SOURIS - Tory Leader Olive Crane is promising to help the primary industries attain stronger advocacy in government by taking large-scale processors out of the agriculture and fisheries ministers' portfolios.
Crane held a news conference at a Souris farm Tuesday morning, outlining her commitment to work with farmers and fishers to help them increase their markets and find new ways to add value to their yields.
But one of the biggest concerns she said she has been hearing from people who work in these sectors is they are not feeling respected by the Robert Ghiz government.
"Agriculture and fisheries is the backbone (of rural P.E.I.)," Crane told reporters.
"What they're so disappointed with is there's just no respect there for their industries. It's like no one wants them anymore. But we do."
To give Islanders in these sectors more voice and representation by government, Crane made an election promise to separate the responsibility for food and fish processors out of those departments and move it into the Department of Innovation.
Crane said having the agriculture minister representing both farmers and big food processors like McCain's, for example, is a conflict of interest.
"Our agriculture minister should be your biggest advocate for the agriculture community," Crane explained.
"We need an agriculture minister that their priority is not only working with the industry and other provinces, but really working on getting that respect back."
Crane was joined in Souris Tuesday by two of her fellow Progressive Conservative candidates with farming and fishing backgrounds.
Mary Ellen McInnis, dairy farmer and PC candidate for Vernon River-Stratford, said she has heard many concerns from farmers especially on the doorsteps. They are worried about the future of these industries on P.E.I., McInnis said.
"We need to be able to keep our youth here and keep them involved in farming and be able to continue to grow our industry," she said.
Colin LaVie, who is challenging Innovation Minister Allan Campbell for the riding of Souris-Elmira, spoke of how he has seen first hand the difficulties faced by fisherman on P.E.I. He was highly critical of Campbell and the fact that he sold his lobster license in 2008 after being offered a cabinet post.
"My opponent, who is supposed to be our MLA and fisherman by trade, has traded in his fishing boots for a bright red tie and then forgotten where he came from," LaVie said.
"He has forgotten what it feels like for fishers in the area to struggle with low prices."
Crane pledged to work with the agriculture and fisheries sectors to find new markets and opportunities for products and to help increase value-added components to these products.
She also promised to negotiate with the federal government and try to establish greater stability for the prices of primary products.
Further, she promised to allow farm-plated vehicles to use marked diesel when operating on Island highways.
"The new PC team believes in the strength of our farming and fishing families as the strength of our rural economy," she said.