Stephen Harper's attacks on the Canadian Wheat Board are just the beginning of a Conservative hope to eliminate agricultural marketing boards, Stéphane Dion charged Friday.
"Their dream is to get rid of supply management," the Liberal leader said, referring to the marketing board system.
Harper's Conservative minority government tried to break the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly over western barley sales, a move critics said was indicative of future attacks on the marketing board.
The Canadian Wheat Board and its supporters, including many farmers, maintains the board needs its monopoly on sales of wheat and barley in western Canada to assure supply to customers and ensure the best prices for farmers. However, many other farmers believe they can get better prices marketing independently.
"If he's attacking the Canadian Wheat Board, what will happen to supply management?" said Dion while campaigning in the small southwestern Ontario community of Belmont.
Marketing boards are tools to help farmers, he said. "The Conservatives don't believe in these tools."
Dion said that since the Tories have only a minority of seats in the Commons, they've kept their plans to themselves — "they have to be careful" — but that would change with a majority government.
'Need a strong rural Canada'
The Liberal leader also stressed the party's already-released promises to help farmers reduce greenhouse gases, promote local farmers' markets and fund region-specific agriculture solutions.
"We need a strong rural Canada for Canada to succeed," Dion said, with former leadership rival Gerard Kennedy and local candidate for Elgin-Middlesex-London Suzanne van Bommel at his side.
He also pledged to help bring broadband internet to all Canadians and put a moratorium on rural post office closures.
"We want broadband internet for everyone and we will work with you for that," said Dion.
A Liberal government would also provide volunteer firefighters with a refundable tax credit of $2,000, he said.