Rivers: Expecting an Election Campaign and We Get A Food Fight


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

July 26th, 2019


“Chocolate milk saved my son’s life” – Andrew Scheer

No that wasn’t the latest idiotic outburst from America’s Donald Trump. This is a serious comment from the political leader currently ahead in the polls going into Canada’s next election. Andrew Scheer is shunning the evidence provided by Canada’s leading health scientists and dieticians and shamelessly catering to the dairy and meat producing industry.


“Chocolate milk saved my son’s life” – Andrew Scheer

Deja vu? You bet! This behaviour should hardly be surprising, coming from someone who was a member of Stephan Harper’s ideologically-driven government. Science and knowledge were considered a potential threat to their lifestyle, or at least their ideology. So show me no evil… Didn’t Harper eliminate the long form census and muzzle government climate scientists?

The Canada Food Guide, which first appeared in 1977, is an integral component of Canada’s universal health care system. As we know, diet and exercise play a huge role in determining the state of our health. And in a publicly funded health care system with limited resources, it just makes sense, economically and holistically, to eat well in order to avoid problems that may land you in the doctor’s office or the hospital.

Former versions of the guide had been criticized by some health professionals as just another piece of advertising for the animal food industries, and thus misleading, inaccurate and past its best before date. A decade later and with a different government at the helm, the new guide has attempted to finally address that criticism.

fat kids

Obesity, especially in children, is a major public health issue.

Meat and diary are still there but meat is now, along with nuts and legumes, just a source of protein. And water is favoured over milk as the drink of choice. As we know, not everyone can tolerate lactose and not all adults can metabolize milk, which questions its value as the best dietary source of calcium. And haven’t a number of dairy products, including the chocolate milk Scheer feeds his children, been linked to the rising levels of obesity and diabetes in our society?

It is understandable that representing a riding in Saskatchewan, a province where agriculture along with oil and potash make up the economy of the province, that Andrew Scheer would feel compelled to defend farm interests. But not all farmers are dependent on animal husbandry and there are always other agricultural production options for those who currently are.

Scheer has been taken to task for claiming that ideology and not science was behind developing the new food guide. Having only ever been a politician, except for a brief stint selling life insurance, how would he possibly know that? And in fact he doesn’t – he has it wrong. It is he who is the ideologue.

canada-new-food-guide-2019The new Canada Food Guide is a science-based document which has been extensively researched and was crafted following wide ranging consultations across our society. It has taken a decade for the officials responsible to muster the courage to come forward, break with tradition, and tell it like it is. The guide is signalling that it’s time to cut back on meat and milk and salt and sugar… and fast food.

Something is unhealthy in the state of Canada… and it’s our eating habits. If our reliance on fast food and excessive meat and dairy is normal, then our rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer must be too. If we want to change the outcomes we need to change the inputs, what and how we eat.

To that end the guide promotes cooking at home rather than the ever growing practices of eating out and ordering in. Nothing could be more traditional than that, especially for a staunch ideological conservative like Mr. Scheer.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Fact Checking Scheer –   Misinformation –   Canada’s Food Guide

Food Guide Explained –   Industry Concerns –   Scheer and Bias

Milk and Calcium

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9 comments to Rivers: Expecting an Election Campaign and We Get A Food Fight

  • Ray Rivers

    Stephen – thank you for your comment. But please understand that my reference to Mr. Sheer’s experience was pertaining to his ability to criticize the science behind the new food guide, as he has done. There seems to be no real educational or experiential requirements for political leadership these days. And a former drama teacher should be no less qualified than a former life insurance salesman.

    • Stephen White

      Hey Ray: As far as I’m concerned the Party leader could be a plumber, a pipefitter, a welder or a used car salesperson, so long as they demonstrated some expertise, depth and credibility in that field prior to entering public life. What I see across all the major political parties is people being parachuted in or anointed as candidates who lack an understanding of their communities, have a limited appreciation of their party’s policy platform, and don’t possess the gravitas that comes from having developed some credibility in their field of endeavour. Too often, their focus is on the next rung up the political ladder rather than serving the needs of their constituents. The opportunism is what bothers me, and that, I suspect, is a contributing factor to voter apathy and cynicism.

  • Stephen White

    The issue isn’t just the content of the new Guide which may be quite sound. It is the consultation that preceded its creation that is what Scheer is highlighting.

    Health Canada began consultations in the fall 2016 on a new Food Guide, and the results were published in a report. In the summer of 2017 it completed the second consultation in which draft recommendations were released. Between the first and second stages of the consultation process officials purportedly did not meet with food or beverage industry representatives to review what was being contemplated because they wanted to ensure the recommendations were based on scientific evidence and free from conflict of interest.

    Either the researchers and policy advisors have sufficient confidence in their recommendations that it stands up to public scrutiny from all quarters, including industry representatives, or they don’t. If they do, then they should be open and transparent enough to share the results at all stages of the consultation process. This government has prattled on for four years about “transparency” and “openness” and “public consultation”, yet in reality they engage in behaviour that is contradictory, clandestine and hypocritical.

    As to Alide’s comment about Scheer’s education, he holds a B.A. in History supplemented by extensive experience working in government prior to being elected. That may not be astounding, but it’s light years better than a high school drama teacher who moonlightsed as a ski instructor and who is still living off his daddy’s coattails and inheritance. At least Scheer doesn’t make me cringe with embarassment when he visits India.

  • Bill Boyd

    Thanks, Ray, for your analysis of this particular issue as defined by Mr. Sheer. A non-issue it clearly is.

    But, just one question: To what extent is lack of access to wholesome food a more central issue? Not that lack of access, increasingly common in the U.S., occurs with similar frequency in Canada, but I do suspect that at least among some marginalized populations this possibly real issue needs serious attention.

    Bill down in Virginia

  • Alidë Camilleri

    You are so right in your assessment of Scheer. Does anybody know his level of education? It makes me feel so sad that we no longer believe in science, or that we seem to believe more in bluster rather than sober conclusions. I am one of those people who can not tollerate milk. Water is and has been my drink of choice long before the new food guide came out.

    • Phillip Wooster

      My former family doctor had it right. When I asked him about milk/dairy consumption, he indicated that milk was nutritionally sound BUT watch the fat content (skim or 1% only). His basic advice was avoid white suger, salt and processed food; everything else in moderation. Not hard to follow.

    • Phillip Wooster

      There is a stong suspicion that the “new” Food Guide smacks stongly of being a Liberal environmental “initiative” by limiting cattle/dairy herds.

  • Isn’t Scheer the guy who thinks chocolate milk comes from brown cows? Since chocolate must be imported, I wonder how much of a trade issue is lurking behind his endorsement.

    What I’ve seen of the Food Guide looks very well thought out and developed.

  • Gary

    It is an integral component of Canada’s health regime since 1977, is it? It is scientific and evidence based, you tell us. Then how do you explain this contradictory paragraph:

    “It has taken a decade for the officials responsible to muster the courage to come forward, break with tradition, and tell it like it is. The guide is signalling that it’s time to cut back on meat and milk and salt and sugar… and fast food.”

    Mr. Scheer may not be that far off the mark as you suggest.