‘I have a strong suspicion that the Americans’ concerns are based on science.’
Marie-Claude Bibeau, the federal agriculture minister, wants Prince Edward Islanders to know that the federal government is working hard to overturn a trade ban on fresh P.E.I. potatoes to the United States.
Premier Dennis King of Prince Edward Island is lobbying officials, senators, and members of Congress in Washington this week.
To avoid anticipated American action, Canada halted the trade of P.E.I. potatoes to the United States, valued at an estimated $120 million.
Potato wart, a major agricultural pest, was discovered in two P.E.I. farms in October, causing alarm. Potato wart deforms potatoes and render them unmarketable, yet it poses no health risk to humans.
On Thursday, King questioned why Bibeau had not travelled to Washington with the group.
During a meeting with Canada’s ambassador to the United States, King expressed displeasure that he was requested to bring up a trade dispute involving electric vehicles while discussing potatoes.
“It’s time to get away of this nonsense and get to work on getting this open,” King remarked.
“Let’s act like we’re Team Canada if we’re truly Team Canada.”
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc chastised the premier in an emailed statement.
“In the future, Islanders would be better served by more respectful and productive behaviour,” he added.
Bibeau told CBC News on Friday that she wasn’t invited and just found out about the trip by chance. King said she was pressing the issue with the American ambassador in Ottawa while she was in Washington.
“We appreciate how crucial the potato sector is for farmers and everyone on the Island,” Bibeau told Mitch Cormier on Island Morning.
“We’re working on all fronts to help farmers and reestablish markets.”
All lobbying efforts are vital, according to Bibeau, but she believes the matter will be handled in the end by scientists from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in negotiations with scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture.
“I have a strong suspicion that the Americans’ concerns are founded in science. They are being far too cautious, in my opinion. It’s a question of risk tolerance “Bibeau stated.
“It is, without a doubt, a key priority. On this topic, we have our best scientists and trade commissioner, and I am personally very, very interested. Potato wart is my biggest priority right now, aside from the B.C. floods.”