As It Happens

P.E.I. farmer apologizes in local paper for calling agriculture minister 'an arsehole'

Minister Lawrence MacAulay says he has received Ranald MacFarlane's apology and accepts it.

Lawrence MacAulay says he received the apology and accepts it

P.E.I. farmer Ranald MacFarlane formally apologized to the federal agriculture minister for calling him 'an arsehole' by writing a letter to the editor to the Guardian newspaper. (CBC, Connor Duffy via @Katemckenna8/Twitter )
Listen6:08

Ranald MacFarlane has apologized for calling the federal agriculture minister an "arsehole" during a farmer protest.

Lawrence MacAulay, a P.E.I. MP, was in Pooles Corner on Friday to make a federal spending announcement when he came face to face with a protest by local farmers upset about Canada's new trade deal with the U.S.

"A hundred of us landed there with pickup trucks and a cow and protest signs — and it's not like farmers here to pick up protest signs, but they did," MacFarlane, a pig and dairy farmer from Fernwood, P.E.I., told As It Happens host Carol Off.

He said four young farmers at the protest planned to read "victim impact statements" to the minister detailing how the new deal would affect their future livelihoods — but MacAulay "didn't want to listen to it."

"Some farmers persuaded Lawrence to stay and sit and listen to these kids," he said. The minister's office says MacAulay stayed "without any objection and on his own accord."

It was after this that MacFarlane says he lashed out.

"Eventually Lawrence was leaving — my voice has a tendency to carry for some reason — and Lawrence turned and looked at me and I looked at him and I said, 'You're an areshole, Lawrence,'" MacFarlane said. 

"He heard it. I know he heard it. He looked at me. He looked sour."

Dairy farmers took charge of the podium at a federal spending announcement in Pooles Corner. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

That's when MacFarlane said a fellow farmer approached him and said, "You can't do that. We don't do name calling. That's not going to get us anywhere."

"And he was right," MacFarlane said.

So he sent the minister a formal apology — in the form of a letter to the editor published in P.E.I.'s Guardian newspaper.

"I would like to formally apologize to you for calling you an arsehole last Friday at the hall in Pooles Corner," MacFarlane wrote. 

Apology accepted

MacFarlane hasn't heard from MacAulay since, but a spokesperson for the minister told As It Happens he has seen the apology and accepts it.

Despite being sorry for the strong language, MacFarlane also used the letter to further criticize the Liberal government over the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which gives U.S. farmers greater access to Canada's dairy industry.

Many Canadian farmers see the deal as an affront to Canada's supply management system, which limits supplies of dairy, poultry and eggs to what Canadians are expected to consume, while enforcing high tariffs on foreign imports.

MacFarlane called USMCA "a deal with the Devil."

"They have given away a huge piece of industry," he said. "For 40 years, myself and all these other dairy farmers have worked for nothing."

In an emailed statement to As It Happens, a spokesman for MacAulay defended the deal, saying the U.S. was "calling for the complete elimination of the supply management system," but Canada "defended and preserved" it.

"As a trading nation, Canadians expect their government to ensure their continued prosperity through secure and stable access to Canada's largest trading market," the statement reads. 

"With this agreement-in-principle, we have maintained all existing tariff free access to the American market for Canadian agri-food exports, and have protected the hundreds of thousands of jobs that rely on that access."

Lawrence MacAulay has accepted MacFarlane's apology, but continues to defend USMCA. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised dairy farmers will be compensated for their expected losses under the new trade deal.

The government will set up a working group of industry representatives to determine how and when that compensation will be distributed.

"We will continue to strongly support our supply management farmers and processors," the minister's office said. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Ranald MacFarlane produced by Jeanne Armstrong.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story stated that Lawrence MacAulay refused to listen to statements read by four protesting farmers. In fact, the minister did stay and listen.
    Oct 16, 2018 11:57 AM ET

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