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Canadians asked to weigh in on food policy by Katerina Georgieva, June 1, 2017

‘We want to put together the best food policy for Canada that we possibly can’

Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay is turning to Canadians for input as he develops a national food policy.

The government launched an online survey on Monday. It encourages people to share their points of view on the food issues they care about the most.

"We want to put together the best food policy for Canada that we possibly can," MacAulay said.

The minister acknowledges that there are many different issues in different areas of the country.

"We have people likely right in Prince Edward Island that need availability to more affordable food, and to make sure the distribution is done right," he said.

'It's a big scope'

The food policy is intended to address the entire food system, from the moment the soil is touched, to the moment food is consumed.

The survey asks people for input in four areas: food affordability, health and food safety, the environment, and increasing high-quality food production.

It's part of a larger public consultation initiative that will include roundtables across the country. MacAulay said he's encouraging MPs to hold them in their ridings.

"It's a big scope, and I'm very pleased to be the minister responsible. I consider it an honour…. I feel quite sure that we will develop a food policy that will be very helpful to our country and to our citizens."

MacAulay explained that food safety is an issue that resonates with Canadians. "They want to be sure that we have it."

The Island-born minister said that having previously been a farmer himself, it makes him that much more passionate about this issue.

Spreading the word

On P.E.I., organic farmer Alexander MacKay shared the survey on his Facebook page, encouraging others to lend their voices to it.

The Hope River local felt strongly about wanting to spread the word: "You have to say, there's an issue that I feel compassionate about. I feel that people need to be encouraged to click on it, and see if it's of interest to them."

When it comes to food issues, prioritizing organic farming is MacKay's greatest concern. He'd like to see it expanded. 

'Let's feed people properly'

MacKay said he'd also like to see more financial security for farmers.

"In order to make food affordable for you, and for people, generally, the government has to come up with ways to ensure farmers ... get an income. Nobody should work for free, and nobody should lose money going to work."

He says organic food should be cheaper.

"Let's feed people properly," said MacKay. "The way to do that is to make sure that [an] organic farmer is making money and doesn't have to charge more than anybody else."

The online survey will be available to Canadians until July 27, 2017. The roundtables will continue into the fall and winter.

MacAulay said it's too soon to tell what the food policy will actually look like, but it should be packaged together by late winter or early spring.