Political misstep may backfire

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A recent press release from the National Farmers Union (NFU) came as something of a surprise. It declared that the NFU was “…proud to declare its solidarity with Idle No More…”

Many readers of that proclamation probably wondered what a farm organization had in common with a protest group whose goals are obscure at best. But I guess the NFU could not resist supporting any cause that heaped abuse on its perceived political foe, the ruling Conservative federal government.

I can only surmise that the NFU was being politically expedient in expressing its solidarity with the Idle No More (INM) movement, being their connection seems somewhat contrived. The NFU tries to tie in their position on the demise of the Canadian Wheat Board, seed grower rights and changes to the Canadian Grain Commission to the hazy philosophy of the INM movement. I would doubt seriously if even a single INM participant would have the slightest clue what the NFU was talking about.

It gets sillier. The NFU then tries to tie in recent trade negotiations as an affront to democracy, as First Nations and Canadians were excluded from the process. Demanding democracy is always the standard position of any protest group when their views are ignored. The NFU did manage to get the support of one of the founding mothers of INM, who stated that the NFU was part of an essential alliance of those who want healthy land, food and water. Be that as it may, I suspect the goals of the INM movement would differ considerably from those of the commercial agriculture industry. In fact history would indicate quite the opposite, being agricultural development played a massive role in destroying the nomadic lifestyle of the First Nations culture.

Perhaps the NFU braintrust has overthought this as to political gain. I suggest that most agriculture folks would see the NFU support in a much more negative light. That won’t do the NFU much good as it struggles with a stagnant membership. I expect that most farmers and ranchers share the general taxpayer view that the INM approach will cost them more tax money for some pretty obscure goals. That negative perception may end up sticking to the NFU, it’s not something that will help scare up new members.

But I expect the NFU will soldier on despite any negative consequences, they have always held their principles important. They continue to have some support from the agricultural community. NDP and Liberal politicians usually give them some homage, although when in power those same politicians tend to treat the NFU with a sort of benign neglect.

Having said all that, there is a place for the NFU in the diverse world of ag politics, but perhaps this flirtation with the Idle No More movement would indicate that they are in need of better political advice. There would seem to be nothing to be gained for them from stepping into this issue except perhaps disdain and irrelevancy — both of which can be deadly for any organization.

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