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Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Elected as a Member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly for the Constituency of Saanich South on May 12, 2009. New Democratic Opposition Critic for the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. Raised on Quadra Island and has an undergraduate degree from the University of British Columbia. Extensive track record as a community leader, advocate and environmental activist.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rally for Farmers!

Yesterday was a great day - it was a real honour to speak at the rally for farming and food security...and on the steps of the Legislature, no less. 

Brent Warner gave a really smart keynote on specific changes we need to make to our ag policy. He noted that in the 70s there were ten full time extension officers helping fruit farmers in the Okanagan - and today there are...NONE! Jordan Marr and Tom Henry did a super job organizing the event,  Organic Farmer Heather Stretch and local food expert Linda Geggie shared 
important insights...well done everybody!

I was humbled by all the support local farmers and food security advocates gave me - and it only deepened my resolve to work towards better farming policy in British Columbia. 

Following is the rough text of my speech... (I also gave shout-outs to the big crew of NDP provincial candidates who were there to show their support for farmers - but I didn't mention how not a SINGLE Liberal Candidate bothered to show up, depsite repeated invites. As Jordan said, their absence speaks volumes.) 

"Good afternoon, thank you for inviting me here today on a beautiful spring day. I know how critical these spring hours are to your farms and gardens - and I appreciate that you have all taken the time to be here.

I am here to talk to you about something that has driven me to step up to the challenge of provincial politics. I am speaking as a mother, I am speaking as an eater, I’m speaking as a community activist, I’m speaking for the New Democrats and I am speaking as a farmer.

I believe we are at a critical point with local food production, maybe even the tipping point, and I am here to tell you that I believe in agriculture!

So much of what we do, so many of the policies that we believe in are ultimately tied back to local farming and our food supply.

As a candidate for the NDP, I’m proud of my party’s commitments to support and protect farming, and I am personally committed to strengthen these commitments once elected.

For the past eight years, government has ignored the concerns of farmers and paid lip service to what I believe is one of the most important industries in BC.

Sometimes it seems like government is more concerned about defending their badly thought out policy rather than encouraging local farmers to be successful.

It’s about time that we put local food production first.

We need to bring integrity back to the Agricultural Land Commission. The ALC should be focused on protecting farmland. Period.

Lately it’s been distracted by court cases, conflicts of interest and allegations about questionable dealings.

We need to value our small lot farms. Farmers are being put though an exercise of having to prove themselves innocent while they are accused of being guilty of not using their land in ways that qualify them for farm status.

I sat through more than 20 BC Assessment appeals last year with farmers in our region who lost their battles. My friend Mary Alice Johnson had her farm split. It was like a slap in the face to farming as she is one of our finest food producers on the South Island. She asked the people who decided the fate of her farm ….”who is going to feed you? I am here for Mary Alice.

We need to restore the Buy BC Program that helped farmers and small business people promote their products to local consumers.

It’s inexpensive and it works. So why was it cut? Because politics got in the way and farmers paid the price. The NDP will bring this back.

We need to get rid of unworkable meat processing regulations.

We shouldn’t be punishing farmers, but rather helping them by creating a system that protects the public’s health without imposing prohibitive new costs. The NDP will do this.

We need to bring extension services back to farmers in BC so we stop losing our future farmers. The NDP will do this.

We can and we must maintain our community’s farming roots. If we are to thrive as a society then we need to rely on our farms more than ever.

Most importantly, we need to support the farmers we depend on. If we loose the fight for agricultural support we loose everything. That’s is not acceptable you, its not acceptable to me and its not acceptable to the New democrats.

We used to value agriculture in this province, and that is the BC that I want back.

Thank you for your support!"