WINNIPEG (B)--The Liberal party's third consecutive majority government will give Canadian Prairie farmers exactly what they did not want--the status quo. In the Nov. 27 federal election, the farmers largely voted against the Liberals, saying they were not even trying to address crucial agricultural issues. But overwhelming Liberal support in eastern Canada will leave many grain producers nearly voiceless for the next few years.
Lyle Vanclief, who held the Agriculture and Agri-Food cabinet portfolio in the last parliament, was re-elected in his Prince Edward-Hastings riding in Ontario, while Ralph Goodale, who served as Minister of the Canadian wheat Board, edged out his opponents in his Wascana riding in Saskatchewan.
The Liberals kept a low profile on agricultural policy as they were focused more on the urban constituencies in the provinces with the largest number of seats for the 301-member House of Commons.
Farmers have complained that Ottawa was not fully aware of what is causing the low profitability of farming business when demand is high for Canadian grains.
The Liberal Party under Prime Minister Jean Chretien captured 172 seats, securing a strong majority against the 66 seats won by the main opposition Canadian Alliance party. Chretien won his first majority government in October 1993 and was re-elected with another majority in June 1997.
The ruling party promised on its web site to "keep pushing for a level playing field for trade in agricultural products" and to continue providing farmers with "the tools they need to succeed financially."
But no new federal aid or changes to how financial aid was dispensed was mentioned. Goodale, on his web site, promised to continue defending the government-controlled marketer Canadian wheat Board against U.S. investigations into its trading practices.
Farmers responded to what they called the Liberals' indifference during the five-week election campaign by protesting on the Trans-Canada Highway at the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border.
At the polls, rural Manitoba voiced its outrage by electing no Liberals and ousting the only rural Liberal incumbent, David Iftody, in favor of the right-wing Canadian Alliance party's Vic Toews. In Saskatchewan, Goodale and former New Democrat Member of Parliament Rick Laliberte were the only Liberals elected.
Alberta returned its two incumbent Liberals, David Kilgour and Anne McLellan. McLellan, however, came close to losing her Edmonton West seat. Many analysts during the campaign said her race would be tight given a potential backlash against the Liberals' gun control policy.
The Liberals won only nine out of the total 54 seats in the three Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, five of which were in urban Manitoba. The Liberals had 10 seats in the Prairies before the election.