BC NDP leader Adrian Dix came to the Okanagan on the weekend to reveal his party’s plans for agriculture.
During quick stops in Lake Country and Kelowna, Dix said the NDP’s is committed to what he called “change for the better” for B.C.’s food producers and agricultural communities.
Dix said an NDP government led by him would make an annual investment of $8 million in programs to develop local markets and promote stability for B.C. and Okanagan growers.
Dix said that an NDP government would replace the Liberals’ “piecemeal” approach with a coordinated plan to support the agricultural sector, featuring three signature programs.
“Feed BC will put healthy, locally-grown food on the plates for patients in BC hospitals and long-term care to improve diets and health outcomes,” said Dix. “Feed BC will expand the market for local food, helping producers thrive and boosting local economies.”
Dix also announced Grow BC, a plan to promote food security and sustained local production. A key component of Grow BC will be an initiative to support growers with replanting and renewing their orchards. It will also provide organic and conventional farmers with more direct support through extension services.
“Our agricultural program,” said Dix, “will bring back Buy BC a successful and widely-supported marketing program to promote BC-grown food that was eliminated by the BC Liberals.”
“(Kelowna-Lake Country incumbent Liberal MLA and B.C. Agriculture Minister) Norm Letnick and the B.C. Liberals have all but abandoned B.C.’s agriculture industry,” said Mike Nuyens, the NDP candidate challenging Letnick in Kelowna-Lake Country. “Here in the Okanagan we have a choice between more of the same neglect by the Liberals, or change for the better for B.C.’s food producers such as our local fruit growers.”
Nuyens running mate in Kelowna-Mission, Tish Lakes also weighed in noting the short tenure of Liberal agriculture ministers in this province since 2009.
“In the last four years we have had four different B.C. Liberal agriculture ministers, said Lakes. “You have to wonder why they have paid so little attention to this file.”
Since 2009, the cabinet post has been held by all three Liberal MLAs who represent the Central Okanagan ridings—Letnick, Steve Thomson (Kelowna-Mission) and Ben Stewart (Westside Kelowna).
In addition to bringing back bring back the BUY BC program, one Westside-Kelowna NDP candidate Carole Gordon called “one of Canada’s most successful government and industry marketing programs,” the NDP will also bring use Feed BC to put healthy, locally-grown food in meals for patients in B.C. and Okanagan hospitals and long-term care facilities.
“This program will improve diets and health outcomes,” said Nuyens.
“Feed BC will expand the market for local food, helping producers thrive, added Gordon. “Boosting local economies and growers.”
The NDP says its agriculture program will cost $24 million over three years.
“It’s all been costed in our fiscal framework, released prior to the election,” said Lakes who accused the Liberal government of providing the least financial support for agriculture programs of any provincial government in Canada.
Later, in Kelowna, he said the NDP would also take measures to grow B.C.’s award-winning craft distillery industry.
Last week, Letnick reannounced plans first revealed in the recent B.C. budget to help agriculture, including, more an extra $2 million for its Buy Local program on top of the original$2 million announced last August.
He said the Buy Local program is aimed at encouraging consumers to think about where their food comes from and promote so-called 50-mile and 200-mile diets.
On the weekend, Letnick posted a Facebook message saying he had taken time out from door-knocking to “evaluate” the NDP’s agriculture plan and didn’t have to spend much time doing so because he said he didn’t find much there.
“More like a few power point bullets,” he wrote. “As a business prof and agri minister (sic), I give it an F.”