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Trade Deals and Green Policies across Rural Canada

As Waterloo Region and rural Ontario continue to grow in population, the local policy agenda for the upcoming federal election is significant.

Anyone watching national media coverage has heard excessively that the winner will be determined in Toronto suburbia. It is, of course, a matter of simple logistics that campaigns and leaders go where the voters reside. This strategy can, however, cause major cynicism in rural areas and even major cities in the rest of Canada, who consider themselves outside the process.

Housing and the cost of living appear to be the dominant issues for many first-time home buyers and others in a growing region such as Waterloo.   Healthcare is always a priority in every federal and Ontario vote and this year, the dominant response from voters is they trust none of the parties to solve the basic problems in the system.

In August, the Trudeau government formally announced that $1.75 billion will be allocated to Canadian dairy farmers who have been negatively impacted by recent international trade deals. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer responded that the government took far too long to get the cheques in the mail (figuratively speaking). This is probably the largest farm policy to date.

It is highly likely that as the campaign moves on, agricultural commitments will be a component of larger party policies on trade and the environment. Polling is indicating that public concern for the environment is at historic levels and therefore, the volume of party positions in response will increase accordingly. As an example, the Green Party has proposed large funding commitments for “community-supported” agriculture which would attempt to reverse vertical integration to green smaller-scale production.

Similarly, with pending approval of a trade deal between Canada, Mexico and the United States accompanying existing agreements in Europe and Asia, parties will likely be releasing proposals on international trade where agriculture and food will be at the top of all agendas.

For many rural and agricultural based interests, the final analysis is centred on not only the campaign commitments but the larger question of which measures are implemented after the vote – the basis for the next campaign whenever that occurs.

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