higher profile. Agriculture needs to be addressed if you want to protect the environment, feed a growing population and help the economy.”

There are ways for the ag sector to achieve higher profiles.

Engaging in communication outside of election cycles can help, Speers said.

“Ag policy tends to be reactive instead of proactive,” she said. “So it almost has to be this ongoing communication campaign to make links to other issues.”


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