by SUSAN MANN
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is advising its provincial organizations to pay attention to federal riding realignments occurring now in their provinces and consider requesting increased rural/urban mixed electoral areas.
President Ron Bonnett says they haven’t come out with a strong recommendation for provincial organizations. Instead the national federation’s advisory is more of a ‘heads up’ to its provincial counterparts so they can look at the boundaries being proposed in their areas. The matter came up at the Canadian Federation of Agriculture semi-annual meeting July 24-26 in Toronto.
Elections Canada says on its website Canada’s Constitution requires federal electoral districts to be reviewed after each 10-year Census “to reflect changes and movements in Canada’s population.” The review began in February and independent commissions working separately in each province are leading the process.
Bonnett says politicians representing large urban centres who don’t have any rural voters in their areas may have a limited understanding of the agricultural industry. But
ridings with both rural and urban voters have a tendency to raise politicians’ awareness of rural and agricultural matters.
“The idea is to really take a look at what the riding boundaries are in specific areas and where there’s a possibility to have that rural/urban mix it might be something to consider just because it does make a difference,” he says, noting that he speaks from experience.
Bonnett explains he’s currently in the Sault Ste. Marie riding in Northern Ontario but previously was in the Algoma-Manitoulin riding. The change to expand the Sault Ste. Marie riding 40 kilometres east into the rural community was done two federal elections ago. “All of a sudden you get the MPs from Sault Ste. Marie coming out to start talking to people about what the issues in the rural community are.”
It’s a great opportunity to put farmers’ concerns on election agendas, he says.
Bonnett says the Canadian federation issued the advisory now because there will be limits to the number of presentations permitted before provincial boundary commissions and provincial organizations wanting to make presentations need to get on the list.
Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Mark Wales says their executive board still has to discuss how they look at riding redistribution and think through the implications. In Ontario “riding redistribution overall is likely to simply create more Greater Toronto Area ridings because that is where the population has gone. They are going to be ridings that don’t have any rural voters in them anyway.”
But the make up of electoral ridings is critical, he says. With only two per cent of Canada’s population actually farming, “it’s tough enough to get the message out there.”
In other news from the Canadian federation’s semi-annual meeting, some delegates expressed concern about cuts being proposed to the national AgriStability program, part of the country’s suite of business risk management programs in its Growing Forward agricultural policy framework. Another concern is as federal, provincial and territorial agriculture ministers work out the details of Growing Forward 2, which is being developed to replace Growing Forward when it expires March 31, 2013, farmers aren’t being kept informed of the details and impacts of potential changes.
Bonnett says from what they understand there’s talk of $430 million a year in cuts to the business risk management section of Growing Forward, primarily to AgriStability.
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says by email he constantly consults with farmers on what’s working well and what needs adjustments. He has met several times with Canadian federation members and has been travelling across Canada this summer to farmer roundtable discussions, including some recently in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta.
“Building on what industry has already told us, governments are currently looking at ways to ensure agriculture investments are helping the sector become more competitive over the long term,” he says. BF