Erin Gowriluk, Executive Director, Grain Growers of Canada
What a difference an election year makes. Despite a resurgent Bloc, who claimed 32 of Quebec’s 78 seats, and the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) holding massive sway in the Prairies, the Liberal Party of Canada still managed to clinch a minority government on Oct. 21. This was due in large part its ability to hold on to the key Greater Toronto Area (GTA) ridings in vote-rich Ontario.
The electoral results represent a bitter but symbolic victory for the CPC under Andrew Scheer. The CPC increased its seat count with an extra 26 seats and — critically — won the popular vote (34.4% vs. 33.6%) but failed to topple the Liberals. However, as a result of this seat allocation, Liberal minority will command much less authority in a fractured Parliament and will need the support from all parties to implement its agenda.
This year’s decision day revealed an increasingly polarized electorate and a country split along regional lines. National unity has not been a major question for Canadian governments for nearly a generation, but it has come to the forefront again with the resurgence of western alienation and Quebec nationalism. The Liberal minority government will be walking a tightrope. They must deal with the west to stem the tide of alienation while ensuring that policies also meet Quebec’s interest to prevent lasting damage to the national fabric.
Regardless of the challenges that come with navigating a minority government, the Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) are ready to engage with policymakers as soon as Members of Parliament return to Parliament Hill. The GGC team will initiate a series of introductory meetings with parliamentarians to pave the way for our 2020 member outreach program — which, for the first time in the organization’s 20-year history, will see GGC members meeting with parliamentarians in the nation’s capital all winter long. This consistent and proactive outreach is intended to fulfill one of GGC’s strategic priorities: put more farmers in front of policymakers — more often.
We will kick things off with GGC’s annual Grain Week, Feb. 18–20, 2020, during which time members from across the country will introduce the association and its priorities to a new government. GGC will also take this opportunity to invite new and old friends alike to celebrate our 20th anniversary on Feb. 18. Following that, regional member teams will participate in monthly outreach throughout the winter and spring to ensure that our members’ priorities are top of mind for government officials. We are pleased that Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers will be joining GGC members from Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the nation’s capital in March.
While the scope of our policy priorities is always national, there are real benefits to deploying regional teams. For example, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has established “regional desks,” which employ advisors whose job it is to understand the concerns and priorities of the constituents in a particular part of the country. The staff on the PMO’s Prairie Desk, for example, consult with stakeholders from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Regional outreach is also an effective way for farmers to establish relationships with their Members of Parliament (MPs). MPs are directly accountable to the constituents in their respective ridings and they will often go out of their way to meet with them when they are in the nation’s capital. These relationships are tremendously valuable because these MPs will often become champions for the ag sector’s policy priorities.
Having a consistent presence in Ottawa ensures that the conversation between government officials and Canada’s export-oriented sector is one that progresses and evolves. Infrequent contact can often mean that stakeholders are starting from scratch every time they visit the Hill. While the GGC team maintains a consistent presence in the nation’s capital — there is nothing that has more of an impact than policymakers connecting directly with farmers.
We look forward to welcoming our national and regional farmer delegations to Ottawa and reporting back to members on their successes.