Will agriculture be ignored again in the coming election (part one)

By the time this column is published a provincial election in Alberta may already be underway.

Being all the usual political motions by the Premier seem to be in that direction. There is a certain surreal absurdity in watching Premier Prentice engage in ever more creative non-denials about the election that the PC election brain trust are secretly planning. The government in its recent financial report even managed to spin a projected $7 billion deficit into a $400 million surplus, its all smoke and mirrors of course designed to fool gullible voters – but that’s politics.

 

Considering the political machinations that have occurred over the past year one suspects that  agriculture will inevitably be ignored by most of the political parties. For some it’s a matter of practicality as their political prospects are dim indeed in rural and small town Alberta. Past election enquiries with NDP spokespeople made it clear that they did not have the time or resources to spend on rural issues. Most non-urban NDP candidates were deemed to be sacrificial in order to maintain the façade that the NDP was a provincial party that could field a full roster of nominees. That sees the NDP and other parties parachuting out of town candidates into far flung ridings when they can’t find any locals to run.

 

Perhaps its fortunate that the Alberta NDP does not have a robust agriculture policy being I suspect many of their members probably support flat earth type concepts against GMOs, commercial agriculture, irrigation, etc..  One expects them to be for organic, all- natural, free range communal farming run by gender positive and socially aware collectives. The federal and provincial NDP parties all feel it’s necessary to have such green absurdist politically-correct perspectives in the deluded belief that green party voters will switch to voting for the NDP. The NDP is a long-time and fervent supporter of supply management, although they seem unaware that farmers in that sector are part of the commercial type agriculture they despise and those producers are unlikely to ever vote NDP. But then that political reality divergence is similar to the NDP support of organized labour, but sees many union members actually voting for other political parties.  That also sees the NDP support anti-resource development policies which employ thousands of card-carrying union members. But I digress,

 

There isn’t much to say about Alberta Green Party (do they still exist?) ag policies. In past elections they made it quite clear that they were against modern agriculture and wanted to return to some sort of quaint 18th century type of agriculture, where everyone could raise their own healthy, safe organic food which they could share with city folks. I always like to point out that is how most of agriculture in Africa still operates, which is why we are forever sending them food-aid.

In the previous provincial election, the centrist (some call it progressive) Alberta Party leader admitted to me that because they were new on the block and had limited resources they didn’t have a detailed agriculture policy platform. What a refreshing approach for a political leader to be so honest, being that in the absence of information most politicians resort to bafflegab to dodge any real answer. Perhaps this time around they will come up with a more developed ag platform – at least we can hope.

 

The Alberta Liberal Party seems the most willing to discuss agriculture issues, although their actual policy tends to be sparse. As a city-based party they have the usual mythical notions about the family farm, organic farming etc.. They are determined supporters of supply management, but seem unaware that sector is representative of commercial industrial agriculture that they seem uncomfortable with – go figure. Their past leader Raj Sherman was the only party leader in the last election that actually understood the culture of agriculture being he grew up on a dairy farm. The Liberal Party is also a ferocious supporter of farm worker rights, as noble and right as that cause is – it puts them on the opposite side of the general view of commercial agriculture on the issue. At this stage political prospects seem fragile for the Liberal Party as they lost their leader and seem rudderless compared to the resurgent NDP. The last election saw many Liberal voters switch to voting PC to keep out the Wildrose – analysts suspect many of those Liberal voters may be switching to the NDP in the upcoming election. Next time, a look at the PC and Wildrose ag platforms.