Opinion: Reason for cautious optimism after throne speech

The biggest-ticket item for farmers in the government’s upcoming plans is better rural internet

The recent throne speech was predictably light on specifics, but producers should be cautiously optimistic about most of the ambitious legislative plans laid out by the minority governing Liberals.

The biggest potential win comes in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to enhance rural broadband access.

“In the last six months, many more people have worked from home, done classes from the kitchen table, shopped online and accessed government services remotely, so it has become more important than ever that all Canadians have access to the internet,” read the throne speech delivered by Governor General Julie Payette. “The government will accelerate the connectivity timelines and ambitions of the Universal Broadband Fund to ensure that all Canadians, no matter where they live, have access to high-speed internet.”

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Essentially, the federal government is announcing a speeding up of its commitment to ensure 95 per cent of Canadian homes and businesses have access to the minimum internet speeds by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

The speech specifically mentioned the Universal Broadband Fund, which offers $1 billion to improve broadband infrastructures in underserved communities across the country.

Covid-19 demonstrated the need — now the wait is on to see how many more dollars Ottawa commits to accelerate the timeline.

The goal making it into the speech should create some optimism amongst those living in rural communities wanting better internet, even if farmers were mentioned just once — in reference to plans for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Recognize farmers, foresters, and ranchers as key partners in the fight against climate change, supporting their efforts to reduce emissions and build resilience,” said the speech.

What that exactly means is unclear, but it continues to be doubtful farmers will get any long-asked for exemptions from the carbon tax, or credit for carbon sequestration.

In an interview following the speech, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau reiterated agricultural producers “will be an important partner in the economic recovery… and the fight against climate change.”

“We will be there to support them, support their growth, and help them build their resilience,” she said.

Again, no specific details — but at least some reason to be optimistic the feds will look to agriculture to be key to Canada’s economy in the short and long term, while also offering some recognition of the need to support farmers throughout the battle against climate change.

There was nothing showing the Liberals plan for a “green recovery” to the economy will be the undoing of Canada’s agricultural industry, as some opponents had previously suggested.

(Although there are legitimate concerns over how much all of this is going to cost taxpayers).

The devil will certainly be in the details, which brings all the more intrigue to the coming weeks and months.

Trudeau’s government is tasked with delivering on a fairly ambitious legislative plan, highlighted by major spends on wage subsidies and delivering universal childcare, in the midst of a global pandemic’s second wave.

To be successful doing so in a minority government, he’ll have to work with at least some of his political opponents and convince them to support his plans.

So there are reasons to be cautious — but optimistic, too.

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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