Where was the real campaign ag policy?

 

 By Will Verboven

Due do our publishing schedule by the time you receive this edition of Alberta Beef Magazine the provincial election will be over. The result was either a continuation of the 44 year dynastic rule of the PC party, or a much more interesting political situation due to any number of possible election outcomes. In either case any real agriculture policy platform by any party would not have been part of the outcome - being no party had anything interesting or visionary to offer voters involved in the agriculture and food industry. Both the PC and Wildrose parties offered up the usual platitudes and blather about more ag and rural development, opening new markets, removing red tape, better risk management and protecting the ag way of life. Most parties touted their dedication to protecting access to rural health services, but I expect few voters in the countryside believe that will happen with a giant centralized urban-based health authority running the health bureaucracy. Some of the smaller political parties didn’t even bother with any sort of ag policy platform, although the Alberta Green Party did seem to be in favour of returning the ag industry to 18th century peasant-style organic subsistence farming.

One would have thought that with such a tight race almost to the end of the campaign that the political parties would have tried to give rural and small town voters an incentive to vote for them. That would have been politically wise, but no sign of such enlightenment ever seemed to occur. What became clear is that when it came to ag policy, all the political parties gave voters involved in agriculture plenty of reasons not to vote for any of them – which I suspect many have done.

One might have thought that as a result of the previous election both the PC and Wildrose parties would have robust agriculture policy platforms. One might have presumed that with the success of Wildrose in rural and small town ridings that both parties would have promoted specific policies to regain or maintain those ridings. Curiously, neither party seemed interested in promoting any visionary perspectives on the future of agriculture. But that’s not unusual being the political brain trust (mostly urban-based strategists and consultants) of most political parties tend to deem agriculture and rural issues as minor afterthoughts. One is always bemused as how astonished such folks are when they discover that agriculture and food production is the second largest economic industry in Alberta. But I digress.

Property rights was a big reason Wildrose gained the seats it did in the previous election and they tried to keep that horse alive in the most recent campaign. Unlike the previous Redford PC regime, Prentice PC political strategists realized they needed to neutralize that Wildrose political advantage. The PCs passed Bill I to achieve that end, although analysts admit its mostly smoke and mirrors and the intent of existing property rights legislation will remain unchanged (unless the Wildrose Party won the election). 

To those lamenting the absence of any real ag or rural policy of any kind during the recent campaign your humble columnist is offering the following policy ideas. Perhaps if any of the parties had such ag policy ideas it might have given rural and small town voters a reason to vote for them.

Make a formal covenant that guarantees rural and small town residents will receive medical services equal to those received by city residents.

Support and expand the STARS emergency services to improve the respond time for all areas outside of the main cities.

Provide transportation subsidies for citizens that have to travel more than 25 km to larger centres for medical services.

Increase available acreage and construct new infrastructure to expand irrigation agriculture in Alberta.

Begin an extensive range rehabilitation support and subsidy program to return traditional rangelands to their original productivity.

Begin to pay landowners for maintaining ecologically sensitive areas to preserve endangered plant and animal species.

 Provide tax credits to producers who continue to develop and maintain progressive environmental and animal welfare practices.

Construct regional industrial bio-digesters to process organic residues such as manure and food waste from feedlots and ag processing industries.

Financially and legally support land owners that are threatened by nuisance lawsuits and federal government actions on environmental issues.

Require, where possible, that all perishable food products sold in Alberta be irradiated, a safe food safety process that will significantly reduce food poisoning.

I would respectfully suggest that had any party adopted the above they would have seen their popularity increase significantly with almost all voters outside of the main urban centres.  I guess now it will all remain wishful hopes.

Cooperation works better than acrimony ……. producers are learning that lesson.