Election 2015: Candidates field questions on Agriculture issues

The Lake Country Chamber all candidate's forum had lots of local issues raised including help for farmers

Questions surrounding the agriculture community, how to best market Okanagan fruit and vegetables and the candidates relationship with Lake Country were front and centre last week as the Lake Country Chamber of Commerce held a federal election all-candidates forum.

Along with the other topics such as the economy candidates Ron Cannan of the Conservatives, Norah Bowman of the NDP and Stephen Fuhr of the Liberals were quizzed on a variety of topics close to the hearts of Lake Country residents including help for the agriculture industry.

The candidates were asked about any new plans for the agriculture industry in the party platforms.

Conservative Ron Cannan said his party will continue to look into more technology advancements that could help the industry and try to break down inter-provincial trade barriers to make Okanagan fruit widely available across Canada.

“We partnered with the province to change the processing at the Packinghouse to a brine so that if there is a spill they can just clean it up instead of having to evacuate the plant,” he said. “We will continue to work with technology and innovation to make sure we have the best supply available and to partner with the province on replanting programs.”

Norah Bowman of the NDP said her party would bring in pay first legislation to ensure growers are paid first when they sell products to the USA as opposed to what happens now when a buyer may go broke before paying the local supplier. She also said they want to work on increasing the amount of fruit being planted.

“We have some of the best quality soft fruits in the world so we’re going to make some investment in infrastructure and research so that we have a strong industry,” she said, adding they will introduce a program called from farm to fork to increase the access to farm fresh food.

Liberal Stephen Fuhr said his party has money set aside for sector specific improvements which includes the agriculture industry as well as promoting consumption of Okanagan fruits.

“That will improve the efficiency and technology that will help farmers do what they do, it’s money set aside for improvement in agriculture whether it be irrigation or pesticide help. I’d like to work with the community to find out exactly what they need so I can go to Ottawa and bring it back for them.”

All three candidates were also asked the question of why their party should form government at this time.

Cannan was asked why the Conservatives should be re-elected with many Canadians saying it’s time for change.

“We’ve got a proven track record with our Prime Minster of solid leadership not only at home. We are in the  second round of balanced budget, we have the lowest tax rate in 50 years, we created 1.3 million jobs since the recession. It’s not time for change, time to go into deficit situations. We are doing this with a balanced budget. It’s fiscally responsible and we are looked at around the world as a leader.”

Bowman was asked why the NDP should be given a chance now, after never forming the federal government.

“Right now the NDP is the federal opposition,” she said. “(Leader) Tom Mulcair has been standing up to Harper for four years. We voted against Bill C 51 because it was against the principles of being Canadian and we voted against omnibus bills taking away things like health care for refugees and taking away protection of our lakes and waters and slashing funding to health care in the future.”

Fuhr (Liberals) was asked why Canadians should elect the Liberals after they were decimated in the 2011 election.

“The Liberals were decimated in the 2011 election because they deserved to be decimated. There was institutional arrogance that was nauseating and essentially Canadians sent a message that they should probably think about sending again very soon,” he said. “When we see government deviate from what we want, we need to send a message. As far as standing up to Mr, Harper, Mr, Trudeau is not standing up to Mr. Harper, he is standing up for all Canadians and that’s what this is about.”