Slim pickings for food policy in 2018 federal budget

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - 4:23pm

With new Canadian food policy and healthy eating strategy decisions expected later this year, it is disappointing that Canada’s food systems and their impact are not directly addressed in the 2018 budget. References to food (41) and rights (72) abound, but without a cohesive approach or budget to move towards healthy, just and sustainable food for all Canadians.

Poverty Reduction

Fundamentally, will this budget enable food insecure Canadians to eat better? According to CCPA and Canada Without Poverty, it will have a limited direct impact on poverty. CCPA welcomes the re-branded Canada Workers Benefit as “a step in the right direction”, as do Food Banks Canada. Measures like increasing women’s economic participation and addressing the indigenous poverty gap can also make a difference.

Gender Equality

In terms of the headline focus on gender equality, “Fewer women and children living in food insecure households” is a welcome key indicator in the Gender Results Framework that now accompanies the budget. This is where you can find the clearest recognition of the links between poverty, food insecurity and its impact on households, but with no dollar amounts attached.


Reconciliation is given significant and timely emphasis. There are increased budgets for services including long-overdue action on water, housing and child and family services, and a renewed commitment to recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights. However, there is little recognition of Indigenous food systems and no mention of food sovereignty. The Government of Nunavut will be empowered to manage wildlife pertaining to Indigenous harvesting for game food.

Technology and Innovation

The huge focus on scientific and technological innovation and research is in part aligned with export growth targets, as identified by Barton. Agri-food is already targeted as one of six priority growth centres, with one of the Innovation Superclusters and a dedicated Economic Strategy Table to give the industry (another) voice at the heart of government. This budget adds additional support in terms of smart regulations, digitization, intellectual property and export services. The National Farmers Union notes that these supports are geared towards more high-input, capital-intensive production, which leads to bigger farms and fewer farmers and less money staying in rural communities. “Smart regulation” is worth watching too, since seed multinationals have been lobbying for fast-track GMO approvals regardless of market impacts.

Disappointingly, there is no mention of social innovation. The big increase in support for public research is very welcome, hopefully leaving less room for industry-financed research to dominate in areas like bio-technology.


In terms of agriculture, good news for local activists in Kingston as the much-admired prison farms will be reinstated at Joyceville and Collins Bay penitentiaries. A new lending window for women “entrepreneurs” in agriculture (so not necessarily farmers) will be opened within the Farm Credit Canada (FCC) program. The systemic issues of FCC with its narrow "go big or go home" mentality and farmers debt burden persist. Key priorities like access to land, capital, training and labour for a new generation of farmers remain unaddressed. So, like the announcement earlier this month on the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) priorities for the next 5 years, it’s slim pickings for new farmers.

Protected areas get most of the attention and the new money in the environment chapter. The 2017 Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund is highlighted, including the support for transitioning agriculture in Quebec and Ontario, but that’s completely overshadowed by the emphasis on agriculture and agri-food for growth and exports.


Health is dominated by the Pharmacare announcement, with low recognition of the links between diet and health. Tomorrow, March 1st 2018, is the Great Big Crunch but there is no mention of school food in the budget.

In conclusion, the food movement has a lot to do in the coming months. It will be a critical time to push for A Food Policy for Canada - and accompanying dollar commitments - that will move us towards zero hunger, healthy and safe food, and sustainable food systems.


Analysis from our members and allies:

Please send us your links and we will update this list. Comments welcome.

2018 Federal Budget Analysis: Response and analysis of the federal budget from CCPA staff and our Alternative Federal Budget partners

Canada Without Poverty press release

National Farmers Union: Prison Farms to Re-open at Kingston

Food Banks Canada: Food Banks Canada welcomes the new Canada Workers Benefit