After the federal government announced Saskatchewan would not be on the itinerary for the agriculture tour, questions were raised as the province accounts for a large part of the industry, however, the federal government said, the province wasn’t overtly excluded.
Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau, started her tour on Monday in Vernon, BC, with other stops along the tour including Kelowna, BC, Calgary AB and her final stop, on Wedsnesday in Winnipeg, MB. With Saskatchewan noticeably absent, Premier Scott Moe took to twitter after the itinerary was announced last Friday and stated, “How do you even do an agriculture tour in Western Canada without coming to Saskatchewan?’.
Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Minister, David Marit, said, “I am obviously disappointed in Minister Bibeau’s choice to omit Saskatchewan from her Western Canadian agriculture tour”. He added that he spoke with the Minister last week and indicated he was looking forward to working with her and also invited her to the province.
Minister Bibeau, recently came into the role for Agriculture and Agri-Food as of March 1, 2019, after shuffling positions following the resignation of former Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Marit stated, “It is really concerning that the new Agriculture Minister’s inaugural trip to Western Canada did not include a stop in Saskatchewan,” and added, “should there be an opening in her itinerary we hope that she will come to visit Saskatchewan”.
Katie Hawkins, director of communications with Minister Bibeau’s office, shared that the itinerary was not organized by Bibeau and she was fulfilling a previous itinerary set out by the previous Minister, Lawrence MacAulay.
When asked why Saskatchewan was not put on the itinerary by either MacAulay or Bibeau, she stated that Minister MacAulay was recently in Saskatchewan in January and simply due to the recent visit, Saskatchewan was not added to the current tour.
Hawkins said it was not a deliberate move against Saskatchewan and although some are calling it a Western Canadian tour, she said they did not frame it in such a way and if it was, Saskatchewan would have been on the itinerary.
Minister Bibeau’s office characterized the shift into the new role as, hitting the ground running. Hawkin’s stated that the announcements for the agriculture industry that were on the agenda for the tour were too important not to do, however, it was a challenge to schedule with the Minister’s previous commitments and new position.
Throughout the tour, Bibeau made 3 announcements affecting the agriculture industry.
I. Women in Agriculture: Bibeau announced Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) new Women Entrepreneur Program. The program aims to support women entrepreneurs in the industry and includes access to the Women Entrepreneur Loan, of which FCC has committed $500 million over three years.
II. Expanding the Canadian Wheat Market: An investment of $6.2 million to help the Canadian International Grains Institute expand the market for Canadian wheat through technical support, market research, employee exchanges and customized training for customers and commercial partners in over 50 countries.
III. Funding to Support the Fruit Industry: An investment of up to $4.2 million to support the British Columbia Fruit Growers’ Association in developing innovative, commercially successful Canadian-bred apple and sweet cherry cultivars that enhance the profitability of Canada’s tree fruit sector.
Due to recent events, the current and future state of the canola industry have been hot topics and one that likely has many questions from those in Saskatchewan. Hawkins relayed that two other Ministers, Jim Carr and Bernadette Jordan, are attending the SARM annual conference and would be available to answer questions surrounding canola if they arose.
Hawkins did summarize by stating that Minister Bibeau does look forward to working with the province of Saskatchewan and recognizes the significant impact the province has on Canada’s agriculture industry.
Saskatchewan accounts for more than 40 per cent of Canada’s cultivated farmland and produces 99 per cent of Canada’s chickpeas and 90 per cent of Canada’s lentils.