Agricultural bill focus of MP visit in 100 Mile

Coffee and tea chats 'a very beneficial couple days' for Cathy McLeod

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod

Voters voiced a variety of concerns with Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod at meetings in 100 Mile House and 108 Mile Ranch recently, which the MP says were “a very beneficial couple days.”

While residents in 108 Mile Ranch on Aug. 26 focused on topics, such as natural resource development and the Senate, residents in 100 Mile House on Aug. 25 spoke about things, such as benefits for seniors and handed McLeod a petition, which the MP will table when Parliament reconvenes in September, regarding their opposition to an omnibus agriculture bill currently before a parliamentary committee.

The Agricultural Growth Act, or Bill C-18, received mix reviews when it was introduced in the House of Commons last December. It amends a number of federal agricultural and agri-food laws, which is a concern to residents Barbara Hooper and Patty Tawiyaka who gave McLeod the petition signed by more than 200 local people and visitors of the South Cariboo Farmers’ Market.

Critics of the legislation say it will devastate farmers’ ability to save, sell and reuse seeds, while giving control of seed royalties to large corporations, such as Monsanto and Dow Chemical. Proponents say the bill will modernize the agri-food industry in Canada, stimulate investment and help development new, superior varieties of seeds for Canadian farmers.

“How can we support our farmers when their financial needs come second to big corporations?” asks Hooper.

“It’s a complicated issue. Cathy McLeod told us she had been assured by the agriculture minster that our concerns are based on false information…. We will be watching to see what happens.”

McLeod, a federal Conservative, says there is “some misinformation out there around the farmer’s ability in terms of seed usage.

“It will not impact [farmers’] ability around seeds,” she says of the bill. “I indicated to them I will continue to watch the issue.”

Bill Sundhu, newly-appointed NDP candidate for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, says there are likely good and bad aspects in Bill-C18, but he criticized the Agricultural Growth Act as part of a “disturbing trend” from the Conservative government that restricts “democratic participation” through use of omnibus bills, which typically cover multiple unrelated topics at once.

“The Conservatives are reckless and seem all too willing to sell out farmers and the Canadian economy. “The democratic process is much better served and better legislation would emerge if this bill had been split. It is important for all farmers and legislators to carefully examine its contents and be heard.”

In response, McLeod says Sundhu’s comment about the omnibus bill is “absurd.”

“This is an agriculture bill focused on important agriculture issues.”

The MP adds she will, along with the petition, take some of the suggestions she received in 100 Mile House back to Ottawa.

“Summer is an ideal time for members of Parliament to get out and really connect and understand the issues in the different communities within the riding.”