Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has issued mandate letters to his ministers, outlining the Liberal government’s priorities for the session of Parliament that started last month.
The letters were made public on Thursday (Dec. 16), 51 days after the cabinet was sworn in, and the second last day of sitting in the House of Commons before MPs head home for the holiday break.
The prime minister’s letter to Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau includes the same general directives as the letters to the other 37 cabinet ministers, along with over a dozen specific priorities related to agriculture and agri-food, ranging from accounting for climate risk in business risk management programs to developing an agricultural labour strategy to supporting farmers in storing carbon in soil.
Bibeau’s mandate letter also refers to reducing methane and fertilizer emissions from farming, as well as supporting farmers to use less chemical pesticides — a specific commitment that has not appeared in past mandate letters.
Modernizing the Canada Grain Act, which was notably left out of Bibeau’s 2019 mandate letter, is back on the list of priorities.
The letters to several ministers, including Bibeau, refer to securing supply chains, but there is little to no mention of trade or export promotion in the letter to the agriculture minister.
Here’s the complete list of agriculture-specific objectives laid out in the prime minister’s letter to Minister Bibeau:
Agriculture and Agri-Food
- Work with provinces and territories to update business risk management programs, including to integrate climate risk management, environmental practices and climate readiness. Ensure that producers, including Indigenous, young and women farmers, have the opportunity to contribute.
- With the support of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, and in partnership with provinces and territories, employers, unions and workers, develop a sector-specific Agricultural Labour Strategy to address persistent and chronic labour shortages in farming and food processing in the short and long term.
- As part of a green agricultural plan for Canada, increase support to farmers to develop and adopt agricultural management practices to reduce emissions, store carbon in healthy soil and enhance resiliency; triple funding for clean tech on farms, including for renewable energy, precision agriculture and energy efficiency; and work with farmers and stakeholders to reduce methane and fertilizer emissions in the agricultural sector.
- Support the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to implement sector-based work permits and strengthen the inspection regime to ensure the health and safety of temporary foreign workers.
- With respect to pathways for agricultural temporary foreign workers, support the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to expand pathways to Permanent Residence for international students and temporary foreign workers through the Express Entry system.
- With the support of colleagues, take every necessary precaution to prevent the introduction of African swine fever within our borders, and continue to work with provinces and territories and industry stakeholders on prevention and preparedness measures, including a cost-shared response plan.
- Continue to protect supply-managed agricultural sectors, our family farms and the vitality of our rural areas, working with supply-managed sectors to provide full and fair compensation with respect to the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) and making this determination within the first year of our mandate. You will be supported in this work by the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development.
- Working with provincial and territorial governments, develop the next agricultural policy framework to continue to support the sustainable economic growth of the agriculture and agri-food sector, ensuring climate action and resilience are core to the framework.
- In support of A Food Policy for Canada, continue to strengthen Canada’s food system by:
- Working with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and with provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous partners and stakeholders to develop a National School Food Policy and to work toward a national school nutritious meal program; and
- Creating a No-Waste Food Fund to help all players along the food supply chain to commercialize and adopt ways to eliminate, reduce or repurpose food waste.
- Support the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and secure supply chains.
- Support food producers who choose alternative pest management approaches that reduce the need for chemical pesticides.
- Continue to explore next steps to modernize the Canada Grain Act and ensure it meets the needs of the sector now and in the future.
- Support the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to establish a Canada Water Agency and implement a strengthened Freshwater Action Plan, including a historic investment to provide funding to protect and restore large lakes and river systems, starting with the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River System, Lake Simcoe, the Lake Winnipeg Basin, the Fraser River Basin and the Mackenzie River Basin. Invest in the Experimental Lakes Area in northern Ontario to support international freshwater science and research.
- Ban the live export of horses for slaughter.
As for other minister’s letters, here are some of the prime minister’s objectives that may be relevant for agriculture:
Environment & Climate Change
- Continue to put a rising price on pollution and protect Canadian jobs and competitiveness through smart carbon pricing design.
- Recognize the “right to a healthy environment” in federal law and introduce legislation to require the development of an environmental justice strategy and the examination of the link between race, socio-economic status and exposure to environmental risk.
- To achieve Zero Plastic Waste by 2030:
- Continue to implement the national ban on harmful single-use plastics;
- Require that all plastic packaging in Canada contain at least 50 per cent recycled content by 2030;
- Accelerate the implementation of the zero plastic waste action plan, in partnership with provinces and territories;
- Work with provinces and territories to implement and enforce an ambitious recycling target of 90 per cent – aligned with Quebec and the European Union – for plastic beverage containers;
- Introduce labelling rules that prohibit the use of the chasing-arrows symbol unless 80 per cent of Canada’s recycling facilities accept, and have reliable end markets for, these products; and
- Support provincial and territorial producer responsibility efforts by establishing a federal public registry and requiring producers to report annually on plastics in the Canadian economy.
- Work with industry, labour and other stakeholders to develop a regulated sales mandate that at least 50 per cent of all new light duty vehicle sales be zero emissions vehicles in 2030 as an interim step toward achieving Canada’s mandatory target of 100 per cent by 2035, and a regulated sales requirement that 100 per cent of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sales be zero emission by 2040, where feasible.
- Make progress on methane emission reductions by developing a plan to reduce emissions across the broader Canadian economy consistent with the Global Methane Pledge and require through regulations the reduction of oil and gas methane emissions in Canada by at least 75 per cent below 2012 levels by 2030.
Innovation, Science and Industry
- Accelerate broadband delivery by implementing a “use it or lose it” approach to require those that have purchased rights to build broadband to meet broadband access milestones or risk losing their spectrum rights.
- Work with the Minister of Natural Resources on the development of model building codes, including publishing a net-zero emissions building code and model retrofit code by the end of 2024 that align with national climate objectives and provide a standard for climate-resilient buildings.
- Work with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry to implement a “right to repair” to extend the life of home appliances, particularly electronics, and require businesses to inform Canadians of the environmental impacts of consumer products.
- To ensure Canadians are protected from risks associated with the use of pesticides and to better protect human health, wildlife and the environment, modernize and strengthen the Pest Control Products Act to ensure it supports transparency, use of independent scientific evidence and input to the decision-making process.
- Work with partners to take increased and expedited action to monitor, prevent and mitigate the serious and growing threat of antimicrobial resistance and preserve the effectiveness of the antimicrobials Canadians rely upon every day.
International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development
- With the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, work to strengthen and secure supply chains, including through the Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership, and pursue opportunities more broadly for market diversification and trade facilitating infrastructure. Your efforts will be complemented by work led by the Minister of Transport to reduce and prevent supply chain bottlenecks in Canada’s transportation network. This work will be supported by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
- In collaboration with relevant ministers, lead Canada’s efforts to combat protectionism, unfair trade practices, and economic coercion around the world.
- Establish a new federal hub to help Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs take full advantage of the opportunities created by trade agreements.
- Continue pursuing free trade opportunities and advancing Canada’s export diversification strategy for the benefit of Canadian consumers and businesses by:
- Developing a strategy for economic cooperation across Africa, including support for the African Continental Free Trade Area, facilitation of increased infrastructure investment and expansion of partnerships in research and innovation;
- Reinforcing economic cooperation in our hemisphere, including by continuing enhanced trade engagement with the Pacific Alliance and pursuing bilateral trade agreements with key partners;
- Negotiating, as part of a new Indo-Pacific strategy, new bilateral and regional trade agreements, expanding Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements and building stronger economic linkages; and
- Advancing negotiations with the United Kingdom towards a fully realized Canada-UK Trade Agreement.
- Building off our success in negotiating new free trade agreements, lead their continued implementation to ensure they benefit Canadian consumers and businesses.
You can find all of the PM’s mandate letters here.