Canola farmers praise Pallister's promise to increase minimum biofuel content in diesel
Re-elected Progressive Conservative government would also invest in wetlands
Canola farmers caught in the middle of an international dispute with China are praising an election promise by Brian Pallister to increase Manitoba's biodiesel mandate.
The pledge by the Progressive Conservative leader Tuesday would see the province's biodiesel requirement — the minimum percentage of biofuels in diesel — rise to five per cent from two.
The move is something the Manitoba Canola Growers Association has been lobbying for. Its members' canola is used to create oil that then makes biodiesel.
"We've lost the China market for canola and this is a way to increase the consumption of canola locally," said association president Charles Fossay.
He said since China banned canola seed imports from two Canadian companies, canola farmers have had to export their harvests to Europe to be used in biodiesel.
He's hoping the promise from the PCs will help farmers like himself maintain prices for their canola.
"There are other markets in the world other than China but China was a very significant customer of ours and when your largest customer tells you they don't want your product anymore it's concerning," said Craig Riese, a Selkirk area farmer and director with the Keystone Agricultural Producers group.
The Tories are also promising to increase the minimum percentage of ethanol that goes in gasoline to 10 per cent from 8.5. That could help wheat and grain farmers across Manitoba.
There is a large ethanol plant in Minnedosa, Man., which buys a lot of Manitoba corn and wheat to convert into ethanol, Fossay pointed out.
Pallister said the requirements would be the highest in Canada and would reduce Manitoba's emissions by 375,000 tonnes over three years which he said would be the equivalent of taking 75,000 cars off the roads. Pallister said he will not impose a carbon tax on Manitobans.
"We're going forward with the Made in Manitoba green plan but we're not going to support a rising carbon tax as Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Kinew are proposing."
The PCs also promise to add $50 million to an existing trust fund that helps landowners preserve wetlands and other natural areas on farms.
He estimated about four per cent of income from the fund yearly would be spent in perpetuity. The PCs later said the money would be used to preserve about 75,000 acres of lands that encompass seasonal wetlands in Manitoba, in addition to 100,000 acres of more permanent wetlands already preserved by the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation.
PC Riel candidate Rochelle Squires, who held the government's sustainable development portfolio, said it will help to protect wetlands.
"We've lost 50 per cent of our wetlands in the province of Manitoba over the last century. We know we're not going to be able to restore that number but we're certainly working towards restoring as many wetlands as we can."
NDP tout sewage treatment promise
NDP Leader Wab Kinew has promised he would commit $500 million for the province's share of upgrading the City of Winnipeg's main sewage treatment plant in the North End. He said he was disappointed the Tories didn't commit to do the same Tuesday.
"Everyone that I speak to wants to save Lake Winnipeg," Kinew said. "They want to save our lake but we know that the single greatest source of pollution that's compromising Lake Winnipeg is sewage from our city and so we need to build the North End sewage treatment plant full stop."
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the Pallister government's "inaction" over the past three years on the environment has pushed Lake Winnipeg to the point of crisis.
"This is not the first time the PCs have ignored crucial issues that Manitobans and Manitoba Liberals have been pushing the government to take action on — only to bring them up as issues for re-election," Lamont said in a statement.
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With files from Ian Froese and Bartley Kives