Aid to Ukraine 'on the backs' of farmers
Finance Minister is open to compensation for farmers.
Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says she is willing to compensate eastern Canadian farmers for the effects of sanctions against Russia.< /p>
Eastern Canadian farmers are seeking federal compensation because they say they have suffered a disproportionate effect from sanctions imposed on Russia from the start of the conflict in Ukraine.
While in Paris on Tuesday, Canada's Minister of Finance announced with great fanfare $115 million to help Ukraine rebuild its electricity network.
This money will come from the 35% customs tariffs levied by Canada on imports from Russia and Belarus.
However, it turns out that Canadian farmers will indirectly finance, and despite them, a good part of this amount. Ottawa estimates $34.1 million in tariffs collected on Russian and Belarusian fertilizers since its sanctions were imposed. This represents 30% of the 115 million pledged last Tuesday.
Farmers feel that this money has been taken straight out of their pockets.
They have nothing against sanctions against Russia or aid for Ukraine, but we cannot do it on the backs of the producers, underlines the president of the Union of agricultural producers (UPA) of Quebec, Martin Caron.
The Deputy Prime Minister of Canada during her visit to Paris on December 13, where her aid to Ukraine was announced.
Farmers in Quebec and the Atlantic region have surprised and hit hard last March when Canada announced its sanctions regime.
In eastern Canada, producers are largely dependent on nitrogen fertilizers from of Russia and Belarus. Their purchases were already done when the ax fell.
We were taken hostage, recalls Martin Caron. This 35% fee had to be paid, knowing that the cost of fertilizer had doubled.
UPA President points out that producers in Eastern Canada are disadvantaged by these punitive measures. Farmers in the West have access to other sources of supply, while those in the United States have not had to pay any tariffs.
The UPA is asking for a special compensation program for eastern farmers from the federal government.
“We need much more support, because this has had major impacts on our businesses, knowing that we are the only ones in America who have had to pay these costs.
—Martin Caron, President of the Union des producteurs agricole
Farmers in Eastern Canada depend on nitrogen fertilizer from Russia.
The Minister of Finance seems to have heard their call. I understand the situation very well and it is not the fault of these agricultural producers, she acknowledged in a scrum in Ottawa on Thursday.
The door is open for compensation, assures Chrystia Freeland. According to our information, Ottawa intends to return the full amount of 34.1 million to affected farmers in eastern Canada. However, the path to get there is complex.
Agricultural producers are seeking direct compensation, while Ottawa instead wants to provide financial assistance through existing programs. Discussions are ongoing with the office of the Minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau.
“It's a job that must be done in close collaboration with agricultural producers. The will exists on our side.
— Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
However, Minister Freeland is not setting a deadline.
< p class="e-p">Farmers are demanding answers as soon as possible, as it is already time to buy fertilizer for the next harvest season.
To absorb rising input costs, Ottawa had already adjusted its advance payment program. The value of the interest fee reduction is estimated at $69 million over two years for farmers.
Canada is the only G7 country to impose tariffs on Russian fertilizers. The Secretary General of the United Nations discourages this practice, to avoid worsening the world food crisis.
Despite everything, Minister Freeland is keen to maintain the sanctions regime in place. Russia does not and should not have privileges when it comes to international trade with Canada, she argued.