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Federal food policy consultations underway

Multiple federal departments to be involved in policy drafting

(Staff photo)

The long-discussed-and-debated notion of a public pan-Canadian food policy has taken a move forward with a new online survey from the federal government.

Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay on Monday announced an initial round of consultations and called on the public to “share their input to help shape a food policy that will cover the entire food system.”

The new policy, dubbed A Food Policy for Canada, is described as “a new step in the government’s mandate to taking a collaborative and broad-based approach to addressing food-related issues in Canada.”

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture on Tuesday said the government’s announcement “addresses a long-standing priority for farm groups.”

The survey is meant to cover off four major themes: increasing access to affordable food, improving health and food safety, conserving soil, water and air, and growing more high-quality food.

The online consultation, the government said, will be the “first of a number of engagement activities planned with a wide range of participants to inform the development of a food policy.”

For example, A Food Policy for Canada Summit is to be held June 22-23 in Ottawa, “to provide a space for stakeholders, experts, and key policy makers to share views on the development of A Food Policy for Canada.”

CFA president Ron Bonnett said the group is “encouraged” that 16 departments and agencies are to be involved in the food policy’s development, particularly “central agencies” such as Finance Canada and the Privy Council Office, “as they will be instrumental in ensuring a whole-of-government mandate.”

The food policy consultation web site is also linked to previous initiatives, from both governmental and non-governmental groups, such as the CFA’s 2011 Towards a National Food Strategy document, Bonnett noted.

“Farm leaders saw the need for a widely co-ordinated approach several years ago, and are looking forward to actively participating as the consultation moves forward.”

Feedback from the survey is expected to provide “a better understanding of Canadians’ priorities when it comes to food-related issues” and to “help inform key elements of a food policy, including a long-term vision and identifying actions to take in the near term,” the government said.

“Food plays a critical role in the health and well-being of Canadians, while also having a direct impact on our environment, economy and communities,” MacAulay said Monday.

“Developing this food policy is an exciting opportunity for Canadians to have their say about how government can help address those opportunities and challenges that exist in our food system,” he said.

Bonnett noted Tuesday that “much of the detail is still to be determined,” but added the group commends the government for “reaching out to stakeholders and setting the direction to see this long-time request put into place.” — Network

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