Peace River MP, and now Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin had some big changes to adapt to in 2015, namely his adjustment from being a member of the governing Conservative Party of Canada to a member of the significantly reduced federal opposition. However, the change did open up the opportunity for Warkentin to serve as the Agriculture and Agri-food critic for the opposition, a responsibility he says is a real honor.
“This is a senior position within our caucus and I have been the voice of farmers throughout the Peace country for the last ten years, but now to be asked to be the voice and the defender of farmers from coast-to-coast, it really is an additional responsibility and something that I think I’m well equipped for.”
He says in this role a big priority for the coming year is working to improve Canada’s market access when it comes to agricultural exports.
“The products that we produce here in Canada are second-to-none and the world wants them; we just simply have to get access to those markets so that we can sell our products at a premium price and ensure that Canadian farmers are getting the best price that they possibly can. There’s work to be done on that file.”
Warkentin says he also has concerns over somewhat volatile commodity prices, but that there are ways to help mitigate potential price drops and ensure that farmers are getting the best possible return.
While Warkentin is looking back at the eventful year of 2015, he is also looking towards the next year with trepidation. Warkentin says he and his party are very concerned about the state of Alberta’s economy and the massive job losses that have happened this year, and those that expected to come in 2016.
“This is not a normal reality. We’ve seen the drop in commodity prices in the past, but in every case, governments at the provincial and federal level responded by ensuring that they didn’t implement additional taxation; they didn’t implement additional payroll taxes. That’s what the current governments are doing.”
Warkentin says all levels of government need to take a step back and work towards a strategy to help preserve jobs during these tough economic times and not exacerbate the problem further.