Sunday September 12, 2021 | OTTER POINT, BC [Updated 2 pm September 13, 2021]
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Editor | Island Social Trends
Food sustainability on Vancouver Island was addressed in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke today during an online All-Candidates debate hosted by the OPSRAA organization.
The question was not pre-advised to the candidates, but it fit within the climate crisis theme of the event for which candidates already knew the key three questions of the day.
Five of six candidates participated in the OPSRAA online event: NDP, Green, Conservative, PPC and Communist were online for the meeting and answered the Island Social Trends question about food sustainability (the Liberal candidate was absent but answered the question later).
They were addressing the association’s west-of-Sooke audience. OPSRRA is the Otter Point, Shirley and Jordan River Resident and Ratepayers Association, representing about 430 residents in those three small unincorporated communities. About 24 people participated in today’s call via Zoom.
Of all All-Candidates events held for any election over the past 12 years, OPSRRA seems to ask good questions and their events are moderated in a fair and effective manner that allows candidates the most possible time and opportunity to present their views to interested voters.
When OPSRRA meetings are held in person in Otter Point, they always draw a robust local crowd.
OPSRRA president Bill Dushenko hosted today’s meeting online.
Candidates on food sustainability:
During today’s meeting, Mary Brooke of Island Social Trends offered this question to all the candidates:
“If elected or re-elected, what would you do to improve food sustainability on Vancouver Island, in terms of legislation, but also to immediately to raise awareness and inspire actions, not just by farmers but by all islanders.”
Here’s what the candidates said, in the order that they addressed the question:
=== HARLEY GORDON (Green):
“We are very food insecure on southern Vancouver Island. I’ve heard five or seven percent of our food actually gets grown on Vancouver Island,” says Harley Gordon.
“It’s a huge issue,” he said. “Part of the Green Party platform is to change the mandate of Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, to instead of focusing on industrial large scale farms, to put power and research back into the hands of small scale farmers to promote more local and sustainable farming and agriculture initiatives.”
=== RANDALL GARRISON (NDP – incumbent):
“One of the things I’ve been doing as a member of parliament, is trying to get Agriculture Canada refocused away from industrial agriculture and to supporting small family farms and market gardening operations,” said Randall Garrison.
“And also, Farm Credit Canada, which has a terrible record in refusing loans to small producers,” said Garrison, regarding his work as an MP in Ottawa. The main problem is their restrictions on the amount of off-farm income an applicant can have, creating the catch-22 that while having off-farm income (by which to survive until the farming is profitable) often disqualifies the prospective farmer from loans if off-farm income is great than the farming income.
“Even though I don’t eat meat, we have to get things like an abattoir on the island so people can grow meat here and provide it locally.”
“So there are all kinds of ways to make the island more sustainable, which we used to be. Not more than 20 years ago, we were much more sustainable on the island,” said Randall Garrison, who was first elected in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke in 2011.
“One of the key things that’s worked against that is Agriculture Canada. So we need to not just change their mandate but change their practices on a daily basis,” said Garrison who has learned about local farm initiatives in the Sooke region and has attended numerous farmer’s markets and agricultural fairs in his riding over the past 10 years.
=== TYSON STRANDLUND (Communist):
“One of the only reasons things have been allowed to get as bad as they have, is because of the massive power of the agro-industrial monopolies. We’re proposing to set price controls to reduce the cost of farm inputs, shift to environmentally sustainable methods of agricultural development and food production.”
“We unreservedly support organic farming and are calling for reduction in uses of antibiotics, fertilizers, pesticides and other potentially harmful inputs like Glysophate as well as banning terminator seeds. We are fighting in our platform to require labeling of all genetically modified food products, and ultimately reduce the scale of the GMO food system,” said Strandlund.
“What’s really important here, is that under Canada’s commitments to so-called free trade agreements like the USMCA, there are serious obstacles protecting both the health and safety of Canadians and of course our food sovereignty,” he said.
Strandlund continued: “We need to dump these undemocratic corporate constitutions… to prevent harmful substances from entering our food supply or to protect farmers. We want to enact policies including an end to bankruptcies to guarantee that as much food as possible is grown here in Canada and up to the standard that it’s demanding.”
LAURA FROST (Conservative):
“We have such creative people here! We need to support local entrepreneurship with smaller scale operations and increase the diversity. People know where the gaps area. They know how to build them in. I’m all in favour of that,” said Laura Frost as the Conservative candidate in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.
Further taking the business approach: “It would be great to do the 100 Mile Diet, but there are some things like, we could be looking to Alberta for example, they should be doing much larger greenhouses. Starting first with Canadian solutions, where we get massive produce coming within Canada, not across the border from California. It would be really nice to see self-sufficiency here,” she said.
ROB ANDERSON (PPC):
“We need to be promoting people to grow our own produce and stop allowing a lot of these larger corporations to be dictating how we send and receive food,” said Rob Anderson, representing the People’s Party of Canada in the election in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.
“Monsanto is one prime example on the prairies that once they get in, it’s awfully hard to keep them in check. People have got to be allowed to be self sustainable and to work to have their own food sources. It’s something that should be openly promoted,” the PCC candidate said.
DOUG KOBAYASHI (Liberal) [comment provided after the meeting]: “I’ve been working on the concept of food hubs. It was a concept started by the province but they’ve not gone far enough, said Kobayashi in giving some details about his own private venture to combine vertical farms, greenhouses and open fields to produce food on the island.
“We produce five percent of our food here. During the pandemic we’ve seen produce scarcity, and other things empty from the shelves.” Sustainable agriculture could be done with food hubs, he says, instead of shipping foods into BC and to the island from thousands of miles away — and not just the fresh foods but manufacturing of food products using food that may have been grown here originally.
Climate crisis questions:
Three questions were chosen by the OPSRRA membership, which the five candidates today addressed:
- The Climate Crisis is a real issue globally as extreme weather events become the norm. What tools and strategies would you advocate using to solve the crisis?
- First Nations are an important part of our culture and population. What is one tangible action your party proposes to foster true reconciliation and a fresh relationship that moves forward together.
- Chinook fishing restrictions and closures are ongoing to protect fish stocks and local orca populations. What regional and national solutions would you work towards to address this issue?
The recording of the day’s 1 hour 20-minute event may be available through the OPSRRA website.
44th federal election:
The 44th federal general election is on September 20, 2021 across Canada, with voting from 9 am to 9 pm. Advance polls are open September 10 through 13, also from 9 am to 9 pm.
There are 101,934 electors (voters) in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke and six candidates in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.
In the immediate Sooke area, there is a voting station at Sooke Community Hall.
- Elxn44: Campaign signage profile in central Langford (September 11, 2021)
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- Poor debate format a disservice to viewers & voters (September 9, 2021)