As they say, the people have spoken. It would be interesting if there is any difference among specific groups of people when they voted.
For example, did the B.C. farmers endorse the provincial Liberals, did they reject the governing party, or was the vote among farmers split according to individual preferences as it was across the general population?
There is no way of determining these questions, but regardless of how the overall vote went, the government is back in with a strengthened majority for the next four years.
Now, farmers can only hope the provincial government stops the annual rotation of new faces in and out of the ministry.
During the election campaign, Norm Letnick, our latest Minister of Agriculture declared the party’s agricultural plan rested on three strategies:
- Focusing on the production of high-value, high-quality products
- Expanding domestic and international markets
- Staying competitive on taxes and regulations
Other promises included a carbon tax relief for farmers, tax credits for food donated to food banks, to begin work on a permanent tree replant program, another $2 million for the Buy Local campaign, working with other provinces to lower intra-provincial barriers to wine movement, to develop a B.C. organic brand and improvements to the meat inspection system.
The cabinet will almost certainly be shuffled, but farmers can hope for some stability in the portfolio and that Norm Letnick is retained as the Minister of Agriculture.
Prior to the election we asked a few people what they would like to see from the government, regardless of who won. Here are some of the more interesting responses:
I would like to see an Agricultural Land Commission that can shift from a case by case basis for decisions to creation of overall policies that treat all stakeholders equally and fairly. Specifically I am referring to the patchwork of approvals and denials that have been handed out with respect to whether winery restaurants on ALR land are able to serve local beers and spirits.
Sandra Oldfield, CEO & Winemaker at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
If I were ag minister I would try to level the playing field for our growers; that means investing the same level of support as our competition internationally and provincially. A well known stat is B.C. provides 4% of agricultural GDP in support programs where the average for the other nine provinces is 16%. Our last government shamefully refused to partake in many federal provincial cost shared programs; that left millions of dollars on the table in Ottawa.
Peter Simonsen, BCFGA Board Member
I would like to see the next Government completely ban trans-genetically modified organisms that allow excessive use of chemical control agents that poison our watersheds, destroy biodiversity and make our food cancerous, and completely ban neonicotinoid pesticides that kill bees. These two bans should encompass all farming operation throughout BC.
Gabe Cipes, Biodynamist at Summerhill Pyramid Winery
The provincial Ministry of Agriculture and Lands desperately needs a coordinated agricultural strategy, led by a minister with agricultural background. Some specifics that need to be addressed: apprenticeship programs for the agricultural sector; extension services that support growth in key areas (organics, specialty crops, environmental best practices); mandatory organic certification for anyone making claims about organic status; creative thinking about land access arrangements for new farmers; production insurance options for small-scale producers. I want a government that has a vision for what a sustainable, vibrant agricultural sector could look like in this province and that will put the resources behind developing a strategy to achieve this vision.
Chris Bodnar, Glen Valley Organic Farm