Tom Manley is going to The Show. As of June 8, Eastern Ontario’s own organic agriculture guru and Green Party candidate in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry has been called up to the political majors.
In his capacity as Green national agricultural advocate, Manley is representing his party at the national agriculture debate in Ottawa, a federal election feature sponsored by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
Opening at 11 am, the June 8 debate is set for the University of Ottawa alumni auditorium, 85 University Ave. Participants will present policy platforms and debate questions posed by a panel of farm leaders.
Manley will get to take on the big guy himself, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Bob Speller, along with federal agricultural critics Gerry Ritz (Conservative), Dick Proctor (NDP) and Louis Plamondon (Bloc).Manley’s CFA invitation wasn’t automatic: "They didn’t include me at first, but after I called to tell them who I was, they let me know I should come ahead in."
That kind of revamped reception has eluded the Greens in other arenas. So far, they’ve been shut out of nationally televised leaders debates despite the fact the party is running a candidate in every riding.
Some of the most recent polling shows the Greens with five per cent of voter support nation-wide, compared to the Liberals at 35 per cent, Conservatives 30 per cent, NDP 17 per cent, and Bloc at 12 per cent.
Manley said he’s "proud and eager" to take part in the debate and help provide Canadians with another opportunity to "evaluate further political options."
In a preview of his debate position, the soft-spoken Manley slammed "mainstream" parties at both the federal and provincial levels for promoting the "get big or get out" approach to agriculture.
"Over the past decades, that direction has led to a steady erosion of net farm incomes, a dramatic reduction in the number of farmers, and an increasingly negative environmental impact of industrial farm practices."
Owner of Homestead Organics at Berwick, Manley cited his party’s "unique and fresh vision for sustainability in agriculture".
"The platform calls for a revival of mixed family scale farms, supported by improved supply management that opens the door to new farmers, a fairer share of the consumer food dollar, and local processing and marketing infrastructures."
This is Manley’s second back-to-back campaign. Last October, as the Green provincial agricultural advocate, he surprised many observers by collecting 2,093 votes in the same very traditional riding which has as urban centre the City of Cornwall.
His total bumped out the NDP for a third place finish, making Manley only one of two Green candidates to accomplish the feat in Ontario and, in the process, turned him into a hot Green property.
Raised on the family dairy farm in Stormont County, the fluently bilingual Manley has a background in business, computer science and is a former officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.
He’s known primarily for his dedication to organic farming and organic food processing, serving as key organizer of the annual Eco Farm Day held over the winter in Cornwall.