Questionnaire Results

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

On June 7, 2022 the following questions were sent to each candidate. As of July 17, 2022, 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?

Jean Charest

The agriculture industry is a major driver of Canada’s economic growth potential. I have released a comprehensive agriculture policy to reduce government overreach, secure trade agreements and get our products to market: Building Up Canadian Agriculture | Jean Charest

My top priorities, as outlined in the policy, are:
1) Expanding export markets for Canadian farmers
2) Investing in infrastructure that gets our goods to market, and enacting a Critical Infrastructure Protection Act to protect that infrastructure
3) Solving the labour challenges faced by so many agricultural businesses, and
4) Repealing the Trudeau Carbon Tax which unfairly punishes rural Canadians and farmers.

Leslyn Lewis

As I’ve travelled across the country, seeing firsthand our vast and abundant farmland and orchards, I’ve only grown in my conviction that Canada’s farmers deserve politicians who understand their importance. For years, our farmers and agricultural sector have been under tremendous uncertainty and stress as a result of out-of-touch Liberal taxes and regulations that have been nothing but a strain on our farmers, on our food security and our supply chains.

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 on the world stage. My focus will be on providing relief and getting the government off the backs of one of the biggest contributors to our economy in Canada. I will cancel the carbon tax, which does nothing to reduce emissions and only punishes our hard-working farmers. Government can encourage innovations that improve the environment and reduce emissions by providing positive incentives that motivate a shift to innovative and sustainable practices and technologies. I will offer incentives for constructing infrastructure and buildings that are energy-efficient. I will also prioritize investments in research and development to help the agricultural sector continue to lead the way in environmental standards.

We also need to secure our domestic supply chains of agricultural products, equipment and inputs, and reduce reliance on other countries – something that has been painfully clear since the onset of COVID-19 and more recently since Putin’s war on Ukraine began. Where we can produce something at home, we can do it better, more sustainably and in a way that grows Canadian agriculture and protects our food supply.

Pierre Poilievre

Our top priorities would be to ensure Canadian farmers have the tools they need to be successful including: a competitive regulatory and tax regime including scrapping the carbon tax; access to labour; a dependable and efficient supply chain including building pipelines to get oil off rail to improve rail capacity for grain; regain access to global markets; and ensure Canadian farmers get credit for their conservation and stewardship.

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?

Jean Charest

I am in support of increased trade and bringing down all forms of trade barriers, and formalizing this in trade agreements across the world so that our farmers can compete on fair terms and sell their products everywhere.

Leslyn Lewis

It’s very important that we continue to expand export and trade access for Canada’s grain farmers. I believe Canada has the best agricultural industry in the world and our farmers need to be championed and promoted abroad. As Prime Minister, it will be my priority to ensure that our farmers continue to get free and open access to our most important ally and trading partner, the United States. I will also continue to defend our exporters from trade policies that threaten market access and export levels.

The government has missed many opportunities to increase the profile of our agricultural sector and has not kept pace with new trading missions which are the key to opening new markets for our agricultural products. I promise to use my experience in international law to negotiate better deals for Canada and expand to new international markets. Currently, over 90% of Canadian farmers depend on exporting to international markets and Canada exports 75% of its grain production.(1) Canada has enough resources to feed the world. It’s important we harness that potential because demand for Canadian grain will only continue to grow as the war in Ukraine continues, as inflationary pressures continue, and many countries struggle to feed their own populations.


(1) https://cafta.org/agri-food-exports/

Pierre Poilievre

It is critical we renew Canadian agricultural growth. Between 2010 and 2015 the average annual growth of Canada’s agriculture and agri-food exports to the world increased by 7.73%. Since the Liberals were elected in 2015 our agriculture and agri-food exports to the world increased by just 1.82%. In the last three years of government Conservatives grew agriculture exports by $13.9 billion, under the Liberals they’ve only grown exports by only $4.6 billion. Much of this stunted growth is a result of poor policy, burdensome regulations and inept foreign trade policy.

A Pierre Poilievre government will:

a) restore our relationships with trusted trading partners including the United States to regain lost markets;

b) restore Canada to a position of strength in global affairs and on the world stage;

c) revise CFIA and PMRA to ensure economic impact and competitiveness are part of their mandates, they defend Canadian interests and decisions are based on sound science;

d) place higher priority on tariff and non-tariff barriers on agricultural goods including in CETA, a new Canada-UK Free Trade Agreement and within Canada;

e) increase enforcement at borders on non-compliant food imports;

f) and ensure existing trade deals are delivering for farmers and consumers.

3. What is your position on a carbon pricing system, including a credit and debit system that acknowledges the significant carbon reductions being achieved by prairie grain farmers through modern farming techniques and carbon sequestering?

Jean Charest

I am against the Trudeau Consumer Carbon Tax and will repeal it. One of the many reasons I am against it is that it failed to bring businesses and industry to the table to work on solutions together. Rather than a top-down approach from Ottawa, I will work with all provinces, businesses, and industry stakeholders to ensure our policies factor in diversified approaches to emissions reduction are considered and correctly supported.

Leslyn Lewis

I am fundamentally opposed to a carbon tax pricing system that has done nothing except punish our farmers without any evidence that it reduces emissions. We do know, however, that taxes feed government coffers and make Canada’s agriculture less competitive globally. As someone with a master’s in environmental studies, I have worked on many projects that have focused on protecting our country and our planet. I have seen firsthand that good intentions don’t always equal effective policy. We can’t continue to address environmental protection the Liberal way. Punishing and taxing our farmers doesn’t result in saving the planet.

Our farmers have already been punching above their weight globally when it comes to environmental stewardship by using clean technology and applying new farming methods that reduce CO2 emissions at an incredible rate. It’s one of the most sustainable industries in the world. That is why I support farmer-first measures and policies that create incentives to improve environmental performance and sustainability, that reduce carbon emissions through innovative technologies and techniques such as carbon sequestering. Environmental policy needs to actually help the environment and incentivize change — not endanger the livelihoods of our farmers and undermine Canadian food security.

Pierre Poilievre

A Pierre Poilievre government will scrap the carbon tax. Period. We will ensure any future policy, regulation or Canadian Agriculture Partnership Agreements consider the fact Canadian farmers and ranchers are the best environmentalists and stewards of the water, soil and grasslands.

4. Farmers depend on road and rail infrastructure to bring in crop inputs and export grain. What is your 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 you support rural infrastructure investment?

Jean Charest

Our road and rail transportation networks will require significant investments to keep up with future demand. Underinvestment will lead to overcrowding, which both harms businesses and makes life more expensive for consumers. As I have done in the past as Premier, I will focus infrastructure investments on projects that increase our economic capacity and remove bottlenecks in our transportation infrastructure.

Leslyn Lewis

We know that grain farmers are extremely dependent on a functional rail transportation system and they bear the lion’s share of the costs for transporting their grain via one of two national railway companies. While rail is the most cost-effective mode of transportation, the current situation is full of challenges and problems and this needs to be addressed.

I will look at ways we can improve that system so that it runs more efficiently, conveniently and allows for greater capacity. To that end, I will commit my government to engaging in ongoing consultation with farmers, suppliers, exporters and railway companies at the table to evaluate the industry’s evolving transportation needs so we can increase capacity, eliminate bottlenecks and keep costs low for our farmers.(2) Finally, if we’re going to expand the agricultural economy and increase competitiveness, we also need to attract more truckers and rail workers to fill the labour shortages so these key transportation corridors are protected.


(2) Policy recommendation from CFA – https://www.cfa-fca.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Policy-Manual_E_2022.pdf – See Pg. 86

Pierre Poilievre

There must be a renewed focus on developing value-added agri-businesses and increasing processing capacity within Canada to ensure our food security. In addition, to protect our supply chain there must be a focus on elimination of red tape, an efficient regulatory regime, competitive tax structure and transportation infrastructure to be deemed essential.

Therefore, a Pierre Poilievre Conservative government will:

a) Encourage value-added agri-businesses and increase processing capacity within Canada.

b) Prioritize increased capacity at critical ports.

c) Designate rail an essential service to minimize labour disruption.

d) Build pipelines so oil is removed from rail increasing capacity for agriculture commodities.

e) Follow through with recommendations on the Canada Transportation Act Review from 2015.

f) Harmonize certification regulations on seed, crops, pesticides to expedite commercialization of new technology.

g) Expand deferred cash grain tickets to include pulses, oilseeds and livestock.

h) Expand rural broadband service for rural Canada.

i) Eliminate interprovincial trade barriers to encourage growth in businesses related to agri-food, value-added and processing and lower food costs.

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?

Jean Charest

I both support and am proud of Canadian innovators in our agricultural sector. I believe that the approval process should be based on science, not politics, and would welcome further input from Canadian farmers and groups like the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association on how we can improve these processes.

Leslyn Lewis

Our farmers are the best in the world, employing green technologies and modern farming techniques that are environmentally sustainable and effective at reducing GHGs. I will create incentives for companies to develop more technological breakthroughs that continue to build on that foundation. Canada should be at the forefront of innovations that can change the game and result in better and increased agricultural output.

A robust, efficient and evidence-based regulatory approval process and framework for new biotechnology in the agricultural sector is very important to make Canada a world leader in agricultural innovation. While there‘s great promise being able to modify and enhance the resilience, yield, nutritional value, and environmental performance of many Canadian crops, but we must also be vigilant to protect our industry and consumers from any negative impacts.

Pierre Poilievre

We are losing our best and brightest who go elsewhere because they cannot develop and commercialize new technology in Canada. The regulatory red tape and bureaucracy is too cumbersome to overcome. We must streamline the approval process and harmonization of certification regulations on seed, crops, pesticides is vital to expedite commercialization of new technology. In addition, we will ensure decisions are based on the best science available and eliminate unnecessary red tape such as the biased Science Advisory Panel on Pest Control Products, which adds an cumbersome new layer to approvals of important pest management tools.

After a lengthy delay Health Canada approved regulations on gene-editing of plant products, which is a positive step and highlights the important role new technology and innovation will play in food security and improving efficiency and yields.

6. The current government’s approach to agriculture policy is following the European Commission’s Farm To Fork strategy. Do you support this approach, including a reduction in fertilizer emissions, even at the expense of grain production?

Jean Charest

As the crisis in Ukraine has shown, the world needs more Canadian grain. While we must balance our agricultural production with reducing emissions, the current government’s approach is far too ideological, it has failed to strike the right balance and we’re seeing the consequences in the real world.

Leslyn Lewis

To reduce fertilizer emissions at the expense of grain production is short-sighted, reckless, and will likely hurt the industry to the tune of billions if it becomes a requirement, leading to a decrease in crop yields.(3) With any climate action targets, we must make sure that food supply isn’t compromised and that the metrics are fair — they must take into account the ways farming practices are already offsetting emissions and give credit where it is due (e.g., for agricultural soil carbon sinks; good soil management techniques). The government also hasn’t recognized and promoted the use of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship soil management standard that has proven to be effective in helping reduce emissions from fertilizer use.

Farmers know instinctively how to care for their land – they wouldn’t be able to farm the land for generations if they didn’t care about or understand the environment. It’s in their own interests to make their operations as sustainable as possible, and government’s role needs to be to create the positive incentives for farmers to succeed and to innovate.


(3) https://www.realagriculture.com/2021/09/regulated-fertilizer-reduction-would-cost-canadian-farm-income-billions-by-2030/

Pierre Poilievre

We absolutely do not support the EU Farm to Fork agenda, which will make food unaffordable, cause food insecurity and force farmers out of business. We are seeing the devastation unfold in Europe now as the EU is no longer food secure, and farmers in Germany and the Netherlands are fighting back. Instead of following a non-science based ideological and damaging agenda, a Pierre Poilievre government will not abide by the Farm to Fork policy, but instead build policy around the Sustainable Productivity Growth for Food Security and Resource Conservation coalition headed up by the United States and other key trading partners.

7. Supply Management has created many international trade challenges. Do you have a plan to phase out this program and bring free market conditions to all components of agriculture?

Jean Charest

I support the existing Supply Management program.

Leslyn Lewis

I support pursuing new and expanded trade relationships to open up new opportunities and markets for our agricultural sector but I would do so while maintaining our own supportive frameworks, particularly supply management. Under this Liberal government and previous governments, we have seen Canadian farmers get the short-end of the stick in international trade agreements, and I would make sure any future negotiations will defend and support farmers and the food products protected under supply management.

Pierre Poilievre

As of now, the Conservative Party of Canada constitution and policy is to support supply management. Therefore, we will not contravene Party policy or the views of the majority of our members and we will support supply management.

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