Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Western Canadians have highest trust in farming sector

Opinion survey highlights public's support

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In a year in which many of them have been plagued by everything from grain-transportation woes to flooded fields, western Canadian farmers finally have something to feel good about.

A new public opinion survey conducted on behalf of the Canada West Foundation (CWF) shows farming is far and away the most trusted resource sector in the eyes of Western Canadians, with 67 per cent of respondents saying they have a high level of trust in it.

That compares to scores of only 46 per cent for the forestry sector, 39 per cent for the energy sector, and 34 per cent for the mining sector.

For Manitoba, the results were similar: scores of 68 per cent for farming, 40 per cent for forestry, 33 per cent for energy and 31 per cent for mining.

"Respondents love farming... ," the CWF states in its Restoring Trust: The Road to Public Support for Resources Industries report, which was to be released today.

"When asked which resource industry they are proud of and which one is approachable, farming was the clear winner. The farming industry has managed to maintain an image of small, local, family-run operations that are approachable, reliable and environmentally sustainable, while also being important to western Canada's success."

The report says respondents in all four western provinces recognize that resource industries in general do well in terms of contributing to the economy and creating jobs. However, they feel they could do a better job on the three key issues that matter most to communities: keeping promises, protecting local health and safety, and safeguarding the local environment.

While the farming sector received top marks on virtually all measures of performance and trust, the report warns there's no room for complacency.

"The perceived performance of farming, though better than the other three resource industries, is not perfect," it said, noting there are lingering public concerns about the use of additives, chemicals and pesticides.

Also, "an event, like a food security issue, could escalate and rattle public support for farming," it adds.

It said a common theme with the forestry, mining and energy sectors is a lingering public perception that many of their business practices are not socially responsible or environmentally sustainable. They're also perceived as being motivated solely by financial gains.

Len Coad, the CWF's director of natural resources policy, said all three industries have some work to do if they want to earn more public support.

"They should be getting into the local communities and listening more closely to what the local communities are saying are their priorities and acting on them to the extent that they can," he said.

The survey of 3,038 residents was conducted in March by polling specialist Ipsos Reid, and is considered accurate within plus or minus 2.2 per cent.

 

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2014 B7

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