On November 22 and 23, industry leaders representing the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) and the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC) met with nearly 60 Parliamentarians and civil servants in Ottawa to discuss key issues currently affecting the Canadian fresh fruit and vegetable sector.
Notably, CPMA and CHC representatives addressed the need for a national fruit and vegetable nutrition policy, as well as chronic labour shortages in the agricultural sector. Both issues are critical for the industry and have severe implications on the cost and quality of produce for the Canadian consumer. Following these intensive meetings, the CPMA and CHC also hosted a well-attended reception where representatives of the produce industry were able to cement relationships with MPs and their staff in a more informal environment.
“As the only G7 country without some form of national fruit and vegetable health/nutrition policy, we believe that it is time the federal government act to ensure that Canadians are consuming the recommended amount of servings as outlined in Canada’s Food Guide,” stated Sam Silvestro, Chair, Canadian Produce Marketing Association. “A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a cornerstone of good health and an important line of defense against chronic disease and excess weight.”
“Currently, the horticulture sector needs an extra 29,000 workers to function properly,” added Keith Kuhl, President, Canadian Horticultural Council. “The federal government needs to recognize that Canada’s agricultural industry relies on temporary foreign worker programs to get workers it can’t find in Canada, and that these programs need to improve.”
In addition to providing a diverse supply of healthy food for Canadian consumers, Canada’s fresh fruit and vegetable sector makes an important contribution to national economic output and employment. In 2013, the fresh fruit and vegetable sector supported 147,900 jobs and created $11.4 billion in real GDP.
Preparing for the meetings
On Monday afternoon, participants assembled in preparation for their meetings. Summa Strategies, an Ottawa-based political consulting firm, led the training session.
Meeting with MPs
Members of CPMA and CHC met with nearly 60 members of Parliament to discuss key issues currently affecting the Canadian fresh fruit and vegetable sector.
“These meetings were a great way to start and, in some cases, continue conversations with key MPs and their staff. They were very receptive to our input and recommendations. We just have to keep pushing forward to maintain this great momentum and hopefully get the policy changes we’re looking for.”
– Stéphanie Levasseur, Owner, Au coeur de la pomme, and President, Les Producteurs de pommes du Québec.
“Fall Harvest is the perfect opportunity for stakeholders from across the supply chain to come together and advocate for change. We had some extremely productive meetings with both new and veteran members of Parliament, and I look forward to them championing our issues on Parliament Hill. As a retailer, these meetings are essential to ensuring the health of our industry as a whole and I am proud to contribute to these efforts.”
– Mike Furi, CPMA Past Chair, the Grocery People
Engaging off-site with MPs and their staff
CPMA and CHC held a casual off-site reception where participants furthered relationships with MPs and their staff. The event was very well attended and enabled participants to continue conversations that were started earlier in the day, or to initiate dialogues that will be continued in future meetings.