Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole announced plans Saturday to financially support the creation of a Quebec research and development centre on food self-sufficiency.

He announced his intention at a stop at a farm in Sainte-Hyacinthe, southeast of Montreal, as he continued a summer tour of the country ahead of an anticipated federal election.

“It’s time to have a government that is there for you,” O’Toole said.

He said food security and self-sufficiency are a fundamental issue for Canadians, and that the pandemic is the perfect occasion to look into improving the industry.

“We need to be better prepared for the future. With its large territory, Canada is in a good position to feed its people,” he said.

“As borders can close quickly, being able to feed ourselves is more important than ever.”

The Conservatives want the new centre to reduce imports and dependence on foreign foods while ensuring the production and consumption of local products.

O’Toole ready to campaign if necessary

O’Toole told reporters he doesn’t want to campaign during a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic — something public health officials say is increasingly likely — but that he’s ready if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decides to call an election.

“We are going to have a totally different approach from Mr. Trudeau on the economy, on jobs, on emergency programs,” O’Toole said.

Have an election question for CBC News? Email us: [email protected] Your input helps inform our coverage.

The Conservatives have yet to announce every candidate, but he said that “90 per cent of the candidates were selected countrywide.”

O’Toole is heading to Orford on Sunday, in the Estrie region of Quebec, to present a candidate ahead of the upcoming elections.

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