In four months, Canadians vote in a federal election. In a rural riding like Glengarry-Prescott and Russell, agricultural issues are important factors when farmers decide who to vote for. We asked the three candidates who have been nominated so far what issues they would prioritize if they are elected on October 21. Currently, the nominated candidates include incumbent Liberal MP Francis Drouin, Conservative Pierre Lemieux, and Konstantine Malakos of the New Democratic Party (NDP).
Drouin, who was elected in 2015 and wants to return to the House of Commons for another four years, said he has three priorities for agriculture if re-elected. He would like to ensure mitigation strategies are in place to assist agricultural sectors that have been affected by new trade agreements such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is to replace NAFTA, the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement (CETA), and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Each of those agreements opens Canadian markets to more goods from other markets, including for products that are under supply management programs in Canada.
Drouin said he would like to see an insurance program developed to assist producers in supply-managed sectors who lose quota due to the new agreements.
He also supports using tariff quotas to assist industries that are affected by more foreign-produced goods entering the Canadian market. He used the cheese industry as an example.
The Liberal candidate said he would also like to see business risk management plans for agriculture re-assessed to make sure they reflect current economic realities. As an example of changing realities, he referred to how tariffs and trade tensions between the US and China over soybeans have led to a price decrease in Canada.
Drouin also supports the idea of a trade war fund to help governments and stakeholders respond to the effects of trade disputes.
“That’s something I could get behind,” he said.
Drouin wants the access to labour for agricultural producers to improve. He wants temporary foreign worker programs to be more responsive and for agriculture to be promoted as a good model for work and careers.
“I want to make sure our farmers succeed,” was Pierre Lemieux’s opening statement when asked what his priorities would be for agriculture.
Lemieux said there is a need to attract more young people to careers in agriculture.
However, he said the best way to ensure success for farmers is to have a government that is committed to making farming successful, which is what he said a Conservative government would do.
Lemieux vowed that a Conservative government would scrap the carbon tax introduced by the Liberals. He also said the rate of Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance premiums is too high, which increases the cost of labour for farmers.
The Conservative candidate was also critical of small business taxes made by the Trudeau government which he claimed have hurt farmers because they are also small business owners.
“I think farmers need to know the government is on their side,” he said.
In the past, Lemieux has also emphasized the need to protect supply-managed sectors of agriculture and has been especially critical of the USMCA which allows 3.6 per cent of the milk entering the Canadian market to be imported from the US.
Lemieux said that above all, he would restore trust and confidence in government for farmers.
The New Democrat candidate stated his unequivocal support for supply management and the need to defend it in all future trade negotiations. He said that no foreign milk, eggs, or poultry should be entering the Canadian market.
“Our farmers are more than capable of supplying what we need,” said Malakos.
The NDP candidate called opening the Canadian market to American milk, “the biggest affront to dairy farmers.”
He said improved access to land, incentives to get more young people farming, assistance for new farmers with equipment and start-up costs, and subsidies for organic producers are also ideas he would pursue if elected.
Malakos said he wants to know that the NDP has rural roots that go back to its formation as the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in western Canada.
He said that party leader Jagmeet Singh understands rural issues, even though he has an urban background as a member of the Ontario legislature and more recently as an MP for a Vancouver-area riding.