With the call of the provincial election in Saskatchewan, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers asked each of the registered parties six questions that we thought would be of interest to our members.
On September 24, 2020 the following questions were sent to each party. On October 14, 2020 we sent a reminder to the parties that had not replied. As of October 19, 2020, we heard back from two parties. If other parties reply, we will update our site.
1. What is your party’s position on free and competitive markets in international trade, including the elimination of export subsidies, reduction of trade-distorting domestic support, and reducing tariffs and non-tariff barriers that inhibit market access?
The American farmers are receiving billions of dollars from their government, we get nothing. India for example places import tariffs on our exports lowering our selling price below the cost of production. If these inequalities aren’t stopped we farmers can’t survive.
Free trade agreements increase export opportunities for Saskatchewan companies by reducing or eliminating tariffs and providing forums for discussing non-tariff barriers such as food, plant and animal health measures. We believe that Saskatchewan’s long-term agriculture interests will best be served through more open trade and expanded access to world markets. We will continue to encourage the federal government to undertake an ambitious approach in negotiations to ensure trade deals support Saskatchewan’s agriculture sector’s export interests.
2. What is your party’s position on the grain transportation system and the ability to move grain to export market in an accountable and efficient manner, considering possible future overcrowding on the rail system?
Transportation infrastructure has been a priority for our government, and with this year’s budget, the Government of Saskatchewan has invested more than $9.8 billion in highways infrastructure since 2008, improving more than 15,500 kilometres of Saskatchewan highways.
This year’s budget also increases important investments in municipal transportation infrastructure including:
- $14.0 million more for a total of $28 million to support economic growth and safety on rural municipal roads;
- $52 million in 2020-21 stimulus to replace or extend the life of highway bridges and culverts across the province.
In addition to the $52 million investment, we are partnering with Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) and the federal government to replace 100 RM bridges over the next four years. Over the next four years, the $31.5 million federal/provincial funding will be directed to rural bridge improvements.
Since 2008, the province has repaired or replaced more than 300 bridges and more than 1,600 culverts.
In total, we will replace over 150 bridges and culverts this year alone, that is a nearly 800% increase over the last year under the NDP.
We will work with industry to ensure that Saskatchewan’s opinion is heard on this important matter. We are focused on ensuring that the grain handling and transportation system can adapt to the future growth we expect.
3. What is your party’s position on the development of agricultural innovations that make farmers more profitable and sustainable, with a science-based regulatory approval process for the introduction of new technologies, including the adoption of genetically modified crops?
We have increased funding for agricultural research from $13.58 million under the NDP to $32.9 million per year. This represents an increase of over 143.7%.
The Saskatchewan Party government has also funded innovation and the introduction of new technologies through the Ag Demonstration of Practices and Technologies (ADOPT) program. The ADOPT program is designed to accelerate the transfer of new knowledge and technologies to Saskatchewan producers. The program provides funding to help producer groups demonstrate and evaluate new agricultural practices and technologies under local conditions. The results of successful trials can then be adopted by farming operations in the region.
In 2020, the Saskatchewan Party government also announced the creation of a new $15 million venture capital fund designed to stimulate growth in the agriculture technology (agtech) sector. The fund is designed to help develop new technologies in agriculture and position the province as a global leader in the agtech sector. Funds will be invested in a privately-managed fund (managed by Conexus Venture Capital), targeted exclusively at agtech companies that require venture capital to develop past the startup phase and scale up their business operations and manufacturing.
We have also invested in infrastructure that will benefit agriculture in the province. We invested $13 million in a new Food Centre in Saskatoon, committed $10 million to the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence, and as well invested $22 million towards the International Trade Centre.
4. What is your party’s position on a carbon pricing system, including on a credit and debit system that acknowledges the significant carbon reductions being achieved by prairie grain growers through farming techniques and sequestering?
Scientists admit that our farming methods have improved so we take up more carbon than we produce. Scientists also admit that our boreal forest is in need of more carbon we therefore should be getting paid carbon credits by federal and provincial governments.
We will be developing a credit registry and drafting offset quantification protocols. There will be opportunities for targeted engagement as well as broader public review of these protocols in 2021 before finalization and publication.
We work closely with Saskatchewan producers to support them in their sustainability efforts, including through programming that supports implementing beneficial management practices that benefit the environment. The Government of Saskatchewan released its overarching Prairie Resilience climate change strategy in December 2017, which outlined multiple commitments across five areas (natural systems, physical infrastructure, economic sustainability, community preparedness and human well-being) designed to make Saskatchewan more resilient to the climatic, economic and policy impacts of climate change.
“Prairie Resilience,” includes more than 40 commitments to make Saskatchewan more resilient to climate change. In agriculture, the province is a global leader in low-emissions practices. Our soils are an important carbon sink, sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Since the 1980s, our growers have been developing, refining and implementing zero- and low-tillage practices, increasing the ability of our soils to sequester carbon. Increasing the prevalence of carbon sequestering farm practices is an important component of the approach we will take to ensure our natural systems are having a positive impact on the climate.
5. As the next provincial government, what would your top priorities be for farmers and the agriculture industry in Saskatchewan?
Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan identifies a number of targets that will guide our province as we move toward 2030. Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan is a roadmap for a strong economy, strong communities, and strong families, to build a stronger Saskatchewan.
The purpose of growth is to build a better quality of life for Saskatchewan people – to build strong communities and strong families – and grow a stronger Saskatchewan now, and for the next decade.
As part of the plan, we are striving toward a number of agriculture targets that will help to grow the industry including:
- Grow Saskatchewan’s agri-food exports to $20 billion.
- Increase crop production to 45 million metric tonnes.
- Increasing livestock cash receipts to $3 billion.
- Expand irrigation in Saskatchewan.
- Increase agriculture value-added revenue to $10 billion.
On July 2, 2020, Premier Moe announced the first steps of a generational project that will fulfill the vision of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to ensure the prosperity of Saskatchewan people and irrigate up to 500,000 acres of land from Lake Diefenbaker, more than doubling the irrigable land in Saskatchewan.
The project is beginning with an immediate $22.5 million investment in preliminary engineering and initial construction. Project construction is expected to occur approximately over the next 10 years in three main phases at a cost estimated at $4 billion.
With the support of our hard work of our producers, we know we can reach it. Also, in the Plan for Growth, was our plan to open international trade and investment offices. These goals highlight the importance of agriculture to future growth and prosperity in our province.
As an exporting province it is important for us to continue to foster relationships with other countries and markets to keep the agriculture industry strong.
We will rely on the expertise of our producers and agribusinesses to achieve our goals.
Your involvement is vital in keeping the agriculture industry strong now and in the future.
These goals and relationships will help make Saskatchewan’s agriculture sector stronger and more successful than ever.
6. Modern agriculture depends upon the rapid flow of data. Access to high-speed broadband is lacking in most parts of rural Saskatchewan. What is your party’s position on building a reliable, fast broadband network across the province?
SaskTel announced that it will invest approximately $324 million of capital in Saskatchewan for the fiscal year 2020-2021 (April 1, 2020 – March 31, 2021) and over $1.4 billion over the next five years. This investment includes SaskTel’s ongoing programs to enhance and expand wireless, internet, television, data, and IP-based technologies across the province.
SaskTel recently made an announcement of a further 70-million-dollar investment in rural connectivity. SaskTel is adding an additional 74 macro cell towers in rural Saskatchewan. This is the last phase of the Wireless Saskatchewan initiative and brings the total investment in rural Saskatchewan to $107 million since 2017.
SaskTel and SARM have agreed to create a working group on rural connectivity.