Andy Walker

Canadian voters have delivered a minority government that will have to get down to work quickly on a number of issues impacting the agricultural industry.

During an election period (especially at the federal level) virtually everything stops during a campaign. News releases about items that are relatively minor are put on hold in the fear they might offer some partisan advantage. Many bureaucrats put files on their desk on hold, not knowing whether they will be a priority if a different party forms the government after election day.

There is also a lull after the election before the new government is sworn in. That period is longer when there is a change in government (which is not the case this time) but there is certainly no guarantee that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will again call on Marie Claude Bibeau to take the reins of the agriculture department.

One of the major issues that needs to be near the top of the priority list is settling the dispute with China that has cost the oilseeds and livestock sectors billions of dollars. While China officially maintains blocking Canadian products essentially goes back to fraudulent paperwork, the more likely cause is retaliation for Canada arresting Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the Chinese company Huawei Technologies last December.

Certainly, there have been talks at the diplomatic level but the prime minister and senior cabinet officials like Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, have understandably been unable to devote much attention to the issue. That has to change. The new government, presumably with the support of all parties in Parliament, must continue to put pressure on the Chinese to rectify the situation.

A compensation package to help the dairy industry deal with the increased market access granted by trade deals with the European Union and the Trans Pacific Partnership countries was announced just prior to the election call. The $1.75 billion package was negotiated in partnership with industry and will be allocated over an eight year period.

The Liberal government has promised similar compensation for the poultry and egg sectors, as well as additional compensation when the Canada United States Mexico Agreement comes into full force. Mexico has ratified the agreement and a bill that would have seen Canada sign off died on the order paper when Parliament was dissolved. The United States has also yet to ratify.

During the vote, all of the parties (with the exception of the People's Party of Canada under Maxime Bernier), indicated they support supply management. Bernier failed to win re-election and the smart money says his year-old party will soon implode.

The new Parliament must not only reaffirm its support for supply management but reaffirm the commitments on the campaign trail that no further quota will be negotiated away. Even though there may be plenty of areas of disagreement with the newly rejuvenated Bloc Quebecois, this is not one of them. Quebec producers and governments have long been among the strongest supporters of the supply managed sector and Trudeau can count on the Bloc's full support on that issue.

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