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In February, a provincial news release about changes to agricultural crown advised that “The Manitoba government has launched a consultation focused on agricultural Crown lands, to ensure upcoming policy changes reflect the views of the livestock industry while improving fairness and transparency in the system [. . .]”.
Farmers’ market in Toronto’s David Pecaut Square (Tom Flemming, Flickr Creative Commons)
Ontarians heading to the polls on June 7 face a stark choice between two visions of government and two styles of governing. The choice they make could reverberate across the country. A Progressive Conservative victory under the leadership of the right-wing populist Doug Ford would almost certainly usher in another period of harsh and unnecessary austerity, and has the potential to set racial and economic justice back decades.
The question of who should get the right to own farmland in Saskatchewan has been a controversial one in recent years. The sale of $128 million in farmland holdings to the Canada Pension Plan in 2014 caused enough concern to move the government to prohibit pension plans and large trusts from acquiring farmland in Saskatchewan.
Each year up to 400 mostly Mexican workers come to Manitoba under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) to work on local farms. They perform physically strenuous work on vegetable farms and in greenhouses for up to eight months, year after year. Workers regularly toil twelve hours per day, six to seven days a week, and they live socially isolated from Canadian society.
By 2013 the Conservative government had cut overall federal taxes and other revenues to the lowest rate seen in more than 70 years. Between 2011 and March 2015, 25,000 to 30,000 federal public sector positions were eliminated. Between 2010 and 2015, 4,766 civil service jobs were lost in the prairie region (1,875 in Manitoba; 799 in Saskatchewan; 2,092 in Alberta).
If not reversed by the new government, significant spending cuts brought in by the federal Conservatives will compromise services and programs in the prairie region. These cuts have placed federal employees under tremendous stress while frustrating the public with undue delays in service delivery. If these cuts are not reversed and successful programs reinstated, future generations will have to deal with the consequences of loss of valuable services, deterioration of the environment and yet one more example of the tragedy of the commons. 
(Vancouver) A new study finds that citizenship status plays a key role in farmworker safety, and recommends significant changes to immigration policies to protect this vulnerable workforce. “Many British Columbians are probably unaware that immigrants and migrants make up nearly 100% of our farmworkers,” says Gerardo Otero, lead author of the study. “About half are South Asian immigrants and the other half Mexican migrants. And these workers, especially the migrants, are very vulnerable to exploitation.”
Based on interviews with 200 farmworkers, as well as representatives from industry, advocates and civil servants, this study finds that most BC farm workers are subject to hazardous conditions like unsafe transportation, substandard living conditions, long work hours and dangerous equipment. Employment standards for the agricultural sector are only loosely enforced. Recommendations include: