P.E.I. is committed to establishing a price insurance plan for beef with or without the participation of the other Maritime provinces says Agriculture and Land Minister Bloyce Thompson.
"We’re in early stages of discussions with the three Maritime Provinces," Thompson said in the legislature in response to a question from O'Leary-Inverness MLA Robert Henderson. "New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are interested in going in with us, so we’re working with the Maritime Beef Council to come up with a recommendation from them."
There is already a regional pricing formula in western Canada and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association has been lobbying for some time to have the program become national in scope. That lobbying effort intensified as the onset of COVID-19 initially resulted in a downward slide in prices as large processing plants in the west were closed when large numbers of employees came down with the virus.
However, Thompson could offer no firm timeline for possible implementation. While Henderson said his preference would also be a regional approach, he wanted to know if PEI could go it alone if a maritime wide deal could not be reached.
"PEI is in a little bit more of a unique situation because of our issues around soil health and we think that livestock manures can be an advantage to that, but is there a possibility if the other provinces don’t go along that Prince Edward Island would go alone on this?" he asked "I mean, other provinces do operate price assurance programs."
The minister offered assurances that PEI was moving ahead on the idea regardless. Henderson then wanted to know if there was any allocation to finance the plan in the department's budget.
"Say you’re giving until July to the other provinces to come on board with this." the former agriculture minister said. "If they don’t, will you be able to do something maybe in September to do something along this line then? Do you have it in the Budget that reflects that, I guess should you have to do that?"
Mary Kinsman, who is director of finance for the department, told Henderson during budget estimates there is no allocation for the plan as yet since it is still in the development stage. The Third Party MLA said it is pretty clear from that answer there will be no price assurance plan for the fiscal year that began April 1.