Why Canadian farmers are turning against Harper’s Conservatives

In the past five years, more and more farmers have turned against the prime minister. LAURA BOYD-CLOWES in Metro News

Brantford Farmer John Langs cut a message for Harper in his 46-acre rye field. Each letter is 100 metres high, and the words were first noticed by aerial photographer Geoff Grenville. (Click to enlarge)

Brantford Farmer John Langs cut a message for Harper in his 46-acre rye field. Each letter is 100 metres high, and the words were first noticed by aerial photographer Geoff Grenville. (Click to enlarge)

Farmers have traditionally been reliable supporters of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

But that’s changing. In the past five years, more and more farmers have turned against the prime minister. A farmer in Brantford, Ont., recently went so far as to mow the message “Anybody But Harper” into one of his fields.

The reason for the backlash is simple: the current government has demolished the precious little security of Canadian farmers’ livelihoods.

One of the worst attacks on farmers was when the government handed the Canadian Wheat Board to Saudi- and U.S.-based firms, against wheat farmers’ wishes.
Canadian wheat growers now face uncertain competition in global marketplaces. Probably only the largest operations will be able to survive.

What’s more, Harper’s been responsible for many devastating cuts to agricultural research, leaving farmers without the knowledge they need to do their jobs — and grow our food. Shouldn’t a federal government make that a top research priority?

Canadian farmers are also worried about the decision by Harper to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a free-trade agreement intended to improve Canada’s economic relationships with other countries along the Pacific, including the U.S., Australia, Japan and Chile. Dairy farmers have been demonstrating against the TPP, which they say jeopardizes their livelihoods.

Because the agreement means more imported dairy, they fear overseas producers will out-compete Canada’s own suppliers. Profits are already so low, many small dairy farms across the country have been forced out of business.

If larger international companies manage to undercut Canadian prices, this will make it even harder for our farmers to make a decent living. Small, independent farmers will be increasingly contributing to unemployment statistics.

There is a not-so-hidden message behind Harper’s actions: the Conservatives know what is best, so we should all just shut up.

I have farmers in my family and I myself have lived and worked on farms. Farmers know what’s best for themselves. Working with plants, animals and machinery in increasingly unpredictable weather, overcoming obstacles and improving margins require practical, scientific thinking. When farmers say, “These policies will not work for us,” they’ve observed the results of similar policies elsewhere and seen that they haven’t worked for farmers.

No matter whether you’re urban or rural, or what your job is, as long as you eat, you should be worried. The livelihoods of small farmers, and by extension the sovereignty of our food system, is depending on voters to reverse the damage Harper’s government has done.

 

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Filed under Agriculture, Food & Farmers, Canada

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