By Tim Kalinowski
While his organization will not be officially endorsing any one federal political party in the election, Bill Huber, president of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, says there is little doubt who 95 per cent of members will not be voting for this October.
“One of the biggest issues is honest and accountability, which we have lacked for the last three and half, almost four, years,” states Huber. “We have trade issues around the globe which seem to be focused on climate change … There are a lot of (other) things we must focus on. Number one is the economy. I really think our current federal government in Ottawa has lost touch with the crisis that’s going on regarding the economy.
“Whoever forms government, we have to work with them,” he acknowledges. “But we need somebody who will meet with us and address our (industry) needs. I wouldn’t say the current government is shutting us out, but they are not paying close enough attention.”
Huber says there are several policies this Liberal government has brought forth that his members simply cannot support.
For example, the new Canada Food Guide released this spring made no mention of beef as a healthy protein in its dietary recommendations to Canadians; thus adding grief to a long summer where plant-protein meat-substitutes were being advertised everywhere and the livestock industry was being bludgeoned with other social licence concerns surrounding greenhouse gas emissions.
And all through this, says Huber, the federal government’s agriculture minister didn’t say one word to defend the cattle industry.
“There isn’t a healthier product and source of protein than beef,” Huber says with some heat. “It’s a healthy diet. We don’t need plant-based proteins substituted for beef products. And livestock is not only good for the food we eat, but livestock are part of our eco-system management in Western Canada. “Grasslands sequester carbon,” he adds.
“Livestock should not be seen as emitters— they are contributors to a carbon-based soil sink.
“We work very hard in Saskatchewan to try to preserve native grasslands, and keep our species-at-risk looked after. There is no better people in the world than our SSGA members and our livestock producers in Western Canada to look after that sensitive system. We have managed this land for 100 years, and we have taken very good care of it.”
While personally hoping for a change in government, Huber says if in the eventuality the Liberals might get re-elected this fall the SSGA expects they should look for a person better-qualified to be ag minister than those they have chosen thus far.
Huber characterizes former Minister MacAuley and current Minister Bibeau as being, “nice people,” but also as people who have very little understanding of the needs of agriculture, particularly the needs of Western Canadian agriculture.
“We need an ag minister that’s in touch with the industry,” he says, “and who can actually get his or her feet on the ground and see what happens in agriculture; especially in Western Canada.”
For many of his members, says Huber, that ministerial disconnect is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how the current federal government has operated these past four years. Canada has been facing unprecedented trade and economic uncertainties, and the federal government, in Huber’s opinion, hasn’t put enough emphasis on that as a matter of policy as it gets side-tracked on various social issues of secondary importance.
“Trade is a huge issue in the livestock industry,” states Huber. “We grow a pile of beef and a huge amount of agriculture products in this country that we cannot consume ourselves. They have to be exported, and we depend on export market … I think this current government has lost the respect of our trading partners.”