Canadian pledge to support Ukraine rebuild is an ‘insult’: Essex County farmers
Some Canadian farmers are offended by a recent federal government announcement that it will donate millions to Ukraine.
It’s not that they don’t believe the war-ravaged country needs help – far from it.
However, local farmers have objected to the government using $34 million in tariffs it imposed on Russian fertilizer imports this spring.
“It’s almost an insult to Canadian agriculture how they’re dealing with it,” Leo Guilbeault told CTV News on Friday from his farm near St. Joachim. “It’s a big deal. $34 million on top of the cost of your meal is a big deal.”
Earlier this week, the Canadian government announced a plan to give Kyiv $115 million to rebuild its ailing power infrastructure.
A spokesman for Canada’s Department of Agriculture and Food confirmed on Friday that part of that will be the $34 million they raised for fertilizer imports from Russia.
“They (the Canadian government) imposed tariffs on fertilizers that were bought before the war, which we felt was really unfair,” Guilbeault said. “The ships (with Russian fertilizers) were already on their way (to Canada) before the start of the war.”
Guilbeault noted that by the time the ships docked in Canada, importers faced a 35 percent tariff on the Russian fertilizer.
According to Guilbeault and Canadian food analysts, Russia is one of the largest suppliers of nitrogen fertilizers.
“Your potatoes, your tomatoes, all your meat, your bread, your cereal, your veggies, they’re all costing you $34 million more because we had to incur all of those costs,” Guilbeault said.
“It’s a bit insulting. It’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
According to Charlebois, the government has “impacted the ability of many farms to make money and remain financially sustainable this year”.
Also, Charlebois believes that fertilizer tariffs had no impact on Russia because the raw material was paid for before it left the country.
“[Aid to Ukraine]will make Ottawa and Canada look good,” Charlebois said. “But if you look at where the money is actually coming from, it’s actually coming from the farmers. One wonders why this sum is so politicized.”
Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau’s spokeswoman told CTV News the government intends to refund farmers the $34 million they paid in Russian fertilizer tariffs.
She also said they hope to make an announcement about it soon, but they are working on the logistics of repaying farmers when the duty was primarily paid by importers.
When asked by CTV News why the government decided to announce aid to Ukraine before helping its own farmers, the spokesman declined to comment.
Guilbeault, for his part, believes Canada should help Ukraine rebuild after the war with Russia.
“But take the money from the general coffers,” Guilbeault said. “When you give money back, you give it back to the farmers who paid for it so we can lower our costs, which would lower the cost of food in Canada.”