It’s been a rough fall for Trudeau and agriculture

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Justin Trudeau/flickr.com)

Even though rural Canada voted Conservative, I personally had some hope for the Trudeau government. For me it was a case of giving them the benefit of the doubt on some of their campaign promises. The basis for much of this optimism was on the trade file and Trudeau’s ability to connect Canada to Asia.

Andrew Coyne – From taxation to trade, how is the Trudeau brand holding up?

It has been a very rough fall for the Trudeau government. There have been some definite positives, such as the Clean Fuel Standard, which outlines a potential boost for domestic ethanol production, and the early fix on the canola blackleg disagreement with China if you go back to the Liberals first year in power. But after two years and a very rough fall in 2017, the tide has turned against the Prime Minister, and most of it is his own doing.

Trade

This is the topic that I took serious flack for, supporting what the Liberals had done through the first half of 2017. Most of my confidence was based on the involvement of Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland. I still believe that the strategy taken towards the North American Free Trade Agreement is correct, but I cannot say the same regarding the recent developments with the TPP11, China, and now India.

Is Trudeau’s progressive agenda hurting free trade talks?

Before the House of Commons rose for the Christmas break, John Barlow made it clear that the Trudeau government’s lost bet on China and the failed trip to India will have very negative impacts on trade and specifically in this case pulse growers.

Bill C-49 Transportation Modernization Act

In what could of been the biggest prairie agriculture win of the year for the Trudeau Liberals, they have managed to completely fumble the ball on passing very promising legislation before the railways started shipping the surprisingly large 2017 crop.

When Transportation Minister Marc Garneau introduced the bill in May, Western Canadian agriculture virtually admitted that it encompassed almost exactly exactly what it was looking for. The federal government, however, has failed to deliver, and with the looming possibility of a grain backlog with CN and CP not meeting orders, we have a problem.

The Liberals took five months to pass the bill in the House of Commons, leaving the Senate a tight timeline for passing the legislation. As a result, the bill will have to wait until after Parliament resumes at the end of January.

Carbon Tax

This is a topic I am still trying to get my head around in terms of objectives and potential for effectiveness. Agriculture is obviously very negative towards this attempt to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Much of the objection centres around general distaste for taxes and/or whether or not you believe in climate change.

Trudeau’s ability to win over farmers in the west has not been helped by outgoing Premier of Saskatchewan Brad Wall’s unwavering assault on the idea of a carbon tax.

Small Business Tax Changes

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has had an unbelievable bad fall attempting to communicate and provide justification for his proposed tax changes beyond “we believe in a system that is fair.”

Last week we saw more details develop in income sprinkling, the least controversial of the three pillars. The majority of agriculture has taken exception to the passive income and capital gains sections of the suggested changes. The public outcry by farmers was very loud and somewhat effective as it was combined with general outrage from the small business community in all industry sectors.

Once again the Conservatives’ tying the Morneau tax changes to him allegedly personally profiting based on his family owning a benefiting company, Morneau Shepell has not helped the Liberals swing the farming community to their side.

Is there still time in the next two years?

Time is always your friend when you have it, and the Liberals still have almost two years.

Last week I appeared on RFD-TV in the United States to discuss Trudeau’s recent troubles tying up some loose ends for agriculture.

Let’s be honest, it would be difficult under the best of circumstances for Trudeau to win seats in rural Canada, but any opportunity he had to win some open-minded farmers over has been stunned.

A bigger question in rural and agricultural communities is whether two years is enough time for Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives to win over urban voters. And whether the NDP, under their new leadership, will regain some Liberal votes.

I think that trade and the changes to the railway legislation are the biggest disappointments for Trudeau because they could have been wins for agriculture and his image in rural Canada. With the transport bill stuck in the senate, China not dancing, India laying down tariffs, TPP11 shaken and NAFTA potentially set to blow up, Trudeau has some real issues to deal with in 2018 that will have major impacts on farms, ranches, and rural votes.

 

Shaun Haney

Shaun Haney is the founder of RealAgriculture.com. He creates content regularly and hosts RealAg Radio on Rural Radio 147 every weekday at 4PM est. @shaunhaney

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