Making decisions based on anecdotes, rhetoric, or hearsay is never a good idea for a government of any political stripe. Using data to enable analytical-based decision leads to choices and policy that can be defended and supported in a more bipartisan manner, if challenged.
Recently, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, Marie-Claude Bibeau has asked for data to support the notion that farmers are being negatively impacted by the carbon tax. At face value, this is a fair request even if you are like me and believe that this “studying” should have been done on the front end of the legislation and not after the fact.
The minister has asked and so she shall receive. Both Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) and Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan (APAS) have submitted their own studies quantifying the impact of the carbon tax on farmers. Both KAP and APAS are under the umbrella of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), an organization with diverse commodity membership from across the country. CFA is not known to be a partisan organization politically, and so the source of this data on the carbon tax impact is significant, in my opinion.
In a January edition of the iPolitics Sprout newsletter, Minister Bibeau said, “We want to make sure that we work to decrease the level of emissions that we create. But having said that, the agriculture sector in general is differently impacted and we do recognize that.” In that same interview, Bibeau said she was seeking more information into the levy’s (carbon tax) impact.
In the last two weeks I have interviewed the ministers of agriculture in Alberta and Manitoba and they two have been lobbying the federal government to recognize the impact this has on farmer’s bottom line. According to Manitoba’s Minister of Agriculture Blaine Petersen, Minster Bibeau “needs to be convinced” on how farmers have been impacted.
As more data becomes available, the more difficult it is for Minister Bibeau to toe this line of “I need more data to convince my colleagues in cabinet.”
In my opinion this data request is becoming less genuine with the release of each producer led data point. The sad fact is that this is the exact same stalling that Soy Canada and the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) received as both pleaded for assistance during the U.S./China trade war and the impacts of the U.S.’s Market Facilitation Program (MFP) on Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba soybean growers. Another example of this stall tactic is back in December of 2019 on BRMs at the FPT meeting. According to Jeff Neilsen of the Grain Growers of Canada, “the minister punted the issue six months to collect more information.”
When Bibeau was re-appointed to the agriculture portfolio in November, my opinion was that she had done a terrific job in the spring and summer of 2019 to gain the support of the industry by genuinely attempting to learn the portfolio. Now, it’s her responsibility to take action on agriculture issues within cabinet and be that voice for her portfolio constituents. The sooner she acts as the liaison for agriculture to the government the easier it will be for her to hold that utility she worked hard to obtain in the first place.
Continuing to ignore the data she herself requested is nothing but political stalling, and the longer it drags on, the more it looks like the Liberal government is waiting for data to support their position.