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Bloc eyes income stability in ag platform

Tax breaks, boosts to ag income stabilization and, as expected, a defense of supply management are among the planks in the Bloc Quebecois’ agricultural platform for the Oct. 14 federal election.

Joined by six other Bloc candidates, party leader Gilles Duceppe and the BQ caucus’ ag critic, Andre Bellavance, outlined the party’s ag platform Friday at Warwick, about 70 km southeast of Trois-Rivieres.

Bellavance called for enhancement of existing ag income stabilization programs and to put in place a series of other related measures that would get an additional $763 million to Quebec farmers over the next three years.

To help offset rising fuel costs, the party also proposes a tax credit for farmers equal to 10 per cent of their ag income, to an annual maximum of $1,500. To encourage young Quebecers into the ag industry, the party also proposes improvements to the tax system and consultations that would encourage young people to take over the family farm, as well as to encourage them to save money.

The sovereigntist Bloc plans to propose food sovereignty policies in Ottawa, supporting organizations that provide farmers with the means to enter nearby markets and to market collectively, eliminating any ambiguity on food product labels as to the origin of their ingredients, and protecting the country’s borders against unfair trade practices that put Quebec’s ag industry at risk.

Bellavance also described it as imperative for the country to rethink its current model of rampant industrialization for farming. Quebecers, he said, have good reason to want to know what’s on their plates and where it came from, and also want to eat the foods of their home province, given market conditions that would allow them to do so.

Moreover, he said, the party “rejects” the idea that the food industry can self-regulate entirely on matters of food inspection, and the BQ instead demands that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency end its “double mandate” and make protection of consumers its priority.

Differing landscapes

Duceppe said a Conservative majority government in Ottawa after Oct. 14 would represent a “great peril” for Quebec agriculture, specifically as it would relate to the province’s supply-managed egg, poultry and dairy operations.

The main difference, he said, between the Quebecois and Canadian ag landscape is that a substantial portion of Quebec agriculture rests on supply management, while Canadian farms outside Quebec are geared more toward export sectors. With that in mind, defending supply management is a top ag priority for the Bloc, he said.

During World Trade Organization talks in Geneva last July, he said, a document put “70,000 jobs and over 40 per cent of Quebec’s agricultural receipts” on the negotiating table but federal International Trade Minister Michael Fortier remained silent. Yet when the Doha round of WTO talks appeared to go into the tank (“which saved supply management,”) Fortier claimed disappointment, Duceppe said.

Duceppe called that “a pitiful defense of Quebec farmers by a Conservative (cabinet) minister from Quebec.”

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