By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
A conversation about an upcoming federal election, in regards to Lethbridge County, wouldn’t be complete without a discussion about the area’s rich and diverse agricultural industry.
Green Party of Canada Lethbridge riding candidate Kas MacMillan, who grew up in Coalhurst, believes agriculture is definitely a fundamental aspect of the Lethbridge riding. Although the drought has been a concern in some areas of the riding this past summer, MacMillan noted, the area is heavily irrigated.
“So, we haven’t been as negatively affected, as some other areas,” he said, which includes areas more east of Lethbridge including Medicine Hat.
MacMillan noted Lethbridge County provides cereal crops including wheat, barley, and grain and according to MacMillan, the Green Party of Canada would like to see a move towards regional foods self-sufficiency across Canada, including organic production.
According to the candidate, he’s been out on the campaign trail meeting with constituents in rural areas across the riding. “One of the things I’ve been actually doing is — I’ve been trying to target farms and acreages specifically because a lot of candidates don’t go out and door knock in those kinds of areas. It definitely does take a lot more time to go from each farm and each acreage. That’s probably one of the reasons why. I found out a lot of people don’t door knock in these areas, so I’ve actually been getting a lot of positive response,” said MacMillan.
One hot topic in the rural areas, MacMillan explained, was the selling of the Canadian Wheat Board to a corporation in Saudi Arabia. “The government isn’t supporting small-scale farmers anymore, they’re mostly going with corporate kind of markets. Even worse, it’s not just the Canadian corporate market, it’s the international corporate market coming from the Middle East.”
He’s also spoken with a few local dairy farmers, while out and about in the riding.
“But, nothing too universal came out of those discussions,” he added.
Many of the constituents in MacMillan’s riding are interested in what the Green Party of Canada’s stance is on small-scale farmers, rather than large corporate farming. “The Green Party is a grassroots organization. We pretty much say always small businesses over corporations. When it comes to farming specifically, if you have let’s say 30 small-scale farms, it makes more economical sense than two large-scale ones. That means every farm has to have a combine and each farm has to have a certain amount of hired help. You could argue it’s less efficient. However, on a smaller scale it does work a lot better, I found,” said MacMillan, adding these would be the generalizations he’s made from talking with constituents in the farming industry.
Conservative Party of Canada Lethbridge riding candidate Rachael Harder said the party recognizes it’s hard working Canadian families within farming communities that drive a very key sector within the constituency.
“They are key drivers of our economy here in Lethbridge and in southern Alberta and in Canada, as a whole. Of course, as a government, the Conservative Party of Canada is wanting to make sure farmers are given the tools and the support they need to be successful,” said Harder.
Harder, out on the campaign trail, has heard supply management and farmers wanting to see that protected is one of the main concerns of rural constituents.
“The reason why that is so important is because it’s a food security measure that really ensures food security for the country of Canada, which is very important. Of course, it’s also important for our local farmers, just because of their need for stability and because they are a key driver within our economy,” she added.
Another concern of rural constituents, according to Harder, is getting commodities to market. “Specifically within Lethbridge County, one of the concerns I’m hearing when I sit down with farmers and engage in roundtable discussions with them, one of the things they’re bringing to me is the need for improvements on bridges and roads in order to make sure they can get their commodities to the market. And then of course with that is just even other infrastructure. Small rural areas — they need things like sewer treatment and potable water. Anytime a mandate comes down there’s new protocols being put in place, then that requires money from them to change their existing system in order to meet those new requirements,” Harder noted. So, Harder said, there is a need for increased investment in infrastructure within the rural areas. “We absolutely recognize our hard working Canadian farm families are very key to this constituency and again to our nation, as a whole, and we do want to make sure we continue to provide them with the tools and the supports they need going forward.”