The National Agriculture Leaders Debate — Live Blog

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is hosting an agriculture debate, today, in Ottawa. Follow along on Twitter: #AgDebate, #Elxn42Ag.

In attendance:

  • Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Hon.Gerry Ritz
  • Malcolm Allen, NDP Agriculture Critic
  • Mark Eyking, Liberal Agriculture Critic
  • Andrew West, Green Party candidate for Kanata-Carleton
  • Yves Lessard, Bloc Québécois candidate for Beloeil-Chambly


From the Debate:

The signs read: “Strong and United for Supply Management”

11:00 Andrew opens up, introduces everyone and informs audience that the debate will be available later on CPAC.

11:07am Malcolm Allen, NDP Agriculture Critic, talks about the importance of railways, support of supply management “without equivocation.”

11:14am Andrew West, Green Party candidate for Kanata-Carleton, says Green Party wants to see a shift away from biotechnology research. Will provide assistance to those transitioning to organic farming.


11:17am Malcolm Allen, NDP Agriculture Critic, says we’ve seen defunding for public research, close of research stations and move of field trials. Need to stop the drain of letting good scientists go, re-instate jobs, re-open stations, re-open the libraries that have closed. Research can’t just sit in a lab, on a shelf somewhere.

11:19am Andrew West, Green Party candidate for Kanata-Carleton, says Green party would eliminate funding for GMO products, cut all federal biotech funding, which would save $1.1M. Would support rapid expansion to organic agriculture.

11:21am Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Hon.Gerry Ritz, says still funding basic research, and since 2006, $3.4B in public ag research. Says scientists have retired, but at the end of the day, hiring as needed. Biotech certainly is the answer moving forward. Says organic burns more diesel fuel, and biotech use is the only way to keep up with trade.

11:27am Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Hon.Gerry Ritz, lists “clusters” as successes in research.




11:32am Andrew West, Green Party candidate for Kanata-Carleton, says Green Party wants labour standards. Would eliminate temporary foreign workers program. 11:33am Minister Ritz says most farm operations now have year-round work. Says they’ve made changes to Express Entry System in 2011. Also working with provincial partners to offer programs pertinent to agriculture. Farmers need a number of varied skills, hoping to turn out skilled students. 11:34am Mark Eyking, Liberal Agriculture Critic, says Greens aren’t right with wanting to ban foreign labour.


11:41am Green Party clarifies that they want fair treatment of all workers, including temporary foreign workers.


11:45am Justin Williams, Ontario dairy farmer, asks how the parties will address the lack of interest in agriculture from youth.




11:55am Yves Lessard, Bloc Québécois candidate for Beloeil-Chambly, says cuts to Growing Forward have weakened the ability of young people to get started in agriculture.

11:57am Andrew West, Green Party candidate for Kanata-Carleton, says he’s part of the problem of the disconnect, because he just was never interested. Says hopes to develop a council of Canadians to find ways to make it more profitable for young people to enter the industry.

11:58am Question from New Brunswick – Some ecological goods and services play a role in environment, but can mean taking land out of agriculture production. What approach would your government take to promote biodiversity on working landscapes, if elected?

12:00pm Minister Gerry Ritz says need to ensure regulations based on sound science, not knee-jerk. Says put funding into Ducks Unlimited and Nature Conservancy.

12:03pm Eyking brings up PFRA cancelling, community pastures closed. “What we do not need to be doing is closing these things that are working well.” Talks about biodigesters, windmills. Need government that is going to invest in, and partner with, these farms. 12:04pm West – Says the party wants to look to have credits that reward producers for clean water, air and biodiversity protection. Would like to start educating farmers on the benefits that habitat protection has, while also not allowing further losses to farm land. 12:05pm Lessard – Says the Bloc wants to support model initiatives.

12:07pm Ritz defends pastures, PFRA exists but in a different capacity. Says trees are still available, just not free, like they were. Very few trees being planted in western Canada because continuous cropping protects from erosion. 12:08 Allan – Turns conversation to species at risk.

12:10pm Eyking – Asks Ritz why farmers are complaining about loss of PFRA if it, according to Ritz, has just been transitioned.

12:11pm Question

12:14pm Lessard says standards for food must be upheld, including labeling GMOs. 12:15pm Eyking compliments egg farmers on working with consumers. Says CFIA cuts don’t give consumers confidence, wants to see inspectors and food processors work together. 12:17pm Ritz talks about the organic equivalency requirements. Companies like McDonald’s Canada working with Canadian farmers. Ritz says A&W boasting without added hormones hiding the fact that it’s 7 year old beef from Uruguay. 12:19pm Allan says we need a social license. Consumers need confidence that policy is a gold standard, so they don’t need to listen to retailer rhetoric. Says need a public inspection agency to help assure consumers that their food is safe.

12:21pm West – Green Party would chance livestock codes of practice from voluntary to mandatory. Would shorten distribution chain. Believe in 200km diet.

12:24pm Question – Dairy farmer asks if parties would invest in Agri-Invest and Agri-Stability programs.

12:26pm – Ritz says right in the midst of GF2 and review underway to see if the programs need to be changed. 12:27pm – West says these programs put burdens on taxpayer. If Canada wants tax cuts, then AgriStability doesn’t work. If Canada wants to focus on exports, need to subsidize agriculture. Green Party suggests diversifying to subsidize own farms. Would abandon AgriStability and would replace with protections and promotions for farmers. Need to get rid of trade agreements that don’t work with Canada.

12:32pm Ritz says significant chances to AgriStability so farmers can get a cash advance. APP no longer tied to the commodity, so you’re not forced to sell your commodity to make your payment in a timely way. 12:34pm Lessard says we need to make these programs stronger, by consolidating them, to ensure stability of youth on land. Propose the allowance of transfers to other members of the family, who are less than 40 years old. 12:35pm Todd Clark, Saskatchewan — Trade deals are only beneficial to farmers if appropriate infrastructure in place. If elected, what would your party do to ensure farmers have proper tools to thrive in domestic and international markets. 12:37pm Lessard – Both have to be supported and should not compete with each other. There should be no giving in to supply management. Talking beef/dairy: if there’s one to be protected, the other must also be protected. Asks Minister Ritz if his party will keep supply management.

12:29pm – Allen: One thing is absolutely certain: supply management programs are on the bargaining table.

12:42pm Eyking asks Minister Ritz if supply management is on the table. 12:43pm Ritz says everything starts on the table and is negotiated from there. SM will benefit from CETA agreement. “We value that [SM] system.” Yes, it’s a secret deal, says Ritz. Why would we negotiate through major media? Already get enough “twisting in the wind” from mainstream media.

12:47pm Eyking says CETA not actually official yet, so why talking about the benefits to dairy? Says putting all things on the table is a way you lose. What you do, is put what you want on the table. If you put it on the table, that’s a guarantee you’ll lose some of it. The fatal flaw, this government does in negotiations. Negotiations should be quiet, yes, but Canadians should know goals of what you want to do.

12:49pm Closing Comments

A webcast version of this debate will be available at a later date.

Wake up with RealAgriculture

Subscribe to our daily newsletters to keep you up-to-date with our latest coverage every morning.

Wake up with RealAgriculture