Opinion: Federal Liberals making good on throne promises

So far the feds are ready to put money where their mouth is

The governing minority Liberals are making good on recent promises made to those living in rural communities.

They are building on commitments to enhance rural broadband access, pay compensation for supply-managed industries impacted by trade deals and look to agriculture to be an economic driver in the fight against climate change from the throne speech that sparked cautious optimism.

The cautiousness came from reservations Ottawa would be able to follow through.

Some critics pointed to the lack of prominence agriculture received in the throne speech – but few other industries got more attention than farmers did. Throne speeches are meant to speak to all Canadians.

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Plus, many other areas that got specific attention, like health care, are at least as integral to our everyday quality of life as agriculture is.

Seven days after the speech was made, Ottawa is already putting its money where its mouth is.

(A government doing what it says it will do is about the bare minimum voters should expect of elected officials, but these days it seems citizens can’t expect much more than that.)

The commitment to improving rural broadband access is being backed up by $2 billion to connect three-quarters of a million households and small businesses. How fast that money rolls out is worth watching, but it is significant how quickly the federal government moved to back up its pledge to better connect rural communities.

It’s also significant the federal government continues to strongly confirm its commitment to compensating supply-managed industries for federal trade deals. Surely those producers would prefer the compensation comes sooner rather than later, but by promising to pay at least some of the compensation by the end of the year, they are signalling money is coming sometime in the next two months.

Ottawa is also poising itself to help unlock agriculture as an economic engine, in part by committing $1.5 billion to help fund agricultural irrigation projects on the Prairies.

Critics will want to see more for the sector – and it’s fair to continue demanding more of your federal government.

Reforming business risk management (BRM) programs is the ultimate task of the federal government and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau, at least in the eyes of many producers and the lobbyists who work on their behalf.

It will cost money to improve those programs, and the Liberals made no commitment to pay more money than they already are, or any commitment at all on the BRM front, in the throne speech.

At best, producers should hope the Liberals fulfil a promise they made while running for re-election in 2019, which is to do a “collaborative review” of the programs and be prepared “to increase federal support to farmers to help them manage risks beyond their control.”

Doing so successfully hinges on Bibeau’s ability to get belt-tightening provinces on board to do the same – which is no easy task.

So there are still reasons to be cautious, but credit should be given to the federal Liberals for moving quickly to pay for at least some of the promises they recently made to the sector.

About the author

Reporter

D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.

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