Senator Black says prime farmland to be lost to battery plant

  • National Newswatch

Ottawa gives money to big companies but will not refund fertilizer tariffs to farmers.Ottawa-The Volkswagen electric battery plant being built with billions of dollars of government assistance near St. Thomas will take 1,500 acres of prime farmland out of production, says Senator Robert Black, chair of the Senate agriculture committee and the driving force behind its study on soil health in Canada.Black said in the Senate he was perplexed the federal and Ontario governments supporting that land loss when “Canada's farmland remains a finite and valuable resource for Canadians and the world.”He told Senator Marc Gold, the government representative in the Senate, that the current government repeatedly talks about the importance and prioritization of agriculture and food security. Then it produces agreements and policies, “which undermine the capabilities and capacities of our processors and producers.”The Volkswagen deal includes “$700 million from Ottawa to build a plant along with $500 million from the Ontario government plus $13 billion in federal subsidies for this gigafactory.”At the same time, farmers in Eastern Canada paid $34 million in tariffs on imported Russian fertilizer earlier this year, “an essential product needed to feed the country and the world, which was not returned to our farmers.“While the province retains jurisdiction of land use planning, governments at all levels have permitted the land that grows our food to be swallowed up by urban sprawl, damaging valuable soils and reducing our food production capacities, all while subsidizing this destruction and financially limiting those who put food on our tables.”Black asked Gold when the government will “actually prioritize Canadian agriculture and food, stop financially depriving our farmers and stop giving monies to companies that will actively undermine and take away our crucial farmlands?”Gold said the Volkswagen deal shows that Canada is a green supplier of choice. The plant will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs and renew the auto sector in St.Thomas.Agriculture is a priority for the government “as are jobs, as is supporting Canadian workers, as is supporting our transition to a green economy. A government has responsibilities to all Canadians, to all regions and to all sectors. Governments and the art of governing is making choices.”He said the government recognizes the vital importance of a resilient agricultural sector, including the need to preserve and protect farmland. Agriculture, as we know, is a shared jurisdiction in Canada. The provinces and territories have primary responsibility related to land use planning and resource management.