Editor’s note: Andrew Campbell, who farms in southern Ontario, served as the moderator for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture’s national ag leaders debate on Wednesday. A summary of the debate can be found on our live blog.
An open letter to three federal election candidates in my riding:
Mr. Bev Shipley (Conservative incumbent)
Mr. Ken Filson (Liberal candidate)
Mr. Rex Isaac (NDP candidate)
Dear Mr. Shipley, Mr. Filson and Mr. Isaac:
First off I want to thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and I hope you’ll take a few moments out of a busy campaign to answer a few of my questions. As a young farmer, I’m interested in knowing where you and your party stand on important issues that affect me and my family. I have no specific party affiliation, and have narrowed my decision to the three of you.
For one, I have been concerned with how little your party has addressed the issue of agriculture and food during this campaign, including the fact I cannot find an agriculture platform anywhere on the national campaign websites. I guess this allows me to get to know you more with a personal letter. Please know that I will post your responses online for fellow farmers to see.
- In agriculture, we farmers like to think we have a social license. We always have our environment, animals and communities at the top of our mind when producing high quality, safe and affordable food for our fellow Canadians. Bowing to pressure from misinformed activist groups may get some press for a day, but it can harm us for years to come. How can you help strengthen that social license for us in our community, without winding us up in red tape?
- Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are getting more and more press lately, partly because of the debate over labeling GMOs in the United States. What is your opinion on GMOs and will you support any push for labeling such products here in Canada?
- As a dairy farmer, I view supply management as critical to my long term success. The stability is the reason I’ve come back to the family farm. Will you continue to protect the system, including the important pillar of import control?
- Much of the environmental stewardship, risk management and research funding comes through the agreements made under ‘Growing Forward’. That fed-prov arrangement is due to be reviewed in 2018. While I understand the need to be fiscally responsible, cuts to programs like the Environmental Farm Plan (in which the whole community benefits) cannot keep happening. What will you be pushing the Agriculture Minister to include?
- Farms are high-tech businesses and we need access to the latest technology. That includes faster internet. While our high speed access peaks at 25 Mbps, fibre optic technology is giving other Canadians 1000 Mbps. The difference is staggering. Will your party hook up residents in rural ridings like ours to a fibre optic network?
Thanks for your attention to some of these important issues. Of course, there are dozens more we could discuss – but answers to these will help to determine where you stand on issues like risk management, science-based decisions making, and investment in rural Canada.
As of October 15th, one candidate had responded. We will share other candidate replies as they come in.
Ken Filson’s (Liberal) response:
I grew up on a mixed farm near Denfield. My father Hugh was an auctioneer so I also spent a good bit of time around the local livestock sales arenas. I was very involved in 4-H and Jr. Farmers was how I met my wife Karen. Karen recently sold the family grain elevator up on 23 Hwy known as Paul Toohey and Sons. She managed that operation with her father and then her brother-in-law. I am a graduate of the Advanced Agriculture Leadership Program class 10. Finally I have spent the last 17 years with Libro Credit Union working with farmers and small business people throughout SW Ontario in the Lending department.
1. I completely agree with your assessment that farmers are great stewards of the environment and the livestock they produce. I and the Liberal party firmly believe in scientific evidence based policy making. I will work hard to hold my party and government accountable to that principle. Activists work solely on emotions and reactionary policies to emotional issues rarely provide sound judgement.
As a rural MP I will work hard as an agvocate and an educator for my fellow MPs from all parties representing Large Urban riding to bring the message about modern ag practices and the importance of rural communities.
2. The Liberal Party has not developed a platform on GMOs so the following is my own personal opinion.
I have yet to see any evidence that GMO foods are in any way nutritionally different or produce any negative consequences to the user whether human or animal. Bt corn is a great example. The active protein from Bt can be added to the genetic makeup of the corn plant or Bt can be sprayed onto the plant “organically”. Either way Bt is providing protection from predators. Is the kernal of corn produced any different?
GMOs have helped increase production and reduce widespread chemical usage which should have greater support.
I don’t support mandatory labeling until science and evidence can justify the concern to users. that said I have no concerns regarding voluntary labeling as long as any claims are accurate. I think that our current labeling regulations are in need of a review.
3. As a lender to the Agricultural Industry I am very well aware of the benefits to farmers that through supply management earn “fair farm pricing”. Fair farm pricing allows farmers to concentrate on production efficiencies and maintain hands on management of reasonably sized operations throughout the country.
The Liberal party supports supply management.
The Trans Pacific Partnership agreement is not being made available before the election. the Conservatives want you to accept it without reading it. The NDP rejects it without reading it.
The Liberals will actually read it and we ask you to read it too. Then we will have a public debate to review the pros and cons and come to a decision. There are reductions to import controls for all quota industries, but we need to understand what the impact of that will be.
One thing that is very important is that we properly enforce existing rules and control the imports that are currently allowed to enter Canada.
4. A Liberal Federal government will be a partner with the provinces and work to ensure that proper Business Risk Management tools are in place and that farmers have direct input in to developing these programs.
5. High speed, reliable and affordable internet is important to farmers and everyone in the rural areas of SW Ontario.
A Liberal Government will be doubling the investment in much needed infrastructure. More importantly we are turning the funding model on its head. Instead of presenting projects to the federal government for funding, we will provide stable reliable long term funding to municipalities to use on their most pressing issues. The Western Wardens have a plan to provide internet to every last mile of SW Ontario called SWIFT and I would look forward to learning more about that if elected and providing whatever help I could to achieve the goal of having reliable, affordable, high speed internet to every household and business in LKM.