What a time in history! A new year has just begun, with all the promise that brings. We may still be facing a global pandemic, but after two years, we all hope the end is in sight. That pandemic has opened our eyes to remote work and learning, has reshaped the field for international collaboration and has reset some of our priorities. A new Canadian government has formed and identified their commitments to the country, and a new Baking Association of Canada (BAC) team is ready for action.
One of the important news items that we were awaiting in the fall of 2021 was the release of the new federal Ministerial Mandate Letters. These letters help us all understand what the recently re-elected Liberal government will prioritize for action in the coming months and years and give us insight into the ways that we can work with this government to address issues of concern to our industry. Those letters were released in mid-December, and we have now had a chance to review them and look for promising areas of joint interest with, among others, the Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Agri-Food, Environment and Climate Change, Science and Industry, and International Trade/Export Promotion/Small Business and Economic Development. What is clear from these letters is the ongoing importance of the pandemic, but also the government focus on diversity and inclusion, the environment and economic opportunity for all. Perhaps key to our actions as an industry are the priorities of the Ministers of Health (the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos) and Agriculture/Agri-Food (the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau).
It is clear that the Minister of Health will have the COVID-19 pandemic as an area of major concern for the foreseeable future. Of the 19 commitments outlined by the Prime Minister in his letter to Minister Duclos, the first 10 were clearly aligned to this challenge. It is worth noting that commitments to the environment (collaborating with other ministries to strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection and Pest Control Acts) followed soon after the pandemic-related work. And some of the issues that have been given a great deal of attention in the past decade – including front-of-package labelling and restrictions on the marketing of food and beverages to children – were mentioned only once, nearer to the end of the list.
The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has been asked to have a very clear focus on the environment. Of 14 commitments outlined for this ministry, six involve collaboration with other ministries on climate action, alternative pest management, minimizing food waste, protecting fresh water and development of a green agriculture plan. Further, and of potential interest to the baking industry, is the direction that this ministry should explore steps to modernize the Canada Grain Act.
Two other ministries may also be focusing on projects of importance to the Canadian baking industry: the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (the Honourable Steven Guilbeault), and the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Industry (the Honourable François-Phillippe Champagne). Both ministers have been given extensive lists of commitments to achieve, and clean technology and climate change goals are important to each. Clearly the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has high priority on these programs and goals, with net-zero emissions figuring prominently in the list of expectations, but also achieving zero plastic waste by 2030 and establishing the Canada Water Agency, strengthening the Freshwater Action Plan and modernizing the Canada Water Act. Our colleagues in the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Industry are tasked with researching and developing the ways to achieve some of these targets, which may open new collaborative opportunities for the baking industry.
What is remarkable is that the BAC Technical and Nutrition Policy Committee (TNP) discussed many of these same issues at its November meeting! While several food labelling and nutrition standard issues continue to be important to our industry’s ongoing innovation and productive communication with consumers, there was discussion about the role of plastics in maintaining baked product freshness and quality. Going forward, we will need to reflect on where our TNP work needs to focus, to ensure that bakers are well positioned to contribute nutritious and excellent quality products, in the most sustainable way, to demonstrate to Canadians our commitment to a healthy future in all ways.
These past two years have seen many changes for individuals and society, and we have learned a great deal. For many Canadians that includes an appreciation for the art and gift that is baking! We will continue to innovate and collaborate to ensure the baking industry enjoys an excellent public reputation and business success. May you have a very happy new year, and we look forward to working with you to advance this mission!