(Jan. 26) Canada’s voters Jan. 23 gave ruling power to the Conservative party, and new Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he will work to cut taxes and restore relations with the U.S.

The transition to Canada’s new government will take seven weeks or more and will translate to changes in leadership of many government agencies, including Agriculture Canada.

John Anderson, president and chief executive officer of The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said he was pleased with the election results.

“I think it is good for industry, and it will be more of a business-oriented government,” he said.

Conservative priorities to reduce the country’s national sales tax and business investment taxes will be positive for Canada, he said. Companies now pay 12% tax until their profits reach $300,000, after which the corporate tax rate jumps to 21%. Harper has said he will raise the 21% threshold to $400,000.

Businesses also express concern about the strong Canadian dollar and escalating labor and energy costs.

BORDER TALK

Canada and the U.S. have been working to harmonize several commodity grade standards and standardize nutrition labels. Industry observers said the election won’t permanently derail those ongoing efforts.

Likewise, U.S. potato industry advocates have been working for some time on a deal that would allow bulk shipments of U.S. potatoes to Canada, noted John Keeling, executive director of the National Potato Council, Washington, D.C.

Negotiations have advanced on the so-called “ministerial exemption” provision of Canadian law. U.S. growers have been fighting restrictions on bulk shipments to Canada for more two decades, and Keeling said negotiations may be on the threshold of a solution.

The ministerial exemption talks have been tabled for a period during the run-up to the election. But Matt Harris, director of trade for the Washington State Potato Commission, Moses Lake, agreed a new government shouldn’t be a roadblock.

The issue of the bulk shipments to Canada is the biggest single trade issue for the potato industry, though Northwest U.S. potato shippers have had to navigate a long-running antidumping action by British Columbia potato producers.