If you’re a farmer, or work in the agricultural industry in Alberta, what does the upcoming provincial election hold for you?
A policy analyst with the Simpson Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy at the University of Calgary is working on the Alberta Elections Program: a series of three reports to provide information and background for discussions on agricultural issues leading up to the Alberta elections on May 29.
“How will the agricultural sector change and what is the outlook from each of the parties related to Ag? Those are questions I don’t think anyone has really tried to answer,” says Shawn Wiskar, who holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the School of Public Policy.
“The Alberta Elections Project is an objective analysis and is strictly informational.”
The first report was published in March. It offers a historical overview of government policies toward the industry going back eight years to cover both the past NDP government and the current UCP term.
The second report, due out later this month, will offer survey results of nearly 300 agricultural producers from across the province broken down by demographics such as age and commodity producer type.
And the final report in the series will be published by mid-May and look at each party’s platform related to the survey responses from agriculture producers.
“Agriculture isn’t a top-of-mind issue, it doesn’t get a whole lot of coverage in the media,” says Wiskar. “We thought we’d be that connector between what happens in Edmonton and what happens on your farm in rural Alberta and help fill in those gaps and answer any questions you might have on how these processes work.”
In his historical scan of policies put in place in the past eight years, Wiskar says his team — Amlika Nair, a Master of Public Policy student, and Dr. Hanan Ishaque, program co-ordinator at the Simpson Centre with a PhD in economics — noticed a difference in approaches to agriculture, with the NDP government more focused on investing in research and establishing the government as a support for farmers, where the UCP have been more interested in policies that put farmers as the primary decision-makers in issues like farm safety and insurance.
The survey results contained in the second report go beyond ideological differences to broader policy concerns shared among farmers regardless of the government of the day.
“There are really strong opinions about the current state of agriculture and there seems to be a lot of appetite for specific things that need to change,” says Wiskar, “whether that be consultation with the government, trying to promote Alberta products internationally and nationally, or how farmers are able to survive in this day and age.”
The final two reports in the series will be published by the Simpson Centre and can be found on their website.