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CFA Hosts Ag Leaders Debate

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) hosted the Agriculture Leaders' Debate in Ottawa on September 24th.
"CFA is very thankful to have representatives from all major parties take part in this debate," said CFA President Mary Robinson. "Since early spring, CFA has been promoting the fact that Canadian agriculture brings benefits to all Canadians and agriculture is a win-win area for the government to invest in. We hope to see agriculture as a prominent point in all party platforms."
Participants for the debate included:
NDP - MP Alistair MacGregor, Critic for Agriculture & Agri-Food
GREEN - Kate Storey, Candidate for Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa
CPC - MP Luc Berthold, Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture & Agri-Food
LIBERAL - The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture & Agri-Food
In terms of why the CFA didn’t invite the Bloc Québécois or the People’s Party of Canada, the farm lobby group says it only asked parties with a national presence in ridings across Canada.
"When our Executive made the decision on who to invite, the People’s Party, at the time, were not considered a party with a significant national presence, in terms of their having candidates in regions across Canada, nor had they been invited to other national debates at that time. Since that time, we decided to limit our invitations to the original four parties invited in place for our debate and not extend additional invite, to ensure a level playing field in terms of debate preparation."
A recording of the debate can be viewed here.
Questions covered the three key benefits that Canadian agriculture provides to Canada as outlined in CFA's Producing Prosperity in Canada campaign: Economic growth, food security and environment stewardship. Questions also touched on chronic labour issues, risk management programming, China and more.
While all four parties were supportive of Canada's agriculture sector, they differed in their visions of its future and how to help the sector achieve its potential.
China and Trade Disruptions
In regards to China, all parties agreed that the situation was serious and difficult to manage.
Conservative Agriculture Critic Luc Berthold questioned Minister Bibeau on how the government "dragged its feet" to provide support for farmers in light of the trade disruptions around canola, beef and pork. He noted Canada could also put pressure on China by halting support for the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank.
Minister Bibeau reiterated how the government had just recently appointed an ambassador to China, and had requested a bilateral consultation at the WTO to attempt to solve the current crisis.
NDP Agriculture Critic Alistair MacGregor acknowledged how historically China has enacted punitive trade actions in response to political issues, and that care needed to be taken when dealing with them.
Supply Management
Liberal, NDP and Conservative parties all reinforced that they would continue to support the supply management sector, while the Green Party candidate noted that the system should be altered to protect smaller family farms.
However, we did not hear unanimous support of all parties' to fully and fairly mitigate the impacts of the CPTPP on Canadian egg and poultry farmers nor a unanimous commitment to no further access to supply managed commodities in future trade agreements.
Labour Shortages
All candidates other than the Green party candidate acknowledged the importance of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in filling positions where Canadian are not available. The NDP and Liberal debaters agreed that pathways to citizenship should be introduced for these workers.
MP Berthold noted that the Conservatives had not unveiled their platform on labour at this time but it would address significant labour issues.
Agriculture Platforms
MP Berthold spoke on how agriculture would be a "top priority" for a Conservative government. They would be focused on ensuring that Canadian farmers are competitive and have the support they need as the climate and global trade environments change.
"It is crucial that agriculture is a top priority of the next government and that is what the Conservative party intends to do," said MP Berthold.
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