News

Infrastructure tops OFA focus in provincial budget (2014)

By Mark Wales, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

As expected, there were no big changes in the 2014 Ontario budget that was reintroduced by the Liberal government on July 14. And while agriculture wasn’t specifically noted in Minister of Finance Charles Sousa’s budget speech, there are a number of line items in the budget details earmarked for our sector. Our task at the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) now turns to ensuring funds destined to support Ontario’s agri-food sector and rural communities are spent wisely.

There are two positive areas for agriculture from the budget – investments in infrastructure and the agri-food processing sector.  And an area of concern with the proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan and how it may impact farm businesses.

The OFA welcomes the government’s $130 billion commitment over the next 10 years for infrastructure improvements, with $14 billion of those funds slated specifically for regions outside the GTA and Hamilton area. Rural Ontario must get its fair share of these funds to continue to grow and contribute to the provincial economy. We will be working closely with Minister Duguid in the Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure ministry to ensure infrastructure improvements reach into rural Ontario. It will be critical to ensure priority projects are identified in local regions to provide funding to include rural schools, health care facilities, roads, bridges and drainage projects. The agri-food industry depends on these improvements to continue to prosper and be a significant contributor to the health and wealth of all Ontarians.

One of the most important elements of infrastructure investments will be the expansion of natural gas in rural Ontario. The OFA is encouraged by the government’s commitment that will reduce energy costs for Ontario farmers and rural businesses. We need this investment to fuel future growth across rural Ontario, and keep our industry strong and competitive.

We also look forward to working with Minister Duguid on the government’s $40 million annual commitment to Ontario’s agri-food processing sector. This new Jobs and Prosperity Fund will support farmers, attract new investments, create new jobs, and boost the sector’s productivity and competitiveness. Ontario has the sixth largest food and beverage processing industry in North America, and investing in processing will help expand the industry’s reach in Ontario and out to export markets.

The proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan in the budget does raise some concerns for OFA. Designed to help middle-income earners build a more secure retirement future through an employer tax, the plan could be a troubling issue for Ontario farmers who are often employer and employee. There have been no discussions with our sector on the proposed plan, and we will be working to understand the implications for Ontario agriculture.

Ontario’s agri-food industry represents great growth potential for our province. And we’ll be working very closely with key government ministries and municipalities, to ensure the investments intended for rural Ontario and the agriculture sector are spent wisely, fairly and keep Growing Ontario.

For more information, contact:

Mark Wales
President
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
519-773-6706

Neil Currie
General Manager
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
519-821-8883



Comments

Robert Kreger says on July 19, 2014 at 7:03 AM

the Ontario pension plan is designed to discourage small business from starting up and it gives big business one more reason to move south


Gerry Reid 332478 says on July 20, 2014 at 10:22 AM

Dont indulge us with drivall.the minimum wage tax is a killer and we couldnt do anything with that and now there is a majority in queens park


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