Volume 94, Issue 92

Thursday, March 15, 2001


USC budget gets the green light

VP hopefuls near election day

Strip search ends Trent standoff

Case of the phony professor sparks inquiry

Farmer protest slows down the 401 - Lack of gov't funding causes outrage


Planet Me

Farmer protest slows down the 401 - Lack of gov't funding causes outrage

By Joel Brown
Gazette Staff

Farmers took their tractors and plows from the fields of their farms to the concrete of Canada's busiest highway yesterday to protest what they see as inadequate federal government support.

Starting in Windsor at 7 a.m. yesterday morning, a convoy of approximately 300 vehicles filled with angry farmers began driving at 80 km/h in the right-hand lane of the 401 to raise public awareness of what they believe to be a lack of subsidies form the federal government.

Also involved in the day of protests, organized by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, was a rally in Pickering, Ontario. At the end of the convoy trip and another rally at Ottawa's Landsdowne Park which included another 4,000 vehicles and a speech by Canadian Alliance leader, Stockwell Day.

"There's a lot of frustrated and desperate farmers who are willing to hit the streets," said the general manager of the OFA, Neil Currie. "I don't think [the government] understands our problems."

According to Currie, the protest was in response to the Mar. 2 announcement by Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief of a $500 million federal farm aid package to help farmers better compete with foreign producers.

Currie said farmers feel the package is inadequate, adding the farmers had asked the cabinet to contribute $900 million to a package of $1.5 billion that would also include provincial funding.

"We don't have the option of telling our banks we can't pay back our loans," Currie said. "The provinces believe we should receive the funding, it's too bad the federal government doesn't feel the same way."

The Ministry of Agriculture is working with farmers to find a long term solution to their current plight, according to press secretary Dianne Guidon.

"We're still committed to helping our farmers get out of this crisis management mode," Guidon said.

She said Vanclief believes it is important to develop a strategic structure that will incorporate more innovations, a better crisis management plan, and a better understanding of changing consumer demands.

At the rally in Ottawa yesterday morning, Day spoke out in support of the farmers and said Canada is lagging behind other countries in their support of its agriculture industry, confirmed party spokesperson Debbie Guyapong.

"Our farmers are the most efficient producers in the world," Day said, "However, they cannot compete against European and US treasuries by themselves."

According to Guyapong, Day quoted statistics that said in 1999, 58 per cent of European farmers' income was provided by governments and 46 per cent in the US, while Canadian farmers received only 11 per cent of their incomes from the federal coffers.

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