Hungry in Canada? What were the leading parties saying a year ago?

The United Nations Rapporteur on the Right to Food says Canada is “self-righteous” and says that it is “appalling” that we ignore pronouncements from the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. Olivier de Schutter darkly warned today that Canada’s failure to heed the council – whose current members include Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and the Congo — will do Canada no good!

Meanwhile, as Canadians knew all along, there are too many kids going to school hungry and too many of our relatives, friends, and neighbours who live on Canada’s First Nations can’t get good food cheap.

Well, we’ve had one federal election and seven provincial elections in the last year in Canada. The incumbent government — be it Conservative, Liberal or NDP — won every single one. Given all the opportunities electors had to “throw the bums out” on hunger and poverty issues, Canadians either blew it or they disagree with de Schutter’s diagnosis.

Now, if “eradicating hunger” was a central part of any provincial campaign, I’m counting on you, dear reader, to let me know. You can count on me, in return, to help you keep abreast of federal politics. So let’s look back, just over a year ago, to what the three leading parties were saying in their election platforms about food. 

Now, no federal party argued, as de Schutter did, that the way to end hunger in Canada is to give hungry people a Charter “right to food”. I think all three leading major parties rightly recognize what de Schutter does not, namely, that the way to end hunger in Canada is most definitely not convening a constitutional conference, re-writing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and then waiting for the starving masses to get their day in front of the Supreme Court. No, that is most definitely not the way to end hunger. Personally, I believe people end up with not enough food because they are poor. And the way out of poverty is to get a job, new skills, and a better education. Call me crazy — but I think there are, in fact, ways in which governments at all levels can help people get jobs, improve their skills, get an education and, in doing so, avoid poverty and hunger.

In every election campaign campaign there was, in fact, a lot of debate and discussion about how governments can best support the objectives of job creation, skills development and improved education opportunities.

In the federal election, though, only one party talked a whole lot about food.  And that party, as it turned out, did the poorest at the polls.

Here are the ‘food’ excerpts from the leading parties’ 2011 election platforms:

The Conservative Party of Canada:


The agriculture and agri-food sector is the source of approximately one in eight jobs in Canada, and more than 8 percent of our GDP. Canadian farmers produce the best, healthiest, and safest food in the world. Stephen Harper’s Government recognizes the importance of agriculture to the Canadian economy, and has listened to and taken action on the priorities of Canadian farmers. Among other things, we have provided strong support to the Agriculture and Food Trade Commissioner Service, to defend and advance the interests of Canadian farmers in trade negotiations and disputes. We also established the Market Access Secretariat, to coordinate efforts to pursue new and existing international markets and to keep pace with global competitors. The Secretariat has already succeeded in keeping canola exports flowing to China.

To build on this, we will increase support for the Agriculture and Food Trade Commissioner Service and the Market Access Secretariat.

These two bodies have proved their value; we will extend their good work in support of Canadian farmers. We will also invest in a new Agriculture Innovation Initiative, to support local farm-based research and development projects.

In addition, to ensure our continuing efforts to support farmers are as effective as possible, we will develop a National Farm and Food Strategy to guide federal policy through the coming years. The Strategy will build on our efforts to sustain the Canadian family farm, to strengthen food safety, and to open new markets for the world-class products of Canadian farmers.


Supply management helps ensure the success of Canadian farmers, through price stability, predictable levels of imports, and reasonable returns for their production. It also helps provide a consistent supply of high-quality, nutritious food for Canadian consumers. Our Government has a strong record of defending supply management. For example, we have taken action on Article 28 under GATT to limit imports of milk protein concentrates, and we established cheese compositional standards to ensure that real milk is an ingredient in Canadian cheese.

We will continue to stand up for Canadian farmers and industries, by defending supply management in all international forums and bilateral negotiations.


We will continue to work with Western Canadian grain farmers to ensure that the results of the barley plebiscite are respected and that they are given the freedom to choose whether to sell grain on the open market or through the Canadian Wheat Board.

The New Democratic Party of Canada  [pdf]:

5.5 Ensuring Your Family’s Food is Safe

  • We will introduce a Canadian Food Strategy that will combine health goals, environmental goals, food quality objectives, local and organic choices for consumers across the country;
  • We will increase food safety by hiring 200 new food inspectors for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency;
  • We will strengthen the Canada Food Inspection Agency’s capacity to prevent, detect and respond to food borne illness outbreaks and ensure imported foods meet the same environmental and health standards that apply to food produced in Canada;
  • We will enact legislation to require proper labeling of food with information on its origin, its nutritional value and whether it is genetically modified or not.

5.6 Protecting the Family Farm

  • We will work with provinces to provide easily accessible business risk management programs for farmers that cost less;
  • We will review railway freight tariffs that have been gouging Canadian farmers across the country;
  • We will work to ensure the sustainability of Canada’s agriculture by encouraging young farmers to take up farming and by supporting current farmers with enhanced skill training, mentorship programs and ensuring that arable land is more widely available;
  • We will work with provinces to streamline and make more accessible business risk management programs by cutting accounting fees;
  • We will support the Canadian Wheat Board as the single desk marketer for Canadian wheat and barley.

That’s it. The word ‘food’ is not mentioned anywhere else in the Conservative or NDP platforms. There is nothing, for example, in either platform about making food cheaper and easier to get in remote and northern aboriginal communities. Nothing about taxing soft drinks (de Schutter thought that was a good idea).  Both the NDP and the Conservatives say they back a “national food strategy” but both platforms are rather vague about what that actually might mean. Neither platform even includes the word “hunger.”

On May 2, 2011, the Conservative Party of Canada won that party’s first-ever majority government. The NDP, for the first time in its 50-year history, became the Official Opposition.

Then there’s the Liberal Party of Canada, the party which ran Canada for most of the last century. Like the NDP and Conservatives, the word “hunger” was nowhere in its platform. And, like the NDP and Conservatives, the Liberals also called for a national food strategy. (Their phrase was “national food policy”). But, unlike the other two parties, the Liberals were much more specific in their campaign commitments when it came to food and agriculture:

Liberal Party of Canada [pdf]

We will support … a National Food Policy;

Health Promotion, Sport and a National Food Policy

Some of the most effective steps to improve the health of Canadians will take place far away from any hospital or doctor’s office. And the results could save billions in healthcare costs. Since 1979, obesity rates have tripled in Canada among children and youth, with obese children and adolescents increasingly becoming obese adults. The estimated direct and indirect cost of treating obesity is $4.3 billion annually. It is just one problem that can be dramatically reduced through healthier eating and exercise.

That’s why a Liberal government will implement a new Canadian Health Promotion Strategy. We will support sport and active living and improve education and promotion of healthy foods. We will work with the Council of Ministers for Education in Canada towards setting national targets for physical activity in primary and secondary schools. … At the heart of this commitment to a safer, healthier country is Canada’s first National Food Policy, a comprehensive set of measures designed to fulfill the simple, yet powerful goal of putting more healthy Canadian food on Canadian plates. Measures include:

 A new Healthy Choices program to educate Canadians on healthy eating, how the food system works, and how to minimize threats to food safety;

 New, progressive labeling regulations that give clear and simple information to Canadians on the nutritional value of the foods they purchase, improve the regulatory process for new health claims, and clarify Product of Canada labeling;

 Strong new regulatory standards on transfats and salt;

 $40 million over four years to implement a new Healthy Start program to help 250,000 children from low-income families access healthy, home-grown foods, in partnership with the provinces, territories and non-governmental organizations. A Liberal government will also commit to ongoing support for the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP) and Aboriginal Head Start Program (AHSP)

 $80 million over four years to create a Buy Local Fund. The Fund will promote high-quality, homegrown foods produced by local farmers and support a Farmers’ Markets Development Program to market and grow Canada’s farmers’ markets, in cooperation with the provinces and territories

 A comprehensive review of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), to ensure Canada’s food safety system is effectively coordinated to minimize risks and assure Canadians that the food on their dinner tables is safe, and

 An additional $50 million over four years to improve food inspection by the CFIA and to ensure the same food safety standards set for Canadian producers are applied to foods imported into Canada.

Several major commitments of this platform will be the foundation of a Poverty Reduction Plan for Canada: the Canadian Learning Strategy, particularly Early Childhood Learning and Care, the Learning Passport for post-secondary education access, and Aboriginal learning; Family Care; a renewed focus on volunteerism through the Canada Service Corps; the National Food Policy’s nutrition measures; and a new Affordable Housing Framework. These practical measures to support Canadian families, worth more than $5 billion over two years, will help reduce poverty and inequality, especially as part of a whole-of-Canada effort to strengthen our communities. They will also contribute to a stronger economy over the long-term.

Canada’s First National Food Policy Safe Food: Strengthening inspection and enforcement

Canadians expect all foods within Canada to meet the same quality, safety and environmental sustainability standards, regardless of whether that food is produced at home or abroad. A Liberal government will:

 Conduct a comprehensive review of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), to ensure effective coordination of Canada’s food safety system to minimize risks and assure Canadians that the food on their tables is safe.

 Invest an additional $50 million over four years to improve food inspection by the CFIA and to ensure the same food safety standards set for Canadian producers are applied to foods imported into Canada.

Sustainable Farm Incomes: Supporting innovation and protecting against risk

Sustainable farm incomes, rural infrastructure and research and innovation are keys to ensuring Canada maintains a strong and vibrant food production system. Unfortunately, Canada’s farmers face a maze of confusing and unpredictable programs. A Liberal government will work in partnership with Canadian farmers to build farm programs from the farm up, not Ottawa down, including:

 A “Clean Slate Committment”, for a complete review of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada programming in partnership with farmers within the first year of a Liberal government, including business risk management programs, agricultural research, innovation and environmental programs.

 Restoring AgriFlex to its original mission of offering regionally flexible programs including practical, bankable business risk management to help farmers meet their costs of production. This could include programs such as the Risk Management Program in Ontario, Assurance stabilization des revenues agricoles in Quebec, market price insurance and improved crop insurance in the West, or a Buy Atlantic program in the Atlantic provinces.

Environmental Farmland Stewardship

Canadians know that our farms and our food are tied to our natural environment, and that a clean environment for the future means investing in clean energy and farmland stewardship. As part of our Clean Slate Commitment, a Liberal government will:

 Work with Canada’s farmers to strengthen Canada’s Environmental Farm Plans, support improved fertilizer and pesticide management, and introduce new environmental goods and services programs that reward farmers for environmentally-sustainable initiatives such as setting aside land for wildlife habitats or carbon sequestration.

 Invest in the development of clean energy from Canadian farms – biomass, wind, solar and geothermal energy – as part of the Liberal commitment to quadruple Canada’s clean energy production.

International Leadership: Opening new markets and building capacity.

Steady growth in fair, rules-based trade in agri-food will continue to be of vital interest to Canada. Our future competitiveness and opportunities for export growth rest on expanding our share of high-value markets where our reputation for quality puts us ahead. We also have a role to play in ensuring that some of the world’s poorest nations – particularly in Africa – have access to safe, healthy food, and can participate in international trade in agri-food. Therefore, a Liberal government will:

 Expand export opportunities by building Canada’s international brand as a producer of the highest-quality foods and beverages in the world.

 Support capacity-building in local food production and food security among world’s most vulnerable nations, particularly in Africa, by reassessing the Canadian International Development Agency’s priority nations list, and focusing on initiatives such as micro-lending, research, trade-related capacity building, and enhancing agricultural productivity and sustainability.

On May 2, 2011, the Liberal Party of Canada suffered its worst electoral defeat since Confederation and is now, for the first time ever, the third party in the House of Commons.


2 thoughts on “Hungry in Canada? What were the leading parties saying a year ago?”

  1. The Harper Government’ priorities include the complete elimination of the “Wheat Marketing Board” the erradication or elimination of the “Canadian Health Act” and these were the same priorities of the “Nation Citizen’s Coalition” when Harper was deeply involved with them in capacities from being a sponsored and elected politician from Western Canada and after quiting took executive positions with the NCC

  2. The fact that the last year of Canadian elections has not resulted in any change is a confirmation of the fact that our electoral system does not work, it does not reflect the wishes of those that vote. Not one of the elections of the last year resulted in the political party gaining power with a majority of the votes. THis is the way it is done in Canada, not in the rest of the world, it is the way big business wants it or it would be changed, just don’t use the electoral results to support some other argument as you are doing here to say that people support the government and it’s policies, the fact is most of the people voted against the governments.

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