Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Again, thank you to our witnesses.
I am a farmer. Right now, in some places in Alberta, we are still under snow. We have grain dryers that are going steady. That's happened in the past, so when people say it's all because of the changes that are happening, we also know what happened 50 years ago and 20 years ago, and how it continues. Ironically, this is one of the added stressors that farmers have because they've done so many things regarding mitigation of climate change, sequestering of carbon and so on, yet they feel like they are being attacked. Right now in Alberta, the average farm is probably paying $10,000 to $12,000 per year in carbon tax alone. These are different types of things.
We have government decisions in CRA that basically have called small business people tax cheats. Those are some of the kinds of things that take place.
We have governments that come in and say they can help the farm worker, but there's a difference between someone you are hiring and that owner-operator who is trying to deal with it, so you often feel as though you are being looked at in negative ways.
As for the scenario that has been talked about, there is unease about seeking help because if you show weakness, there's always somebody there who will help you out, but they're out looking for land to rent or buy. Are they helping you out in a positive way to say, “Hey, I think we can give you the best you can possibly get,” or are they waiting until you're at the stage where you can't do anything? That just adds to your stress. That's one of the key things.
If a child dies in a farm family, you know people are going to rally around and help get the crop off. If somebody is sick with cancer or whatever, you know there is going to be assistance there, but how do you get to the stage where people are going to help you out in that short term or potentially long term that is required? Having somebody like Maria around, to whom you can't say no, would be great, but how do we get that group of people together so that they are there, and so that you know that if they are talking to you they're not going to be talking to the neighbour down the road about when to start buying new equipment so they can cover your farm off? That is the key thing.
Maria, when you speak about the agricultural ombudsman, is that concept similar to what you were speaking of when you were saying there are mental health solutions or things that you have seen done? Is that what you would expect to see from an agricultural ombudsman, or is it simply another bureaucratic operation that we'd have to deal with as farmers, which we wouldn't trust anyway?