Last week I talked about change and of course this week we got it. I always read the polls and the polls were saying a liberal majority government. So at the end of Monday night the Liberal party came from third place and finished with 184 seats. It is a new day for Canada and a new day for Canadian agriculture.
Of course there was much talk about a rural urban divide. I must say that I do not subscribe to that. We are all Canadians and this time around the Liberals and the NDP represent some Canadian farm country. In Québec and PEI farm country the liberal scored well and in parts of Eastern Ontario we’ve got some Liberal MPs. Canadian agriculture is not a monolith beholden to the Conservative party. There is pluralism in Canadian farm country that might be small, but it is very real. Simply put, Canadian farmers want to be respected and not be ignored. When the new agriculture minister is named on November 4th let’s hope she is from Québec. I wished for that for years, we’ll see if it happens.
Change is what we got. I can see quite a few changes coming, which will affect Canadian agriculture. I don’t know about that $4.3 billion for dairy farmers announced by the previous Harper government, but it is surely in the mix. I see a more aggressive tone on the climate change file and maybe even a carbon tax harkening back to the days of Stephane Dion. That will have a huge effect on agricultural policy and a tangible effect on how we do things on the farm. I see status quo for our agricultural safety nets. If the liberals are anything like they were the last time they were in office, it is going to be an uphill battle.
Needless to say, I don’t want to be negative especially toward our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He was everything that the Conservatives were not during this past campaign. He was open to questions and he was constantly engaging Canadians on the streets. He even found some open political ground to the left of the NDP that he filled well. It all resulted in the majority government he got last Monday. I wish him well.
Of course it was also generational change. At one time Stephen Harper represented generational change, but that is over now. Justin Trudeau at age 43 represents many things, but he also represents a younger generation, which is a very good thing. During victory speech, he mentioned, “Sunny ways my friends, sunny ways”. Of course that is a quote from former Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier and I’m sure it confused many people on election night.
Confused was not Stephen Poloz the Bank of Canada governor who this past week held interest rates at the status quo .5 of 1%. Poloz was quoted after making the announcement, “We need to bear in mind that the effects of the policy changes we introduced earlier this year, will take six to eight quarters to be fully realized.” “We need to be patient and let monetary policy to do its work.” The Bank of Canada is looking at economic growth at 1.1%, 2% and 2.5% over the next three years. Keeping that interest rate low is one way to get there. Of course, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have something to say about that.
Of course our new Prime Minister Trudeau is planning deficit financing until 2019. This will be the result of a huge infrastructure program being planned. Of course the hope from my standpoint is some of this infrastructure will be targeted toward agricultural projects. How about infrastructure investment such as the present Ontario Ethanol Growth Fund, which took $517 million dollars and translated that into a successful ethanol industry in Ontario? So today, as I harvested my corn about a third of those bushels that went through my combine went toward ethanol, a market that was never there before. Imagine what Prime Minister Trudeau could do if he earmarks some of that infrastructure spending into value-added agricultural enterprises. It would have the potential to change our crop pricing structure greatly in targeted specific regions across the country.
The road ahead will be a different road than many Canadian farmers anchored in their conservative ways may have imagined. However, change sometime can be a very good thing. Like it or not, Prime Minister Trudeau represents all of that. The challenge for Canadian agriculture is to embrace that change and thrive through it.