Canadians were hungry for change in the recent election, but perhaps not quite hungry enough. Other than photos of candidates chowing down, food didn't make it into the picture. Of course, lots of worthy and unworthy issues do and don't rate their 15 minutes on TV. People on low incomes can't always get people who are affluent to worry about poverty. People who have physical disabilities rarely get the attention of people who are temporarily able-bodied, while people who think prison reform is urgent can't get through to people who don't ever see themselves going to jail.
As a non-issue, food is worth following because it's not so much a victim of passive neglect as it is of denial. You can see what I mean if you consider the issue of sick care, which for some reason is equated with health care among Canadian politicians, and was by far the most promising issue in the campaign - in the sense of sheer promises made.
When all the major politicians, right, left and centre, commit solemnly to spending tens of billions of dollars of tax money to sustain health care and no one on the right, left or centre makes a mention of investing a dime to prevent disease by improving access to healthy food and lifestyles, something is clinically weird.
There's virtual unanimity among health policy experts that about 60 per cent of medical expenditures, including money to treat big and dreaded killers such as cancer and heart disease, deal with illnesses that could have been prevented by healthy diets and lifestyles.
It doesn't take a brain surgeon to spot the trend toward obesity, or to calculate the impossibility of any medical system being able to afford the back, knee, hip, diabetes, heart disease and cancer treatments that inevitably result from obesity.
It takes more than incompetent political leaders - it takes a powerful denial system - to miss a flabbernaut of this magnitude, but Canada's political system is up to the task. If food were just a health issue, I could be more philosophical, a word Canadians use to mean passive-aggressive apathy. But food is also something Canadians use to make dough from.
Canada's federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has squandered two world-class fisheries, the cod fishery off Newfoundland and BC's salmon fishery, over the last two decades. And before the department equated fisheries with oceans (not to mention unemployment insurance), it sat by while a world-class fishery in the Great Lakes was destroyed.
There's a $6-billion-a-year loss, this year and every year into the future, caused by those irresponsible screw-ups. That easily beats a one-time $100-million boondoggle in Quebec, the only issue to scandalize anyone, despite the fact that $100 million barely qualifies as a rounding error on the cost of the fisheries scandal.
And $2 billion in losses to the mad cow fiasco confirm that what the feds can do at sea can be done equally well on land.
Federal squandering of resources will continue unnoticed while land around cities - generally the best agricultural land - goes to suburban sprawl, thanks at least in part to federal tax schemes favouring builders over farm conservation.
Trying to deal with honouring the Kyoto agreement on global warming reductions, another big theme in the election, without a proactive policy on food isn't much different from talking about health care without mentioning food. Gassy foods, created by fossil fuel fertilizers and chemicals and long-distance supply chains that result in the average food molecule travelling 2,400 kilometres to a stomach, are leading culprits of global warming.
The Charter of Rights consolidated its hold over the ethical sense of Canadians in this election, without anyone bothering to ask what kind of Charter of Rights neglects the right to food, especially for some 10 per cent of Canadian children.
The democratic deficit was Prime Minister Paul Martin's pet issue, but no one raised the fact that some 40 crops have been accepted for genetic engineering without any debate in Parliament and without consumers knowing what GE ingredients are in their food.
I will stop ranting.
When no one plans to or seems to want to make political hay out of the situation, it's a sign that the political system is sick and has created a food system to match, and neither one is self-correcting.