ROCKWOOD – The five federal election candidates in the Wellington-Halton Hills riding each pledged dedication to the prosperity of farmers at a meeting hosted by local federations of agriculture, but there were differences on how to achieve that goal.
The all-candidates meeting on Oct. 8 at Rockmosa Community Centre, a joint presentation by the Wellington and Halton affiliates of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA),was attended by about 80 people and moderated by Jamie Reaume.
The names on the ballot on Oct. 21 will be Lesley Barron (Liberal Party), Andrew Bascombe (New Democratic Party), Syl Carle (People’s Party), Michael Chong (Conservative Party) and Ralph Martin (Green Party).
Barron said the Liberal government achieved benefits for farmers in trade deals covering Europe, the Pacific Rim, the U.S. and Mexico.
Like the other candidates, she supports the right of law-abiding farmers and hunters to own and use firearms, supports improvements for high-speed rural internet, and (with the exception of Carle) supports supply management for egg and dairy farmers, including compensation for losses due to trade deals.
“We funded research into mitigating climate change’s worst impacts on agricultural land, new clean energy technologies for power and keeping ahead of biological threats to our crops,” Barron said, noting the Liberals doubled gas tax revenue to municipalities.
She said with the carbon tax system, eight out of ten Canadians are getting more money rebated on their tax returns than they pay through the tax.
“We’ve doubled credit available to young farmers from $500,000 to $1 million,” said Barron. “We’ve heard farmers’ concerns about tax changes, and looking ahead, we are working on reforming the tax code to sell or transfer their farms to trusted family members.”
She said access to fresh drinking water should be a human right.
“I do not support water taking for profit, especially putting it into plastic bottles,” she said.
The NDP candidate said voters have an opportunity to make history by changing the political landscape, accusing the Liberals and Conservatives of failing Canadians.
“As your representative in Ottawa, I and Jagmeet Singh will work for your needs and not for the big corporations that have stolen your money day in and day out, not for the big polluters and not for the law breakers who presently sit in the government,” said Bascombe.
On a question about the size of farms, he agreed with other candidates, saying, “Government should stay out of the way and allow you to decide for yourselves.”
On water taking, he said, “Nestlé is one of the worst companies on the planet – what they’re doing in Aberfoyle is ridiculous. It should be stopped and it should come from the federal government, down to the municipality and the provincial government to put a law in place.
“The Liberal government talks about putting a price on carbon, but we have already paid the price for pollution over the decades, your health, the environment, loss of species, polluted waters that our Indigenous peoples have to deal with.”
The PPC candidate is advocating an end to supply management, which guarantees prices for farmers in some sectors. He said, “That doesn’t make me a very popular guy canvassing in the country. The ones who do agree to talk to me are warming up to the idea.”
He said, “We can’t say that we are going to end corporate welfare, and maintain supply management.” He said it has helped drive down the number of farms and has not taken care of the small farmer. “It didn’t have the effect originally intended,” he said.
Carle does support temporary tariff relief for grain farmers due to problems with China, but said Canada would not be in this situation if there had been a “competent foreign affairs minister”.
He said Ontario has huge supplies of gravel located above ground in the Sudbury – North Bay area, and that governments and the private sector should find solutions to avoid endangering local aquifers.
“It would be as simple as building a rail line,” he said.
Carle called for electoral reform, saying, “Rural areas in the country are not getting sufficient representation.”
He says “climate science is not settled” and criticized the use of wind turbines to generate electricity, saying they have killed millions of birds. He said solar farms are highly inefficient when power needs to be transmitted long distances.
He said the PPC would reduce taxes, so business people could keep more of their profits, and eliminate the capital gains tax.
The sitting MP emphasized his rural connection, living on a farm and working five years as a farm hand.
He said Conservatives “care about the future of farming” and he had worked with the University of Guelph, bringing millions of dollars to the area for agricultural research.
He said the intent of supply management was to allow the average farm family to make a “decent living” with certain products, and that farmers should manage the system so that farms are of a proper size to meet that goal.
He favours maintaining supply management for its current sectors, while building up markets for other sectors such as beef and pork.
Chong said the current behaviour of China, including the illegal detention of two Canadians and their ban on Canadian meat, soy and canola, shows it to be a “hostile power” rather than a benevolent one.
“China is no longer a reliable trading partner,” he said, calling for tariffs on Chinese exports to Canada. Like the other candidates, he said Canada needs to seek more reliable markets.
The Green Party candidate grew up on a farm and went on to become a plant science professor, author and the founding director of the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada.
“Agriculture plays a huge role in tackling the climate crisis,” he said. “Forage crops, cover crops and trees sequester carbon and help farmers become more profitable.
“Farmers and consumers can benefit from incentives to restore soil health and human health while addressing the climate crisis.”
Candidates were asked to react to news of a Green Party candidate in Manitoba calling Canada’s temporary foreign worker program “modern-day slavery”.
Martin said he was “embarrassed” at that candidate’s comment, and disagrees with the Green platform that calls for elimination of the temporary foreign worker program. He said there is room to improve the program, but he knows many farmers and workers are happy with it.
He said Greens work to protect water as a “public trust”.
He said, “The only way companies should be able to draw water is if we are sure that the municipalities have all the water they need, for current and future needs.”
On agricultural trade, he said Canada should build up its brand reputation with consumers at home and abroad.
He said confidence about the quality of Canadian products would help overcome trade barriers in the long run.