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2 min

Abandoning the farmers

When Scott Brison told me he was going to be spending the summer working, he certainly wasn’t kidding. Yesterday he put out another press release, this time talking about the problem of Country-of-Origin Labelling, which is being implemented in the States, and it’s being done without contest by our own government. Remember, that same government that claims that they’re the only ones who speak on behalf of farmers—err, sorry, their term is “farm families”—and that everyone else is hopelessly out of touch.

Well, it doesn’t sound like the farmers are too thrilled by this move. For them, it means an additional onerous process of having to re-label all products going to the US to say that they’re from Canada, which will increase costs, thus making their products that much less competitive – not to mention, the States is currently in the throes of a rather nasty bout of protectionist fever, and they’re likely to be far more punitive to products they see coming from another country.

Brison’s release – along with agriculture critic Wayne Easter – accuses the government of abandoning farmers. And given this government’s behaviour, I’m not sure that’s necessarily far off the mark. Think about the ongoing drama around the Canadian Wheat Board. There is a process for farmer to elect their own members to the Board, and most of those that get elected are pro-monopoly, because they know that it’s single desk system or nothing – there is no in between, no matter what the Conservatives try to spin. But the Conservatives, ideologically bent on destroying the CWB, ignore the fact that the farmers have been sending the message that they want the CWB to continue, and they nevertheless forge ahead, eager to slay it through underhanded means. It seems to me that’s not listening the very same “farm families” that they purport to speak for.

(They also made a video of a “rural caucus” meeting, which Brison took part in).

Meanwhile, there are some troubling developments with the whole decision to start requiring visas for Mexican and Czech travellers. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was telling the Globe and Mail yesterday that he wants to look at implementing an immigration system more similar to that in the UK, where individual immigration officers are empowered to deport refugee claimants before they see the tribunal, and reducing the levels of appeals. But Britain’s system is widely criticised, and I have a hard time thinking that our courts would be comfortable with the notion that the life and death of refugees can be determined by a single immigration officer rather than a tribunal process. You don’t have to dig very deep to find stories of immigration officers mishandling situations as it is – giving them that much more power could easily be a recipe for disaster. I’m reminded that Maurizio Bevilacqua told me in an interview a few weeks ago that they were looking at changes to the system being made as early as the fall. If this is what Kenney is proclaiming to be the solution, then we may have a problem on our hands – especially if the Liberals decide to sign on to it.

And because yes, I do care about these things, the CBC is shifting around its parliamentary correspondents quite dramatically. And guess who is taking over for Don Newman? Evan Solomon. Really? Huh, okay. And add to that, Keith Boag is heading to Los Angeles, and Susan Bonner is headed to Washington, which means significant losses to the CBC Parliamentary bureau. They already lost Paul Hunter to the DC bureau recently. Coming in to take over for Boag is Terry Milewski, who is a good journalist despite the moustache, so I feel somewhat reassured there. But Evan Solomon? Really? I mean, Paul Wells may be convinced, but I’m still not there yet.