Canadian voters concerned about food costs

The rising cost of living and the rising cost of food are real issues Canadians want politicians to talk about.

With three federal parties running neck and neck, a surge of popularity for the up-and-coming Green Party and three more weeks to go, this election campaign seems to be turning sour. Obsessions with strategic voting and shifting polling results are creating uncertainties instead of a civilized period of democratic consideration of important issues on which to base voting preferences.

In Nanaimo-Ladysmith there is very little Liberal strength, so much of the national strategy rhetoric is irrelevant here. The interference of piles of polls and heated, half-baked discourse on campaign tactics are starting to annoy voters.

Real issues Canadians wanted politicians to talk about were reported to Global News by Ipsos in July. Of 29 topics, two closely linked ones were way out in front: the rising cost of living and the rising cost of food, far ahead of pensions for seniors, the shaky economy and environment.

A recent article in the Toronto Star by Evan Fraser, a Canada Research Chair and professor of geography at the University of Guelph, with research associate Samantha Pascoal, says Canada ignores food insecurity at our peril. They note that “export-first” trade policies have led us to rely on imports of fruits and vegetables and made us vulnerable to the California drought at the same time that our dollar has lost value.

Poverty in Canada resulted in a 25 per cent increase in visits to food banks between 2008 and 2010. Only 11 per cent of the food we now grow is nutritious. Our farms are growing oils, fats and sugars for export. As a direct result of those infamous trade agreements, say Fraser and Pascoal, “Canada has lost more than 143 food manufacturing plants and shed 24,000 jobs since 2008. It also means fewer markets for vegetable producers.” The Canadian food system now struggles to provide adequate nutritious food for all citizens.

Also this month, 46 voluntary organizations concerned with the conservation and protection of wildlife in the U.K. launched a report called Farming Fit for the Future, denouncing national policy on food and farming as “environmentally, economically and socially unsustainable” and calling for legislation better for nature, for people, for land and livestock and ready for the future.

Here in Canada, Ottawa-based Food Security Canada’s Eat Think Vote campaign is in full swing with events across the country targeting parties and candidates with demands for a national food policy including healthy school food, affordable food in the North, support for new farmers and zero hunger in Canada. Food Secure Canada is asking us to sign a petition to put food security on election campaign agendas.

The numbers of ultra-rich people in Canada who think they can out-buy the rest of us for their perceived ‘needs’ are, by definition, as few as one per cent. At the same time there are more and more Canadians sinking to the bottom of the 99 per cent.

One power in which we are all equal is that each of us has one vote.

Marjorie Stewart is past chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at marjorieandalstewart@shaw.ca.