Food Policy on New Federal Government Agenda
Analysis by Kathleen Gibson (FSC Board) and Diana Bronson (FSC Executive Director)
Food Secure Canada is delighted that Prime Minister Trudeau has made the mandate letters of Ministers public and we have quickly reviewed those that are related to food. We are particularly pleased with the language in the mandate letter sent to the Honourable Lawrence MacAuley, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, who is instructed to:
"Develop a food policy that promotes healthy living and safe food by putting more healthy, high-quality food, produced by Canadian ranchers and farmers, on the tables of families across the country"
Food Secure Canada's Eat Think Vote campaign focused on the need for a national food policy with key goals being zero hunger in Canada; healthy school food; support for new farmers; and affordable food in the North.
The mandate letters make Ministers accountable for a collaborative style of leadership within the federal government and with other levels of government, and state an important commitment to renewing a nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples.
We particularly note the following items:
Minister of Agriculture:
• Develop a food policy that promotes healthy living and safe food by putting more healthy, high-quality food, produced by Canadian ranchers and farmers, on the tables of families across the country
• Support the Ministers of Natural Resources and Environment and Climate Change in making investments that will make our resource sectors world leaders in the use and development of clean and sustainable technology and processes
• Work with provinces, territories and other willing partners to help the sector adjust to climate change and better address water and soil conservation and development
Minister of Health:
• Promotion of public health by introducing new restrictions on the commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children; bringing in tougher regulations to eliminate trans fats and reduce salt in processed foods; and improving food labels to give more information on added sugars and artificial dyes in processed foods
• Work with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to update and expand the Nutrition North program, in consultation with Northern communities
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs:
• Work with provinces and territories and with First Nations, the Metis Nation and Inuit to implement recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting with the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
• Work with the Minister of Health to update and expand the Nutrition North program, in consultation with Northern communities
• Work in collaboration with the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and in consultation with First Nations, Inuit and other stakeholders, to improve essential physical infrastructure for Indigenous communities, including providing housing outcomes for Indigenous Peoples
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development:
• Work with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to launch consultations with provinces and territories and Indigenous Peoples on a National Early Learning and Childcare Framework as a first step towards delivering affordable, high-quality, flexible and fully inclusive child care
• Lead the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy that would set targets to reduce poverty and measure and publicly report on progress.
Minister of Infrastructure and Communities:
• Work with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to create a housing strategy to re-establish the federal government's role in supporting affordable housing
Minister of Environment:
• Treat our freshwater as a precious resource that deserves protection and careful stewardship
• Work with Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to increase the proportion of Canada's marine and coastal areas that are protected – to five percent by 2017 and 10 percent by 2020, supported by new investments in community consultation and science
• Develop an ambitious North American clean energy and environment agreement
• Make significant new investments in green infrastructure
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard:
• Use scientific evidence and the precautionary principle, and take into account climate change, when making decisions affecting fish stocks and ecosystem management
• Work with the provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples and other stakeholders to better co-manage our three oceans
• Act on recommendations of the Cohen Commission on restoring sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River
Minister of Public Services and Procurement:
- Modernize procurement practices so that they are simpler, less administratively burdensome, deploy modern comptrollership, and include practices that support our economic policy goals, including green and social procurement.
As far as Food Secure Canada's holistic and sustainable approach to food is concerned, these are promising beginnings. We will want to extend the conversation in some areas, in particular by ensuring dialogue across government departments – especially Agriculture and Health -- and bringing a feasibility study on a guaranteed basic income into the equation. The building blocks are here for a national food policy and the conversation is about to begin for real. Join us for Next Steps for Food Policy this Sunday in Montreal.
See more on the rationale for a national food policy in this blog by Rod MacRae.