NDP Agriculture critic Alistair MacGregor, the MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, and Fisheries critic Gord Johns, the MP for Courtenay–Alberni, are calling on the federal government to show leadership in supporting local food.
In a joint letter to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, MacGregor and Johns shared the concerns of Canada’s agricultural producers and fish harvesters, and the thousands of Canadians who will depend on the Canada Summer Jobs program to assist them with gaining valuable work experience and employment during the next few months.
“The establishment of local food hubs as a part of a Canadian food strategy to connect local producers, including fish and seafood, to consumers and community-supported agriculture,” MacGregor and Johns advocated. “Building on Canada’s national food strategy, we believe the federal government needs to develop a national food procurement plan to help local producers connect with local communities. The worker shortage is impacting many small-scale rural farms, and this support would be most welcome in addressing the crisis. The federal government should also be looking at ways to invest in our local producers to get the certification – such as the CanadaGAP – they need so that they can link with major retail outlets in our local communities.”
In addressing the growing concerns of Canada’s students, the MPs questioned why the federal government is only prepared to offer them 60 per cent of the regular Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and highlighted the shortcomings of the recent CSJ enhancements.
“The federal government recently asked Members of Parliament to help identify organizations in our ridings that could benefit from additional CSJ funding during this extraordinary year. Although the CSJ program this year is providing a 100 per cent wage subsidy, it has come at the cost of funding a fraction of the number of jobs from previous years. We believe that the CSJ program should be expanded so that more essential services in our food supply chains can access the 100 per cent wage subsidy and be linked with a labour pool that is experiencing severe economic distress. In addition to our agricultural producers, there are many food banks and food delivery groups providing essential services who can use the CSJ platform to help subsidize wages.
“Moving ahead with these measures would show leadership in supporting local food and demonstrate to participants in the CSJ program that the Government of Canada is serious about helping them weather the COVID-19 crisis,” added MacGregor. “Not only would we be able to demonstrate a solution to local labour market shortages, but we would provide a strong incentive to youth and students who are also struggling through this difficult time.”