For the past three years, the Harper government has been criss-crossing the country making announcement after announcement, promise after promise to Canadian farmers. Big commitments were made to help with things like cost of production, to help build processing capacity and to help farmers create practical programs on the ground.
Unfor tunately, Stephen Harper and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz have consistently failed to deliver on these promises.
In March 2007, Stephen Harper himself announced $100 million per year to farm families to address rising “cost-of-production issues.” The plan was cancelled in the 2009 budget, before it was ever implemented.
Also in 2007, Stephen Harper announced AgriInvest, a new savings program to help farmers manage business risks. Mr. Harper touted this initiative as “programming that is more predictable, bankable and better enables farmers to better respond to rising costs.” Two years later, it still has not been implemented.
In November 2007, Minister Ritz committed $6 million to strengthen value-added processing in Atlantic Canada to help struggling beef and hog farmers there. A year and a half later, this money still has not been provided.
During the 2008 election campaign, Stephen Harper committed $500 million over four years to create an “Agricultural Flexibility” program to help farmers build flexible programs to meet their local needs.
But once re-elected, the Harper government announced a program with less dollars and put rules around it so it could not be used for flexible business risk management programs like production insurance or help for cow-calf producers. In essence, they took the “flex” out of Agriflex.
And just last week farmers have now learned the Conservative’s new $50 million “investment” in processing capacity for livestock producers is now a loan program, far from what the industry was led to believe.
In making these announcements, Stephen Harper and Gerry Ritz have raised the hopes of farmers and their families but continue to dash that hope by not following through on their promises.
Instead of delivering the programs that farmers need, they played political games. They thought first and foremost of their photo ops and then forgot about the actual action. They put politics before people.
Now more than ever, in this time of economic strife, all Canadians want a government that puts people before politics. It is time Stephen Harper informed Canadian farmers why he has failed to deliver. Wayne Easter is the Liberal critic
for Agriculture, Agri-Food & the Canadian Wheat Board.