Questionnaire Results

With the Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership race underway, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers asked each of candidates six questions that we thought would be of interest to our members and specifically prairie grain farmers.

On June 25, 2020 the following questions were sent to each candidate. As of July 17, 2020, we heard back from those noted below. Should other candidates submit their answers, we will update the survey.

1. As the next leader of the CPC, what would your top priorities be for farmers and the agriculture industry across the prairies?

Leslyn Lewis

As Prime Minister I will take swift and decisive action to strengthen the economic outlook for our farmers and secure our agricultural sector’s position in Canada and on the world stage. I will do this by:

  • Reforming tax rules to more easily facilitate intergenerational transfers of farms.
  • Restoring the AgriStability program to cover 85% of losses.
  • Investing in research and development to help the agricultural sector continue to lead the way in environmental standards through reduction/sequestration and adaptation.
  • Applying a national security lens to Canada’s agricultural sector to make sure we are prepared for the next global crisis.
  • Using my international law experience to strengthen existing trade relationships and open new ones.

Peter MacKay

Canada’s agricultural producers feel betrayed by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. After five-long years governing from Ottawa, they have failed to stop Chinese tariffs from wreaking havoc on our canola and beef industries and implemented a “one size fits all” Carbon Tax.

Under the Liberals Canadian farmers have lost more than $5 billion in export markets, including canola and soybeans to China, peas and pulses to India, durum wheat to Italy and barley to Saudi Arabia. They have endured new regulations and red tape not based on science but activism like new livestock transport rules, front-of-packaging labelling, and the Canada Food Guide and they have lost critical pest management tools. Clearly, agriculture is not a priority for this Liberal government.

Under a Conservative government that I lead, we will restore confidence in Ottawa. I will start by removing the Carbon Tax and partner with agri-businesses in developing meaningful ways to combat climate change.

But that’s just the beginning. My vision for the future of this important industry is one of prosperity.

I’ll work tirelessly to reduce the regulatory burden on our agricultural producers, ensure policy decisions are based on science not activism, slash the tax burden suffered by family farms (including removing unfair barriers to entry faced by young farm owners), protect our food supply from future illegal blockades, relentlessly pursue export markets while making sure our industries don’t suffer unfair competition and invest in delivering broadband internet capabilities all across this great country.

There’s a saying back home; if you eat, thank a farmer (or a fisherman!). After five long years, it’s clear Justin Trudeau has forgotten this. Under my government, we will turn this saying into reality.

Erin O'Toole

My priorities would be to:

  • End the Liberal carbon tax, which is driving up farm input costs like diesel fuel, natural gas, fertilizer, transportation and electricity;
  • Defend and expand access to foreign markets through more aggressive trade action and new agreements including with India;
  • Expand rural transportation and communications infrastructure to help get products to market and allow farmers to adopt new digital farming technologies; and
  • Let farmers keep more of what they earn by reversing the Liberal Small Business Tax Hike and reforming the tax code to reduce, flatten, and considerably simplify taxes.
2. What is your 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?

Leslyn Lewis

The Liberals’ disastrous foreign relations policies over the last 5 years have weakened our agriculture sector and placed many farmers’ livelihoods in jeopardy.

I fully support pursuing new and expanded trade relationships to open up new opportunities and markets for our agricultural sector. I would however do so in a responsible manner that ensures Canada maintains its own supportive frameworks, particularly supply management.

Peter MacKay

The Conservative Party of Canada is the party of free trade. While in government, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and I ensured agri-businesses and producers had market access with over 43 different countries, creating more opportunities to export more Canadian products. I’m proud of these accomplishments.

Under a MacKay government I will name an Agriculture Minister whose opinion will be respected at the Cabinet Table and who will play a critical role in future trade negotiations and policy decisions.

To that end, as Prime Minister, I will bring in pro-employment trade policies. These will continue the work our previous Conservative government started by continuing to tear-down artificial trade barriers that inhibit agri-businesses from exporting their products. At the same time, our trade-policies will put Canadian businesses first by protecting against unfair and uncompetitive policies by hostile nations, like China, that do not share our interests.

Furthermore, as Prime Minister, I will ensure that our Canadian Trade Commissioners aggressively advocate for our staple sectors, such as agriculture, on the world stage. Canada is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and an ethically-managed agricultural sector. We must stand up to misplaced attacks wherever they originate.

Finally, before we look abroad, we must fix our own backyard first. When I lead the next Conservative government, we will constantly work with premiers across the country to tear down inter-provincial trade barriers. These barriers inhibit market access to Canadian agribusinesses and make us uncompetitive globally.

Erin O'Toole

I strongly support international free trade. As Parliamentary Secretary for International Trade under the previous Conservative government, I worked closely with Canadian farmers in negotiating and completing groundbreaking trade agreements with dozens of countries in Europe and Asia. I fought hard to ensure that countries respected the market access rights given to our farmers in these agreements.

While COVID-19 is forcing countries, Canada included, to reevaluate their domestic food security, it is essential that this be done in a way that does not undermine the global agriculture supply chains that Canada helped build and that have so successfully reduced hunger around the world.

I have no faith in the Liberal government to stand up for our farmers abroad. With Justin Trudeau in charge, countries such as China, India and even Italy and the United States, have had free rein to illegally block imports of our food products.

3. What is your 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 modern farming techniques and sequestering?

Leslyn Lewis

Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax disproportionately impacts farmers and I will scrap it. Carbon sequestration is a fascinating innovation and I support investing in research and development to help the agricultural sector continue to lead the way in environmental standards through reduction/sequestration and adaptation.

Peter MacKay

First, I will abolish the Carbon Tax. It does nothing to reduce emissions yet punishes farmers with further financial strain, at a time where they already are taxed enough. I also will not institute a “national industrial regulatory and pricing regime” as others will do.

Our agricultural producers are natural conservationists. In fact, Canada’s farmers have done more to combat climate change than Trudeau’s Carbon Tax ever could. Not only have our producers achieved a net-zero industry, but thanks in part to technology such as carbon sequestration, agriculture is a net carbon sink of 30 mega-tonnes per year. This is an incredible achievement.

But, thanks in-part to Trudeau’s Carbon Tax, our agricultural producers are feeling unappreciated. We need to work with provinces and the private sector to reduce emissions and recognize the significant achievements of those like our agricultural sector. Our producers have stepped up to the preverbal plate multiple times in reducing emissions. We need to create a system that recognizes this.

Erin O'Toole

The Liberal carbon tax raises the cost of essential inputs that farmers cannot pass on to their customers. It does nothing to recognize or incentivize new soil management and other farm practices that capture carbon or otherwise dramatically lower emissions.

I have committed to ensuring that the Conservative Party presents a plan to Canadians in the next election that shows Canadians that we take climate change seriously. This plan will not include a carbon tax. As leader, I will work with the agriculture sector and other sectors, to develop a plan that works. This will include recognizing the critical environmental stewardship provided by Canadian farmers and examine public good recognition for the positive impacts they have on wetlands conservation, carbon sequestration, reforestation, species protection and maintaining pollinator habitat.

4. Farmers depend on road and rail infrastructure to bring in inputs (seed and fertilizer) and export grain. What is your party’s position on the grain transportation system and the ability to maintain an accountable and efficient system considering possible future overcrowding on the rail system? How will your party support rural infrastructure investment?

Leslyn Lewis

My promise to Canadians is that I will use every tool at my disposal to increase investment in Canada, and revitalize our energy, farming and other resource sectors. I will invest to place Canada in a position of strength should a crisis like COVID-19 ever arrive again. Essential food and products needed in times of crisis are not simply a food or supply issue, it is a national security and safety issue. We cannot be reliant on foreign governments in times of pandemic.

Peter MacKay

We need to modernize and improve Canada’s transportation infrastructure.

Our decaying infrastructure hinders producer’s ability to compete on the world stage. Further, a lack of reliable transportation puts pressure on our food supply, hurting those in the big cities as well as the countryside.

As Prime Minister, I will prioritize long-term investments to modernize and improve transportation infrastructure. I will also remove artificial barriers to stimulate private sector investments in infrastructure and will prioritize national infrastructure programs to help deliver Canadian agricultural goods faster and more efficiently. Finally, I will end any further disruptions from un-lawful protesters who threaten the delivery of agricultural inputs and exports.

Erin O'Toole

The best way to improve services for farmers is through competition. Too many of our big corporations are coddled and protected by a government that serves them more than it serves the people. Just like how I’ve promised to help consumers by opening our airlines and wireless services to more foreign competition, I would make sure that we have enough competitive pressure on our railroads to incent them to invest and provide affordable and timely service to farmers and shippers. If markets remain underserved, I would be supportive of the federal government earmarking infrastructure funds to help build out further rail connections.

5. What is your 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?

Leslyn Lewis

Genetically modified crops are invaluable and innovative tools for maximizing the yield of our agricultural land and putting more, healthier food on the table. I am committed to investing in research and development to help the agricultural sector continue to lead the way in this field in a manner that continues to prioritize the health and safety of Canadians.

Peter MacKay

As producers know, technology is vital for our agricultural sector to compete on the world stage. Unfortunately, our status as leader in technological development has been slipping. We now rank just 25th in the Bloomberg Innovation Index.

But we can do better.

Canada has some of the brightest minds in the world. I already talked at-length about carbon capture and storage (CSS) methods already employed on many family farms to help lower emissions. It’s a fact that Canada is a world-leader in this cutting-edge technology, however, we are missing lucrative opportunities such as developing new seed varieties and exciting new technology like autonomous farming because of red tape and incessant regulations. In addition, we are losing incredible opportunities and vital tools like pest management products because, under the current Liberal government, policy is based on activism instead of sound science. That cannot, and will not, happen under a MacKay Conservative government.

I want to make Canada a tech powerhouse of the north. We do this by creating an environment that makes investing and creating cutting-edge technologies easier and more timely. Further, I will direct research investment into areas that will pay dividends of high paying, and high-tech, jobs of the future.

I will make strategic investments to boost innovation, cut red tape that inhibits growth and start-ups, and create stronger protections for our intellectual property.

Agricultural producers are at the forefront of innovation. Instead of getting in the way with punitive barriers and regulations, government should help foster an environment of innovation in our agricultural sector. As Prime Minister, I will do just that.

Erin O'Toole

I believe the private sector is the real engine of innovation. This is why one of my top priorities as Prime Minister will be to cut red tape. Onerous, slow and opaque rules and approval processes hold back our farmers as well as the entrepreneurs and scientists who want to equip them with the latest tools needed to compete in international markets. I will dedicate a minister responsible for reducing red tape and table at least one Red Tape Reduction Act every year we are in government, with a major focus on agriculture. I also believe that regulation should be driven by science and not superstition. We cannot allow anti-science opponents of new technologies set policy.

6. How will you ensure that improved cellular and broadband technology will be available to rural areas? Modern agriculture depends upon technology for market info, equipment software updates, timely communication and the ability to reduce our carbon emissions.

Leslyn Lewis

Canada as a G7 country still has areas that lack access to services that urban dwellers view as basic necessities. The pandemic has highlighted that the government needs to ensure we have the right infrastructure to support the growth of the nation.

It’s time Canadians decide to make that investment in the infrastructure we need to grow our country. We’ve done it in other countries through aid and development. And I’ve travelled to some of those countries to whom we’ve given aid and development and they sometimes have better connectivity with internet and electricity than some parts of this country. We need to do better.

Peter MacKay

As someone from a rural background I understand these benefits shouldn’t be limited to just those that live in cities.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a fact most Canadians already knew; rural communities struggle with reliable high-speed internet. At a time when a reliable online connection has never been in so much demand, nearly 60% of Canadians living in rural and remote areas are still without high-speed internet. A stable internet connection can bring with it jobs of tomorrow that keep young people in our towns and villages, healthcare improvements, educational advantages and the ability to connect with loved ones across our great country.

That’s why I have included delivering internet connectivity to rural areas in my Jobs Plan for Canada. In fact, it’s an essential part. As Prime Minister, I will deliver internet across this country and ensure no Canadian is left behind simply based on where they live.

However, a stable internet connection is only one part of the connectivity issue. Canada must also modernize its cellular infrastructure. As Prime Minister, I will fast-track the implementation of our 5G infrastructure, and I will do so without compromising our national security. Huawei will be banned from building Canada’s 5G networks.

Just as investing in electricity for Canada’s towns and villages in a previous century was an important step that brought Canada into a new age, we need to do so again for this newfound digital age.

Erin O'Toole

The digitization of farming is one of the most exciting economic opportunities facing our country today. But that means that reliable broadband Internet has never been more urgent or more important. I would prioritize funding from federal infrastructure programs, assert federal jurisdiction when necessary to approve new towers, and support new ways to provide service including through low-earth orbit satellites.

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