by Hannah Renglich
Close to 2.5 million Canadians are food insecure, while nearly a quarter are obese. Yet, Canada does not have, nor has it ever had, a national food policy. As the good food movement in Canada foments through grassroots movements, community organizations, and academic research, Canada’s political parties are finally taking note of the need for conversation at the national level that goes beyond agriculture. As the May 2 federal election approaches, all five major federal political parties are talking about food.
The Bloc Québécois’ focus on sovereignty and provincial/national protectionism comes through in their 43 page document entitled, “Présent! pour l’agriculture,” written for the 2008 elections. It focuses on food safety and the creation of jobs in the food industry through a federal food inspection agency, increased spending in agricultural research, and an overhaul of the farm income support program.
The Conservative platform promises a “five-year national farm and food strategy that will guide Canadian agricultural policy to ensure the survival of family farms, the highest standards of food safety and better access to domestic and export markets for farmers across the country.” It confirms a commitment to provision of easily accessible fertilizers, pesticides and veterinary drugs, defense of supply management, and the opening up of new export markets.
The Liberal Party of Canada launched their food policy platform a year ago, with a distinct emphasis on rural Canada and health through food, addressing issues of an aging population. In addition, the plan for a national food policy addresses food safety, environmental stewardship through sustainable agriculture and renewable energy, sustainable farm incomes, and international leadership through supporting foreign food security.
The Green Party, like the Liberals, speaks of the importance of local food, additionally highlighting the need to prevent corporate control of the food system. Notably, the Agriculture and Food Vision centres around climate change adaptation and environmental stewardship, as well as prevention of loss of agricultural land to development.
Finally, the NDP’s food strategy document, entitled “Food for Thought,” is a long report including specific provisions for BC, the Prairies, Ontario, Québec, and Atlantic Canada, which was published after a national 18-month information gathering tour by the same name in 2008. The resulting food strategy recommendations include ensuring citizens access to healthy food, helping farmers through promotion of local food production and local procurement through institutions, and finally establishing sustainable agriculture through a Heritage Breed Act for species preservation and biodiversity, as well as the support of mentorship and training for new and established farmers.
(The Globe and Mail’s Global Food Reporter, Jessica Leeder, has succinctly summarized the parties’ platforms, policies and strategies in an easy to digest manner here.)
At the same time as Canada’s politicians presented their food strategies, a citizen-driven project called “The People’s Food Policy Project” published the results of its two-year national consultation process, which took place in the form of kitchen table talks. The resulting policy recommendations, “Resetting the Table: A People’s Food Policy For Canada,” were published on April 18, grounded in 10 discussion papers ranging in topic from agriculture, health, the environment, and fisheries, to Indigenous food systems, science and technology, and international food policy. Among major recommendations for food sovereignty, the People’s Food Policy suggests that food should be consumed as close as possible to where it is produced. It recognizes food production as a contributor to climate change and therefore supports an ongoing shift toward more ecological farming practices. Uniquely, the People’s Food Policy calls for creation of federal poverty elimination and prevention programs in order to address national food insecurity. As well, it calls for a “federally funded Children and Food Strategy, including school meal programs, school gardens, and food literacy programs to ensure that all children at all times have access to the food required for healthy lives,” reports rabble.ca’s Anna Paskal.
As the federal election campaign blazes on, good food fighters continue to push for a sound national food strategy, and it remains to be seen to what extent the People’s Food Policy will affect its formation. Just think: as an informed citizen, you have the chance to finally eschew the “vote with your fork” adage, and fork over your vote for a national food policy you believe in.
For more information and detailed reports on each party’s food strategy, please follow the links below:
Green Party – http://greenparty.ca/node/13312