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Just watch him

Most farmers know you need land to produce food you can export.

But during his recent visit to Vancouver, federal agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay seemed so keen on overseas trade opportunities that the fact fell off his radar.

Questioned by Country Life in BC during a media scrum after addressing the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade last month, he made clear that Canada’s farmers need access to foreign markets for their products.

While declaring his tour of Vancouver port facilities “some interesting,” the PEI Member of Parliament didn’t appear to have been briefed on the port’s designs on hundreds of acres of local farmland. He wasn’t aware of how much agricultural land might be at risk even as the port has estimated its requirements over the next decade at 2,700 acres. “We do not want to lose agricultural land, but it’s no good producing products that you can’t move, either. So it’s one way or the other,” he said.

While he told board of trade members he was all for Canada’s food security, the idea that the potatoes, berries and greenhouse vegetables grown in BC might find a home in local markets wasn’t part of the day’s message.

Combined with Ottawa’s endorsement of the Site C power project, which will create an 83-kilometre-long reservoir and submerge thousands of acres of farmland, and its support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, developing international markets is fundamental to the sunny ways Prime Minister Trudeau promises – clouding its ostensible support for local growers.

One of the hurdles the Liberals faced while campaigning a year ago was the widespread perception of the party being the voice of an urban elite that shops at farmers markets but would most likely squeal like a pig if it stepped in some stray nutrients (to use the polite term from Environmental Farm Plans).

Trudeau Jr has regained for Canada a large measure of the international goodwill lost during the Harper years.

But the impromptu photos that bring new meaning to his father’s quip, “just watch me,” seldom take place in farmyards. Producers hoping to catch him in BC would need to look no further than up the Grouse Grind, surfing in Tofino or performing a two-step for the crowds in a parade.

The challenges of getting Prairie grain to port have been acute in recent years, but the cost of getting wheat to water shouldn’t be the loss of BC farms.

BC farmers face enough challenges without the federal agriculture minister telling them they’ve got to suck up yet another development for their own good. That runs counter to his pledge to support local opportunities for local farmers, and jeopardizes the $3.5 billion worth of BC agri-food exports MacAualy says he wants to increase.

A year into his term, Trudeau hasn’t faced the challenges that made his father one of the country’s most colourful prime ministers. The photo ops haven’t included a pirouette or the so-called Salmon Arm salute to jobless protestors, or anything that could be mistaken for “fuddle duddle.”

With ministers like MacAulay telling BC farmers that overseas markets come first, he doesn’t have to.

1 Oct 2016 Final.pdf

Vol.102 Issue 10