For the first time, food becomes a political priority
JESSICA LEEDER — GLOBAL FOOD REPORTER
From Monday's Globe and Mail
For the first time in Canadian electoral history, the edible is political.
Each of the country’s federal parties have included strategies in their electoral platforms that, to varying degrees, highlight food as a distinct priority separate from agriculture.
The Conservative policy, announced Sunday, most closely resembles a traditional agriculture policy, with its focus on efforts to sustain the family farm and boost exports, while the Liberals and New Democrats aim to foster unprecedented co-operation between government departments dealing with the production, distribution, sale and consumption of food.
Building on a growing middle-class awareness of the pressures on the global food system, all parties acknowledge the need for some sort of long-term national strategy. What separates them are their degrees of willingness to expand their focus beyond the farm.
The fact that food is mentioned across all five electoral platforms is being hailed as a victory for the global food movement, which has already nudged a handful of European nations to implement long-term policies.
“The conversation is changing radically to be able to talk about a food policy,” said Harriet Friedmann, a world-renowned food policy expert with the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. “… It is a triumph of the food movement of the past 20 years.”
On Monday, the parties will hash out their respective policies at a debate in Ottawa. But one food policy critic said none of the platforms are detailed enough to take seriously.
“None of them really link the food story to health care that well, or to social-policy reform,” said Rod MacRae, a professor at York University who is one of Canada’s foremost experts on the subject. “What they’ve done is pick the low-hanging fruit – the things that are more part of the public consciousness right now.”
Still, strong federal leadership in the national food policy process is critical, he said. “The federal role is to act as the animator, the facilitator, and to use its usual package of sticks and carrots to try and get everybody on board.”
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