Ahead of the Heard. FILE PHOTO

Ag policy, or even ideas, lacking in campaign

Voters need more than candidates saying, “Don’t worry, trust me.”

According to polling statistics the next leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP) will be the next Premier of Alberta. At present the contenders for UCP leader are quietly campaigning across the province. One hoped there would be some public debates allowing us to get a better idea of what the two big dogs, Jason Kenney and Brian Jean, are offering as to their vision of Alberta. Candidate Jean has presented some policy ideas, although many involve reversing NDP government decisions – not exactly visionary. Candidate Kenney hasn’t offered policy ideas for members to reflect on as to his hopes for Alberta, his stance being that it will be up to UCP members to decide on policy. That approach bears an ominous resemblance to a past election statement made by former Prime Minister Kim Campbell who memorably said ” … an election is no time to discuss policy.” She subsequently suffered one of the worst election losses in federal PC party history. I note this because history does repeat itself.

One does hope that folks running for political office will try to inspire the troops by presenting some ideas as to what they would like to see happen. Voters need more than candidates saying, “Don’t worry, trust me.” They expect some substance to give them an idea as to the candidates’ awareness of everyday issues. Sure, voters are susceptible to the cuteness factor of candidates but that doesn’t appear to be an asset any of the UCP candidates have in excess. This is no disrespect to the two main candidates but I suspect neither will get a lot of votes for their charisma and good looks as does our darling selfie master PM Trudeau – but then that might be a good thing. Charm and nice hair don’t seem to equate with common sense and competency. But I digress.

As to the reality of policies or lack thereof, your old war horse columnist recalls that most are political bromides without a lot of detail. That’s done on purpose of course to give those that win elections the ability to pick and choose what they will do once elected. The federal Liberal party stepped into that political trap – they made over 200 specific promises before the last election and are now having to break or delay many of them to the delight of the media who are keeping track. Perhaps the word “policy” is too definitive and in situations like a leadership campaign, candidates should present visions that address actual issues and concerns.

Telling UCP members over and over how bad the NDP government is does get tiresome and provides little insight as to the thinking capabilities of the candidates. If I were a UCP voting member I would like to see that the candidates have some idea as to what is going on in rural and small-town Alberta. For instance, it’s not enough just to say that Bill 6 – the farmworker’s rights bill – and Bill 17 – increased labour rights bill – will be repealed. Both bills address some issues that need recognition and updating and I expect the ag industry would like to know how they are going to be realistically and fairly involved in dealing with those and other issues.

Hopefully something has been learned from the failed farmworker rights consultation processes that the NDP government schemed up. I should add the previous PC government was no pillar of enlightenment when it came to honest consultation with rural Alberta – I cite the disastrous property rights consultation meetings that they carried out. Ironically that disaster was used as a template for the even more disastrous farmworker rights meetings organized by the following NDP government. But I digress.

Here is what I would like UCP leadership candidates to comment on:

Would you support the development of new irrigation on arable private and crown land?

Would you support Ecological Goods and Services support programs for landowners?

Would you support an investigation into the impact of windmill farms on birds and bats and fine operators for losses as oilsand operators are required to do?

Would you unequivocally support present supply management and support ways to increase Alberta’s share of national dairy, egg and poultry quotas?

Would you support the re-establishment of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency?

How will you improve rural and small-town health care delivery?

Being that all the UCP candidates are essentially city boys – I guess we should be thankful if any of them demonstrate any awareness at all of these issues.


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