On December 16, 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau published his Minister Mandate letters, which outline challenges each minister should address in their role, as well as goals they will work to accomplish. Trudeau’s letter to Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau focused on the effects of climate change and advocating for an increased focus on local production; below is a summary of the major points addressed in the letter. To read the full letter, click here.
Climate change was addressed mainly through programs that align with Canada’s goal to reduce emissions, with the ultimate goal of being net-zero emissions by 2050. This involves increasing financial support for farmers to adopt agricultural management practices that reduce emissions, such as carbon farming, cleantech, renewable energy, and alternative pest management to reduce methane and fertilizer emissions. A plan to create the Canada Water Agency in tandem with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change was also introduced, which would invest funding into protecting large river systems and lakes to support freshwater science and research.
Labour Shortages and Worker Safety
Pre-Covid 19, the agriculture sector had the highest job vacancy rate of all sectors in Canada, with a vacancy rate of 5.4%, or roughly 63,000 positions unfilled. This shortage is not predicted to subside, and is actually predicted to rise to 123,000 vacancies by 2029 by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. Trudeau has urged Bibeau to address this shortage by working with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to develop an Agricultural Labour Strategy that would include sector-specific solutions to addressing the shortage long-term. Trudeau also addressed the high proportion of foreign workers that work within the Canadian Agriculture Sector; the CFA estimates over 60,000 foreign workers enter Canada each year to work in agriculture. Bibeau was asked to implement sector-based work permits and strengthen the inspection regime to ensure the health and safety of temporary foreign workers, as well as support the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to mitigate the barriers to entry for foreign workers to apply for work permits and permanent residence status.
Strengthening Canada’s Local Food System
COVID-19 highlighted issues with Canada’s import-heavy food system as supply chain interruptions led to various shortages. To strengthen Canada’s domestic food system and encourage local production, Trudeau encouraged Bibeau to update business risk management programs, including bundling climate risk management, environmental practices, and climate readiness. This should be done with a focus on input from marginalized voices, such as producers who are female, indigenous, or people of color. Working with the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development on protecting domestic supply chains and providing fair compensation for supply- managed agricultural sectors (these are sectors in which producers are given production quotas in order to stabilize supply and demand, and therefore stabilize prices) was also highlighted. Finally, preparation for the next draft of the agricultural policy framework was emphasized, with importance being placed on the sustainable scaled growth of the Canadian agri-food sector.