OFA outlined key recommendations as part of the Minister’s 2021 Ontario Pre-Budget consultations. This year, the priority will shift towards rebuilding an economy that has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The following key points were included in OFA’s pre-budget submission:
- invest in four key areas in rural Ontario where the province can stimulate the economy: invest in rural infrastructure, restore Ontario’s capacity for food sovereignty and food safety, preserve rural schools and health care and respect the unique needs of rural Ontario
- working with municipalities across rural Ontario to develop a cost-effective infrastructure program, and provide core funding to implement the program
- build and maintain sound roads, bridges and proper drainage as all businesses depend on the ability to economically transport inputs and outputs from and to markets
- facilitate functional access to high-speed Internet across rural and remote Ontario to support farms and rural communities
- create a long-term development and expansion plan when implementing Bill 32: Access to Natural Gas Act, 2018
- funding of the development and adoption of new technology to use surplus biomass from Ontario farms as an alternative energy source
- work with Ontario’s livestock sector to support and develop a Meat and Poultry Growth strategy to address the processing capacity issue to ensure the financial sustainability of Ontario’s livestock farms
- provide financial assistance to abattoirs for food safety upgrades to maintain high standards for food safety
- prioritize interprovincial trade
- simplify and enhance the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program application process
- accommodate the unique needs of rural schools and medical services and facilities to ensure they remain open to serve the families of rural and small-town Ontario
- replace retired OMAFRA Agriculture Development Advisors in Northern Ontario and across rural Ontario
- update eligibility requirements around two critical farm tax programs to reflect the complex reality of how modern farm businesses are structured
- develop incentive-based policies and programs under the Made-in-Ontario Environmental Plan, to recognize the efforts of farmers in managing and enhancing Environmental and Ecological Goods and Services for the public’s benefit
- implement a system to obligate Agricultural Economic Impact Studies on regulatory and policy proposals, in consultation and collaboration with the agriculture and agri-food sector.
- environmental assessments, under the Environmental Assessment Act, include an Agricultural Impact Assessment (AIA) when a project has the potential to impact agricultural lands or activities. OFA recommends this AIA requirement be incorporated into the environmental assessment process.
- provide funding for the Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Program
OFA believes a concerted effort to boost our rural economy through a planned program of investment in distributed economic development is the best use of government funds to lead the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Economic growth throughout Ontario will increase government tax revenue, reduce government dependency, and benefit all Ontarians.