Liberals miss the mark on agriculture

Federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieffs has in the past ruminated over what he perceives as the rural/urban cultural split in Canada. The split is actually more a state of mind than a reality; apparently Liberals have determined that because few voters outside of Montreal and Toronto vote Liberal that there must be some sort of cultural problem. They seem truly baffled as to why voters outside of the two big eastern urban cities don’t vote Liberal. That’s their first problem – they assume everything outside of the two big cities is a rural wasteland populated by the politically incorrect. Vancouver is usually not included because it tends to be on its own planet where they seem to worship a green saviour called David Suzuki.

The Liberal braintrust has determined that for the party ever to return to a majority government, they are going to need ridings in the so called rest of Canada (ROC). To discover where the ROC is and what they could possibly want, Ignatieff has made some furtive forays into these mysterious nether regions outside of Toronto and Montreal. Good grief, it has been rumoured that he has even been to Alberta, that bastion of right wing common sense that has proven so resistant to Liberal wisdom.

To prove that federal Liberals are indeed aware of the ROC, they recently unveiled a National Food Policy. Apparently this document was the result of Ignatieff’s consultation exercises with Liberal exiles living in the ROC. Therein lies the big problem with the policy document. It’s a composition of what eastern urban Liberals think our food policy should be after socializing with their few like-minded brethren in the hinterland. The idea that they should actually consult with the many millions that don’t vote Liberal in the ROC probably never occurred to Liberal political strategy geniuses.

One can just envision Ignatieff flying into Edmonton, meeting expatriate Liberals and local converts in a trendy organic restaurant. Then with Leonard Cohen and Bruce Cockburn music droning in the background, they all shook their heads about how stupid western voters are for not bowing to the wisdom of Liberal political philosophy. But I digress.

After all this deep consultation, the Liberal National Food Policy pronounces that the future stability of agriculture in Canada lies in local food production supposedly provided by socially aware family farmers. It’s a wonderful concept, if only such farmers could actually make a living at such enterprise. However, it would seem that the Liberal policy document is completely unaware that agriculture in Canada is mostly made up of commercial farmers and ranchers who grow and produce food for the export trade.

Now it should come as no surprise as to what the document is proposing. I expect the folks that put this document together would have no clue as to where most food actually comes from in this country. Urban Liberals in eastern Canada who shop at organic food shops and farmers markets would have a twisted perspective of food production. But then, the policy document is actually reflecting what Liberal voters want to think about food production. The party is preaching to the converted – after all didn’t they consult with Liberals in the ROC, so it must be reflecting the national view.

Having said all that, the document did allude to farm aid programs and environmental initiatives. If only Liberal deep thinkers had focussed on those issues, the document might have had some hope for real agriculture in Canada. However, the Liberals have a poor track record when it comes to usable timely farm support programs. After all, they are the ones that invented GRIP, NISA, Tripartite, CAIS, all of which proved to be inadequate in providing real support when it was needed.

They could have expanded on environmental initiatives, which is the direction European and even some American farm support programs are going. Such a direction would provide agriculture and land owners with some hope for a more secure financial base to continue farming.

If Liberals really believe that their National Food Policy will somehow change their fortunes with the electorate in the ROC, it would only confirm everyone’s suspicion that they are clueless about western political issues. If nothing else, the illustrious Liberal leader will now be spared the tedium of having to meet with Liberal yokels who don’t have the brains to live in Montreal or Toronto.