Devin Dreeshan, Alberta’s newest Agriculture and Forestry minister and representative for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, has started the role at a time when not only are farmers busy in the fields, but the forest fire season is also in full swing.
Dreeshan was recently featured on RealAg Radio to talk about what’s front and centre for his ministry right now on the agriculture file. Right off the hop, there’s a carbon tax to deal with, major trade issues for several crops, and the controversial Bill 6 to repeal and replace.
In the interview below, Dreeshan shares his thoughts on how dealing with China and other countries around the world using non-tariff trade barriers has to move past politicking and push for some real engagement for change.
Alberta’s farmers depend on export markets, and closures to crucially important markets can’t be allowed to continue, he says. “Farmers shouldn’t be paying for this diplomatic dispute,” Dreeshan says.
“(We need to be) engaging with people who are receptive and want to listen, where there is a desire to listen. If there’s a blockage at a certain level, we just go around it,” Dreeshan says.
This summer, Dreeshan says he will also embark on a listening tour, asking what farmers would like to see in a farm safety bill, as a replacement for the controversial Bill 6. Is it education? Is it recognition of what’s already being done right? The end result of the consultation will be practical, he says so that it is implemented on-farm. Ultimately, there should be legislation in the fall and a full repeal of Bill 6.
The provincial carbon tax has already been removed he says, and we’ll have to wait and see if a threatened federally-imposed tax happens, given that there’s a federal election between now and January 1.
“It’s a cash grab,” Dreeshan says. “It was so detrimental and unfair to farmers.” He vows that the government will ensure a carbon tax never “sees the light of day.”