Keeping key ag issues hot with government (2014)

By Mark Wales, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

There’s a lot of speculation about a provincial election in Ontario. And whether voters are called to the polls or not, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) continues to champion agriculture in the halls of Queen’s Park and in constituency offices across the province. Farmers may be less than 1% of our provincial population, but agriculture is still Ontario’s biggest economic driver.

It’s our job to remind as many MPPs and policy makers as often as we can about agriculture’s significant role in Ontario. And that includes raising issues and concerns affecting Ontario farm businesses. OFA regularly brings matters to the attention of our elected officials. We advocate for why the government needs to allocate money in the upcoming budget to rural infrastructure development and expand natural gas throughout rural Ontario. We talk about our concerns with the recent increase in minimum wage, and regulatory red tape that hinders our productivity and our bottom line. Agricultural issues must be addressed in the upcoming provincial budget, and understood by all parties who help shape the legislative environment for agriculture.

OFA supports the government’s efforts to reduce poverty and help Ontario’s working poor. But we don’t see a minimum wage increase as an effective strategy. In our submission to the advisory panel, we reminded government that previous minimum wage increases actually reduced seasonal and youth employment and failed to assist low income workers. OFA recommended alternative strategies to reduce poverty, and we encourage the government to look at our submission again for other ways to address this societal issue.

The Open for Business process is working, so let’s keep the momentum going. Ontario farmers have stated clearly that regulations are the number one issue affecting their businesses. Open for Business has allowed OFA to address regulatory concerns across ministries and reduce some of the crippling red tape farmers face. The best part – this process doesn’t cost money – it’s an open dialogue that benefits everyone and needs to continue.

And when it comes to the level of services available across rural Ontario, let’s be clear – rural Ontarians want the same services our urban neighbours enjoy. We’re talking about access to quality health care and education, and well maintained roads and bridges. OFA believes raising the standards of these services to match urban communities means rural Ontario can be more competitive in the production and transportation of our food to markets. And that translates to more local, fresh food for everyone in Ontario to enjoy.

Speaking of better rural services, extending natural gas pipelines to rural Ontario will give us access to lower priced energy, saving rural residents and businesses thousands of dollars each year, and attracting business development in our communities. Better business and household savings will add up – creating more jobs and generating available household expenditures.

There’s hardly a time when some form of election talk isn’t spreading through the countryside. And regardless of the political atmosphere, OFA is keeping agricultural issues front and centre with government and policy makers to improve the investments and regulations affecting our industry.

For more information contact:

Mark Wales
Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Neil Currie
General Manager
Ontario Federation of Agriculture


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