Farms.com looks back on some of his ag policies while in Ottawa
By Diego Flammini
A former prime minister is receiving the highest designation under a national order.
Stephen Harper, who served as Canada’s 22nd prime minister from Feb. 6, 2006 to Nov. 4, 2015, was named a Companion of the Order of Canada by Governor General Julie Payette on Dec. 28.
So, Farms.com is revisiting some of the ag items his government handled during his time as leader of the federal Conservatives.
In January 2007, the Harper government filed a case at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over U.S. corn subsidies. The move came after the WTO ruled in 2005 that cotton subsidies had lowered global prices.
“Canada is concerned that these U.S. subsidies continue to cause economic harm to our corn farmers,” Chuck Strahl, Canada’s ag minister, said at the time, the Financial Times reported.
In 2006, between the WTO ruling and Canada’s case filing, Ottawa committed $1.5 billion in aid for producers for the Grains and Oilseeds Payment Program. Minister Strahl also announced $550 million in aid to low-income farmers.
In March 2007, the federal government promised $1 billion in funding that included payments to offset higher production costs for farmers.
The Harper government also helped farmers in Western Canada market their grain on an open market.
In December 2011, the government passed the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, which ended the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk marketing power.
From 1935 until the bill’s passing, farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and parts of B.C. had to sell their grain to the wheat board.
Within the bill was a timeline for the wheat board’s privatization. On April 15, 2015, Global Grain Group purchased a 50.1 per cent stake in the wheat board for $250 million.
Since the sale, some Canadian farmers wish the wheat board would have remained in Canada’s hands.
“There’s no question it’s the single biggest transfer of wealth away from farmers over to the grain trade in the 150-year history of this country,” Stewart Wells, who farms 2,500 acres near Swift Current, Sask., told the Edmonton Journal in August 2017.
The Harper government also helped negotiate important trade deals.
In March 2014, the federal government concluded negotiations with South Korea on the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement. The trade agreement took effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
The trade deal removed or reduced tariffs on multiple Canadian ag products, including pork, soybeans, canola and wheat, entering South Korea.
Prime Minister Harper also started negotiations on two trade deals that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ultimately concluded.
In 2009, Canada and the European Union began discussions on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Prime Minister Trudeau signed the finalized deal on Oct. 30, 2016.
And in 2012, the Harper government started negotiations with member nations that would ultimately make up the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Talks concluded on Oct. 5, 2015, two weeks before Justin Trudeau’s Liberals defeated the Conservatives in the federal election.
Under Prime Minister Trudeau, the revised deal, known as the CPTPP, received royal assent in the House of Commons in October 2018.
Both trade deals included concessions to Canada’s dairy market. The Liberal government has promised to compensate producers for this loss in market share.