In December, I highlighted the failure of the federal Agriculture Minister to find a resolution to the export ban on Prince Edward Island’s (PEI) world-class potatoes. More than three months later the Trudeau government still is no closer to a solution and PEI farmers are paying the price.
The toll on farming families is devastating. As a result of our inability to export produce to the United States, more than 300 million pounds of potatoes have been destroyed or left to rot, and multi-year damage has been done to the potato seed industry. It is heartbreaking for PEI farmers to destroy what was a bumper crop, but now Liberal inaction has put next year’s season in jeopardy. The irreparable damage to the agriculture industry in PEI will be felt for generations to come.
Every day, I hear from desperate families who have capably handled the issue of potato warts for years. These families feel completely abandoned by the federal Liberal government in Ottawa. Their livelihoods are being destroyed, and it’s clear the frustration, anger, and anxiety they are expressing is boiling over.
I can’t blame them. Minister Bibeau has yet to visit PEI since the ban came into effect last November. When Premier King joined a delegation to the United States to advocate for the industry, the Minister could not be bothered to join him on that occasion. The Trudeau government has also engaged the Biden administration on issues like autos, softwood lumber and Line 5; all big business in the bigger provinces, while ignoring the smallest province in Confederation. At the same time, the Cabinet committee tasked with developing strategies to address this crisis has been completely silent. To date, the Trudeau government hasn’t released a single detail about how they will end the export ban, or what has been accomplished so far.
The Government of Canada knows PEI potatoes are safe for export. For months table potatoes have continued to be sold to consumers here in Canada, and with American approval, to Puerto Rico. Food banks across Canada are now fully stocked with first-rate potatoes, thanks to PEI farmers who have donated hundreds of pounds in the wake of the export ban. This generosity is a perfect example of the spirit of PEI farmers. They are determined to make the best of a bad situation, but it also underlines how unscientific this ban is.
Unlike my federal counterpart, I toured P.E.I. this weekend and spoke directly with farmers and their families. I heard their stories firsthand and will bring their concerns to Minister Bibeau. Conservatives are listening. We are ready to do whatever we can to amplify the voices of families who are hurting.
Trudeau’s government has waited long enough to resolve this dispute. For PEI farmers the wait is over, it’s time for the Liberals to get to work.
John Barlow is the Conservative Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Agri-Food and Food Security, and Member of Parliament for Foothills, Alberta.