VICTORIA— After nine years of mismanagement that has driven many small agricultural producers out of business, the B.C. Liberals have finally admitted the Buy B.C. program was a key plank in a strategy to keep farmers working, says New Democrat agriculture critic Lana Popham .
“Buy B.C. was a cost-effective, successful program that should have never been cancelled. Now, even as the minister admits the Buy B.C. program would help struggling fruit growers, he is offering little hope that it will be restored in the next budget,” said Popham. “This is a stunning example of how the B.C. Liberal government’s narrow partisan agenda blinds them to what is best for the province.”
Today B.C. Liberal agriculture minister Steve Thompson suggested in a radio interview that the Buy B.C. program could be the key to helping struggling fruit growers in the Okanagan stay in business, yet despite the fact that the program costs little more than what the government is spending on Olympic tickets for B.C. Liberal friends and insiders, he would not commit to reinstating it.
“After nine years of B.C. Liberal incompetence the agriculture industry is on its knees,” said Popham. “Countless small producers have gone out of business, and key players like the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative are consolidating; they’ve closed three packing houses just in the last few years.”
Popham noted that in 2001, when the program was axed, there were over 1,200 companies and associations using the Buy B.C. logo in their advertising and promotional materials and over 5,000 Buy B.C. products identified at major grocery retailers throughout the province.
“The cancellation of Buy B.C. and the B.C. Liberal decision to throw meat producers into chaos with their clumsy reworking of meat regulation are two examples of how the half-baked agriculture policy of this government has hurt the industry,” said Popham. “People are losing their livelihoods, communities are taking economic hits, and instead of taking action, the B.C. Liberal minister is bringing nothing to the table.”
Carole James and the New Democrats have committed to encouraging the growth of our high-quality and environmentally sustainable agriculture industry by reinstating the Buy B.C. program and restoring the right of consumers to buy fresh local meat from the farm gate.