New mandate letters for ministers

The Prime Minister has asked key ministers to continue with implementation of the national food policy.  The language of the mandate letter to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food suggests no new implementation measures are being considered, a problem given how weak the announced initiatives are (see earlier blog posts).  The letter also maintains the division between the National Food Policy and existing agricultural policy and programming, a situation that needs to be resolved so that a national food policy is the overarching framework within which agricultural policy is developed.

Although many of the PM’s instructions reinforce the dominant way of looking at the food system (e.g., conventional notions of technology, innovation, trade agreements and export), there are a few small hopeful notes within Minister Bibeau’s letter.  She is urged to seek advice from many actors, including civil society, which suggests the National Food Policy Advisory Council is still in play.  Prior to the election, nominations to the Council were solicited, but there is no word yet on when membership will be announced.

On the agricultural side, the Minister is encouraged to work with the provinces and territories to improve business risk management programs for farmers, with the Minister of Finance on inter-generational farm transfer, with the Minister of Health on safe and sustainable use of pesticides, and with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change on water issues.

Other mandate letters reinforce the view that announced initiatives related to the national food policy will continue their roll out, without any new elements.  The Minister of Health will continue to implement the Healthy Eating Strategy, restrictions on food advertising to children, and front-of-pack labeling.  The Minister is also asked to implement a seafood traceability program with Fisheries and Agriculture, presumably part of the announcement on fraud prevention, and with several Ministers, including Agriculture and Agri-food on an antimicrobial resistance strategy. Noticeably, there is no mention of the Nutrition North program, so that initiative may now be considered implemented, though criticisms remain regarding its effectiveness and equity.

The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development is to continue work on poverty reduction, and a pan Canadian child care strategy.  Several other ministers have secondary roles on these and related files.

There is no mention in any mandate letters of who in the government will lead discussions with the provinces and territories on a national school food program.