Monday, March 14, 2011

About my "Alberta Empowered, Alberta First" Agricultural Policy

I can guarantee you that the United States is not putting Canada on the plate first, nor is anyone else we trade with.

And let no one be mistaken - I am a capitalist. I do not believe in protectionism, legislated socialism, nor deep subsidies to keep markets competitive. I'm not talking about closing markets.

But, as a candidate for Leader of the Alberta Party, I do propose a provincial government strategy (under my leadership) to empower Alberta farmers so they can have the opportunity to actually get their products to markets. 

For those who insist that NAFTA stands in the way of such a policy, I respectfully disagree. If NAFTA had actually been drafted so that we would have to bypass healthy, locally grown food for cheap processed alternatives from the U.S. or elsewhere ... then I believe our current government would have a lot of explaining to do to Alberta's farmers and ranchers. I am fully aware, that in order to comply with NAFTA, we cannot legislate an Alberta Only agriculture policy. But we can choose to "Put Alberta on the Plate First". We can also stop granting carte blanche massive municipal tax incentives to big box stores. Instead, we can give tremendous incentives for choosing local Alberta agriculture over cheaper, industrialized products from elsewhere.

This is why I will argue that "cutting government out of the food supply", as proposed by some, is to say the least, very misguided. Government is and must be 100% involved in the bureaucracy of our food production, safety, supply and distribution ... but they are noticeably absent when it comes to promotion and choice. The pseudo-libertarian view, as promoted by some Alberta politicians lately, of the little fleet of local pickups trying to change the food system is simply a smokescreen for continuation of the industrialization of the food supply. They propose that it's simply a matter of keeping a few farmers' markets running and everyone will be happy. As nice as it sounds on the surface, this is just too simplistic a model.

Everyone who is involved in trying to promote a local food economy, and proponents of the "Slow Food" movement, knows beyond a shadow of a doubt - although the movement must include the determination of committed individuals willing to fight the system - that until wholesale systemic change occurs in the food chain, at best it is a naive notion that the system will change. It is in fact the adoption of "Slow Food" by various levels of government in Europe that has led to its worldwide success. The discussions will require courage and leadership ... not excuses that since government isn't handling the job, let's just go ahead and let large multi-national corporations self-regulate and tell us how it should be done.

I have met with many people throughout Alberta, far more knowledgeable in this area than I. As a result of hearing their opinions and wisdom, I will not be dissuaded from my contention that we must empower Alberta agriculture to begin the process of creatively and actively getting their products onto the tables of Albertans ... fully supported by an empowered food system in the Province that supports and empowers our local producers. We all remember the recent $3 million handout given by our current government to one of the world's largest food-processing corporations. This could have gone a long way to ensure that healthy, safe, rotationally grass-fed, grain supplemented, local abattoir processed beef made it into the cafeterias and plates of Alberta's government institutions. Instead, the Government chooses to buy cheap products, and ignores the negative impact on smaller communities.

My "Alberta Empowered, Alberta First" agricultural policy is about promoting health and wellness, and absolutely about choice.

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