Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ontario Budget Will Impact 2 Elections

Agriculture usually isn't considered sexy unless you get a copy of the Faces of Farming Calendar (Jen and Amy are May's calendar girls.) That all changed with Tuesday's Ontario Budget announcement of a multi-commodity Risk Management Program. Now the Toronto media, which barely write about Agriculture have taken notice. The Toronto Star's Martin Cohn concludes this may be the program that keeps the Ontario Liberals in power:

Unsurprisingly, an obscure agricultural program barely rated a mention in the Toronto papers. But it is destined to get acres of space in rural Ontario. And if it works as planned, the results will be big news across the province when ballots are counted on Oct. 6.

It’s called the “Risk Management Program,” a kind of insurance policy for farmers. The program isn’t sexy, but it sells — so don’t stop reading here. The economics and the politics behind it are what’s interesting, as are the players who joined forces.

First, the politics, without which no deal: The 71-member Liberal caucus has about 17 MPPs from rural ridings, mostly in the province’s southwest and east. If the Progressive Conservatives are to topple the Liberal government, they must first trample the thin red line of MPPs that serves as a defensive perimeter around Liberal-dominated cities. If the agricultural heartland doesn’t crumble, the urban fortresses may withstand a Tory assault.

Cohn is absolutely right, the decision is smart politics by the provincial Liberals and the fact that the Ontario PC Party had previously endorsed the program means the only criticism they can face is that the program came too late. The program will work for farmers, it will provide the beef and pork producers in this province with a predictable and bankable program upon which they can confidently make investment decisions.

The issue will resonate not just in rural Ontario but in a number of other urban ridings where agricultural suppliers and processors are a very important part of the economy. Consumers will have the assurance as well that safe, environmentally responsible, locally grown food will remain a viable option for them and their families in the future. The good press should continue as long as program details are done well. So it works politically.

With the momentum they've gained from this announcement farm groups will almost certainly turn their attention to the Federal campaign. The politics are similar, if Ignatieff endorses this program and the Conservatives continue to oppose it several seats that the Conservatives thought were safe could come into play. Not sure if Ignatieff is smart enough to capitalize on it, but Harper should shore up his rural Ontario base and get on board with the program.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just Not That Motivated

I got a call today to volunteer on one of the campaigns for a nearby Conservative candidate. My answer was, "I'm not sure tell the candidate to call me." It's been a while since I put everything I had into a campaign, but I'm usually pretty excited around election time and more than ready to do my part for a cause or person that I believe in especially if there have been weeks of ramp up ahead of the election call. Aside from the brutally cold weather (-17C tonight!) there are two reasons I'm just not that motivated: First, the forcible silence of pro-life MPs seems likely to continue into the next Parliament. Harper told Peter Mansbridge he would not reopen the abortion issue if he achieved a majority and elaborated by saying, "If you want to diminish the number of abortions you’ve got to change hearts, and not laws." Whatever. I say if you want to limit any type of action you change hearts and laws. I may yet support some pro life conservative candidates, but the central party hasn't seen a donation from me since they formed government and they aren't likely to in the near future. Second the Harper Government has been indifferent to the needs of Ontario Agriculture ignoring repeated requests to participate in a price insurance proposal. Indeed Gerry Ritz was needlessly partisan in a letter to Better Farming refusing the proposals out of hand. As a Conservative, I'm embarrased by his closed mindedness. I explained to about 200 farmers and industry support people last week, we can vary not only who we support but our level of support. Right now my level of support is dangerously close to zero.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fare thee well Stockwell

I was shocked and disappointed by the news that Stockwell Day will not run in the next election. I've been a Stockaholic since he first entered federal politics - to be honest part of me was still hoping that somehow events would transpire to make him our Prime Minister. I wasn't alone in that thinking, just over two years ago in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix David Akin wrote an excellent account of Day's success in the Harper cabinet concluding:

His renewed political success even has some in his party quietly whispering that he ought to consider running for leader again when Harper decides to retire.
I enthusastically helped on Day's campaign for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance and for the newly formed Conservative Party. After all that he went through during a caucus revolt from many of his colleagues, I would have completely understood if he had retired back then. Instead he demonstrated his ability and his class by staying on and becoming one of this government's most effective cabinet ministers

Stockwell's class was on full display in his retirement statement:
And [Thanks] to Prime Minister Harper for allowing me the privilege to serve under his outstanding leadership. That leadership has led our nation through the most troubling economic times in over half a century.

His belief (and insistence within his caucus) that every MP must be allowed equal ground to speak up vigorously for their constituents is the foundation of decision making upon which we develop the policies for our nation.

I wish the Prime Minister full success in the days ahead in the efforts on behalf of all Canadians in maintaining a Canada that stands strong and free.
I will miss Stockwell's class, integrity and effectiveness dearly and I believe this is a huge loss to the Conservative Party and to Canada.

But our loss is his family's gain and I sincerely wish him a happy retirement.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Temple Grandin - Nature is Cruel But We Don't Have to Be

Sometimes when I hear the terms animal rights or animal welfare I cringe. Often I think my goodness we can't even treat people properly and activists want us to worry more about animals. More often I think of my own time on the farm or friends and family and everyone else in the livestock industry and I know that they take pride in the way they care for their animals - I take it personally if anyone suggests otherwise.

I had known a little about Temple Grandin and her legacy. I've seen hog receiving areas that are designed without corners to ensure that the animals are not scared as they are moved. I've learned about animal flight zones that can be used to move animals without touching or frightening them. But I didn't rush to learn more about Temple's story by watching the HBO movie about her life and work. Over the last couple months, all the copies at the local video store were always rented so even if I had rushed to watch the movie, I might not have seen it any earlier.

The movie is excellent, it really does help demonstrate how autism affected her life and how she could be so very helpful in teaching us about how animals react to the situations we put them in. The story was told so very well its no wonder it has inspired millions of people who live with people with autism and helped everyone who saw the film understand how her important work has shaped the way we care for animals.

It takes us on a journey through her life giving a small sample of the suffering she felt because her autism made her different and she found it so difficult to deal with other people. We then see how she learned how to calm herself from the way farmers treated animals. Finally we see how she built her career improving animal handling facilities to make sure the animals are comfortable and relaxed.

The movie also features one of her most powerful quotes, "Nature is cruel but we don't have to be."

Try to watch it if you haven't had the chance already.