A. What word best describes Lawrence MacAulay’s Food Policy Survey?
(1) Democracy; (2) Autocracy; (3) Hypocrisy.
I just completed the Federal Government’s online survey soliciting input from Canadians for a new National Food Policy.
I pretty much knew what to expect. And I was sure it would make me mad. It didn’t. It made me sad. It evoked the same hurt feeling an excited first-grader would likely feel after proudly presenting a coloured drawing of his family to his mom – with teacher’s red-circled A+ and a big shiny gold-star sticker splashed across the top – only to hear a distracted far-away monotone “that’s wonderful dear” response, without so much as glancing at either the child or the drawing. Sure, the words were exactly the right words…but hollow as the creepy smile on a carved-out pumpkin.
That’s how I felt after hearing Lawrence MacAulay – the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) – talking on CBC radio about how important it is that we give our input into a new National Food Policy. Only, the “child” in this real-life version of the above analogy is the entire Canadian population who have every right to expect that democracy still means something in Canada; that promises from Liberal politicians will be honoured; and opinions solicited in surveys will be taken seriously when our elected representatives vote on important social policy. But they won’t be…and that should make us all a little sad.
Despite Lawrence saying all the right things, we’d be crazy to believe there’s any reason to trust a single word he says. It’s now clear that he’ll say exactly what he knows his leader wants him to say – which happens to be what we want to hear – so as to make it appear that he and his government will do what they were elected to do; namely, honour the fundamental principles and values inherent in our democratic system by respecting the will of the majority of the people when voting on important issues and laws in the House of Commons.
It must be getting hard for MacAulay to maintain a straight face and to keep from choking on his words in media interviews, given that he has just voted against two incredibly-important public policy issues within the last few weeks, totally against the will of the majority of Canadians – as well as the majority of his own constituents: (1) GM labelling of food; and (2) Electoral Reform. Like the saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on you….fool me twice, shame on me.” We’re now clearly moving into “the boy who cried wolf” territory – where we have definitely earned the right to completely distrust and ignore anything Lawrence MacAulay says.
With the GM Labelling issue, the Federal government had already undertaken a comprehensive survey of Canadian opinion in 2016 (commissioned by Health Canada) which determined that 80% of Canadians want mandatory labelling of GM food. Our GM labelling survey input gave our government a clear mandate and should have brought about the desired democratic result. It didn’t. Lawrence MacAulay – like the majority of his fellow Liberal MPs – voted against that Bill. Now he expects us to take him seriously when he asks for our views on food issues? That’s pretty brazen.
Then just a couple of days ago Lawrence again demonstrated his contempt for the democratic will of his constituents with a vote against the federal report recommending electoral reform. And he did that despite: (1) an oft-repeated and firm pre-election promise by Justin Trudeau that a Liberal government would bring in electoral reform, and (2) a majority of Canadians wanting a new system of proportional representation and giving Justin Trudeau the mandate to do what he promised: abolish our first-past-the-post system.
Yet, Lawrence still has the audacity to assure us our input for a new National Food Policy is invaluable, asking us to take the time to complete his online survey. Does he honestly believe we’ll just forget or ignore the blatant hypocrisy he and most of his federal Liberal MPs have recently displayed so unabashedly?
Well, I was curious about the survey – having designed and delivered a few of my own over the years – so I logged onto the AAFC website and clicked the “Have your say!” button. What a pitiful excuse for an intelligent and fair information-gathering tool: “biased” doesn’t begin to capture the structural corruption built into this survey. A bad survey generates meaningless data; a corrupt survey generates data that the government needs to justify taking an approach it already plans to take….and this is a corrupt survey.
An hypothetical, concrete example will illustrate this key difference between a “biased” and “corrupt” survey. Imagine two distinctly-different business models available for community-based food production: “locally-owned and managed Cooperatives,” and “Transnational Agri-business Corporations.” A biased survey might ask, “How much better would Transnational Agri-business Corporations” be at producing food than “locally-owned and managed Cooperatives,” ranked on a 1-5 scale. That kind of question shows a definite preference for, and bias towards, Transnational Corporations over Cooperatives.
A corrupt survey, on the other hand, would ask a question like the following: “Should Transnational Agri-business corporations producing food in local communities be managed locally or from their foreign head office?” Regardless of the answer, the data can easily be construed to show widespread support for local food production being controlled by Transnational corporations. It’s never a good sign when the most important things people actually want are completely excluded from the options available in a survey.
You will find NONE of the following words in this food policy survey: Locally-owned; Cooperatives; GM0, Non-GMO, Permaculture; Compost; Integrated-Pest Management; Organic; Chemical-free, etc.
And the question about food labelling deliberately excludes the most important issue which 80% of Canadians have already told Lawrence MacAulay they want to see happen – mandatory GMO labelling on food! But his survey results will allow him to confidently declare that there was no indication from the survey that Canadians want GM foods labelled. Why? Because the survey question on food labelling asks us only to rate how important we believe the following statement is, on a scale of 1-5: “Making it easier for consumers to identify food that is consistent with their values (e.g., fair trade, animal welfare, environmental stewardship of natural resources, protection of habitat and biodiversity) through product labelling.”
The only positive thing I can say about this poor excuse for a survey is that “comments” can be added in some sections – although it isn’t possible to proceed from page to page without giving at least one answer or choice, even when there is no answer to accommodate someone wanting non-GMO, community-based, organic food production, which is, let’s be honest, extremely coercive.
So I took full advantage of every opportunity to offer comments, and yes, I perhaps used slightly more colourful language than I’m using in this article. And perhaps it was a tad cowardly, but I filled out the survey anonymously, identifying myself as a 90 year old man from Manitoba. God help me if they track my IP address!