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Liberals outline national food policy Add to ...

Michael Ignatieff is continuing his efforts to try to win back Grit votes in rural ridings with a national food policy promoting homegrown fare.

In a campaign-like announcement this morning, Mr. Ignagtieff used Holland Acres farm in King Township, Ont., as his backdrop to outline five areas where a Liberal government would concentrate its efforts on food policy.

This is another plank in the Liberal Leader's rural strategy - Rural Canada Matters. The Grits have no rural seats west of New Brunswick with the exception of Larry Bagnell's Yukon riding.

Recently, Mr. Ignatieff announced a plan to attract nurses and doctors to rural communities that are suffering from a lack of health-care professionals.

And then last week, Mr. Ignatieff laid down another marker when he told a police conference that a Liberal government would not scrap the controversial long-gun registry. Instead, he pledged several changes to it that he felt would make it fairer for gun owners.

His support for the gun registry, and his vow that his caucus would vote against a Tory MP's private member's bill to scrap it, rattled the Conservatives. They sprang into action with new radio ads targeting the eight Liberal MPs who initially supported the Tory bill and sent out a fundraising letter, asking for donations to help with the campaign to scrap the costly program.

Interestingly, the vote on the Tory gun-registry bill is not imminent; it is not expected until next month or perhaps even in June.

Mr. Ignatieff's latest rural policy, meanwhile, includes an $80-million Buy Local Fund "to promote farmers markets and home-grown foods." A Liberal government, he says, would also pledge $40 million to a Healthy Start program to help 250,000 low-income children. There are also measures for better food inspection and labeling.

As for farms, the Liberal program pledges to improve fertilizer and pesticide management and other measures to help farmers.

How would they pay for it? A Liberal government would use the some of the savings from their proposed freeze on corporate taxes to invest in their national food policy. They estimate that between $5-billion and $6-billion a year will be saved because of the freeze.

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