Harper announces $1 billion in funding for farmers
Published Friday, March 9, 2007 4:51PM EST
Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled in Saskatchewan on Friday an injection of $1 billion in cash for farmers, the latest in a series of funding announcements.
"Canadian farmers deserve an ally in Ottawa and that's what they've got,'' Harper said at a farm west of Saskatoon.
The investments fulfills an election promise to replace the Canadian Agriculture Income Stabilization (CAIS) program with "more predictable, bankable and responsive to the cost-price squeeze," said Harper, speaking in a Quonset hut beside fellow Saskatchewan MPs and supporters.
The funding includes:
- A $400-million direct payment to producers, to help address high production costs over the last four years
- Another $600 million to kick-start new contributory-style producer savings accounts once agreements are reached with provinces and territories.
The announcement was hailed by Canadian Federation of Agriculture President Bob Friesen, who joined Harper and Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl at the press conference on Friday.
"This money shows the government is serious about addressing the problem of rising farm production costs. I look forward to working with Minister Strahl, working out the details to find effective ways to see this funding gets to the producers who need it," Friesen said in a statement.
"CFA is also committed to working with Minister Strahl to evaluate the programs on an ongoing basis in order to add additional components as needed."
The Prime Minister's Office said that this new funding will be available as soon as Parliament approves the upcoming budget, which is scheduled to be unveiled on March 19.
CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported that the announcement was a strategic one.
"The prime minister is clearly putting in planks along the road here in case there is an election, and now he's put in a plank for the farmers of the country," Fife told Newsnet.
"He's saying, 'Look there's $1 billion here that will be in the budget for you, if we are defeated, you're not going to get that money," Fife said.
The announcement was one of several election-style press conference the prime minister held as he travelled across the country this week, including a cash injection into Ontario transit, and money to combat greenhouse gas emissions in Alberta.
Saskatchewan premier sidelined
A reporter noted that Harper had accompanied Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach for those announcements, but that Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert was nowhere to be seen on Friday.
"This is not a Canada-Saskatchewan announcement. This is a national program,'' Harper said.
The prime minister told reporters that they are discussing joint initiatives with a number of provinces but are struggling to get reach agreements with Saskatchewan on areas such as funding for pollution-fighting projects and patient wait-time guarantees.
"These are two important things for the people of Saskatchewan,'' he said.
"Most of the provinces have signed on or are ready to sign on for these. The government of Saskatchewan isn't. I would encourage the government of Saskatchewan to sign."
The prime minister also said that the Saskatchewan government is not a supporter of the Conservative government.
But Harper added that he didn't "think partisan politics should stand in the way of making a good deal for the people of Saskatchewan,'' he said.
Calvert's government has been urging the federal government to live up to their election promise to exclude non-renewable resource revenue from the equalization funding formula.
The prime minister would not reveal details, but suggested that answers would be unveiled shortly.
"These will be a series of policies to establish predictable, principled, long-term transfer arrangements between the federal government, the provinces, and other levels of government," he said.
"I'm confident we will fulfill our commitment and Saskatchewan will be a big winner. Whether it will be enough for the NDP is another question,'' he said.
With files from The Canadian Press