Waters: Food a welcome focus in B.C. government’s speech from the throne

Agrifoods conference planned for Kelowna in November.

As B.C.’s provincial politicians returned to the Legislature for the spring sitting Tuesday, it’s clear the Liberal government is hungry for some good news.

With its seemingly blinders-on focus on liquified natural gas in recent years being called into question by some, it was refreshing to fianally hear about another focus in the speech from the throne, one with some local significance—food production.

In addition to a plan to offer farmers a tax credit for donating food to non-profit groups and wanting to expand its “buy local, grow local” campaign to include local governments and community groups, the speech also announced it is planning an agrifoods conference in Kelowna this fall.

And that can only be good news for an industry that regularly faces stiff competition from from other areas of the world, including right across the border in Washington State, that plays havoc with prices both for the producer and for the consumer.

Like most communities in the country, the quality, origin and availability of food—especially locally grown produce— is becoming more and more important to those who consume it.

B.C. can be justifiably proud of the food it produces but in a province as well-off as ours, the shocking reality is that for many, having quality is not the issue, having enough food to put on the the table is.

Talk to anyone at the Kelowna, Westbank or Lake Country food banks and they will tell you the need has never been greater. The growth in the number of families—families with children—that rely on supplementing their monthly food purchases with food from food banks is growing at a shocking pace.

So it is good to see the government paying attention to food production in this province, hopefully not just for the well being of farmers but also for the people who need that food, everyday British Columbians.

Of course no speech from the throne is ever a single issue document.

A kind of overview of the government’s plans for the coming year, Tuesday’s speech from the throne, like several before it tried to renew the government’s push to create an LNG industry in this province.

While the speech used the phrase “Stand up for B.C.” several times—four words that very well be used as an election slogan this time next year as the we gear up to head to the polls May 9, 2017, the other phrase we are likely to hear again when it comes to LNG  is a one tough-talking one-liner sound-bite crafted to show the tough side of B.C.’s Liberal government—”success is not for quitters.” That was used in the speech to address concerns about some LNG investors mulling cancelling their previously made plans for this province and others either scaling back their plans or pushing back timelines.

While the government’s planned food focus should leave a good taste in the mouths of many, its continued politicalization of LNG is likely to produce gas pains for others.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.