Farmers are paying for Trudeau’s mistakes with their livelihoods

May 6, 2019

It shouldn’t take the Premier of any province publicly begging the Prime Minister to help an industry under attack for that Prime Minister to finally do something. Yet that is exactly what has happened

Last week, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe took the unprecedented step of making public a letter he sent to Justin Trudeau pleading with him to finally act to help canola farmers who have become victims of Trudeau’s failed relationship with China.

After illegally detaining two Canadian citizens, China stripped two major Canadian grain companies of their canola export licenses and has stopped purchasing Canadian canola seed altogether.

Over half of the agri-food products grown in Canada are exported, making ours one of the most trade-dependent agricultural sectors in the world. It’s not surprising, then, that industry groups and provincial governments are crying out for help. However, their pleas are falling on deaf ears in Prime Minister Trudeau’s Ottawa.

“Saskatchewan is becoming increasingly concerned that your government has offered no concrete support for Canada’s canola producers,” Moe wrote.

Unfortunately, this has become the norm under Justin Trudeau. Since he became Prime Minister, Canadian farmers have lost more and more access to the global markets on which they rely for their livelihood. That is the way it is with Justin Trudeau. It is what he did to forestry and workers, and he is doing the same thing now to farmers and canola producers.

One in five Canadian jobs depends on exports like canola, but thanks in part to Justin Trudeau’s failures on the world stage, our world is getting smaller and smaller. Canola is only the latest casualty, now that Canada’s relationship with China – our second largest trading partner – is at an historic low.

Italy has shut out Canadian durum wheat. India has imposed punishing tariffs on Canadian pulses. Vietnam has stopped importing Canadian wheat. And now China has put an embargo on Canadian canola and has recently suspended pork imports from two Canadian companies.

Canola seed exports to China alone were worth $2.7 billion last year. Ninety per cent of canola grown in Canada is exported, and forty per cent of that total goes to China. The loss of the Chinese market hits Canadian producers directly and severely.

At a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, Stephen Venereal, a canola farmer and Vice-President of the Alberta Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, stated that he had already lost $50,000 since early March. He added that he could potentially lose $100,000 or more if the Chinese blockade continues. It is the same for canola farmers across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and even for many in Ontario and Quebec.

At a time when farmers should be getting ready to seed, they are instead looking to Ottawa for answers and for help. While the Government has announced it will increase the maximum amount of money available to individual producers under the Advance Payments Program (APP), from $400,000 per year to $1 million, its two-months-too-late announcement shows just how out of touch they are with farmers and rural Canada.

While I welcome all support for farmers, a few tweaks to a government program is not good enough. The canola crisis is a direct result of the Liberal leader's bungling of Canada's relationship with its second-largest trading partner. Farmers need the issue resolved and their market access restored.

This is a political problem of Trudeau’s own making, and one of several consequences Canadians have suffered because of his weak and naïve approach to China.

His Trade Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister both have yet to reach out to their Chinese counterparts to resolve this trade crisis. Trudeau has also failed to name a new Canadian Ambassador in Beijing following former Ambassador John McCallum’s firing at the end of last January.

Canadians Michael Kori and Michael Spavor are still locked up in a Chinese prison cell with the lights on 24 hours a day. Huawei remains a significant cybersecurity threat that is largely ignored.  And Justin Trudeau still hasn’t replaced his ambassador to China after months after his dismissal over another international embarrassment.

Canadians are paying for all these mistakes with their livelihoods. Just ask a canola farmer.

A real plan is needed now.

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