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By Mark Wales, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
With Ontario’s Liberal leadership race in its final weeks, events have taken a positive turn for rural Ontario. That’s because every one of the seven leadership candidates currently in the running for Ontario’s top job has addressed rural issues and several have incorporated a detailed rural strategy as part of their campaign.
This development demonstrates recognition of the importance of rural Ontario, and it means we can be assured that the awareness created in this campaign will carry forward beyond the January 26 leadership convention to Ontario’s legislature and the next election.
The OFA is focusing on four key areas in our talks with politicians and policy makers in the coming year. First, we will pursue the development of a provincial agriculture and food strategy. OFA has already done extensive work on a National Food Strategy, which incorporates the contributions of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and our colleagues across the country. Consistent with the National Food Strategy, any provincial initiative must include agreed upon principles and measurable outcomes to guide the development of Ontario agriculture and food-related policy.
Second, OFA will work with the new premier to create a reliable and affordable energy system in Ontario. Ontario farm businesses require access to sustainable energy, generated through socially and environmentally responsible methods.
The OFA also seeks revisions to the current regulatory environment. We will continue to request a seat at the table when new regulations that impact agriculture are developed, and we will seek improved processes for how those regulations are enforced, to ensure they are respectful of farm businesses and farm properties.
Finally, OFA plans to continue to press the provincial government for meaningful investment in rural Ontario. We look for a commitment to ensuring rural Ontario residents have access to a similar range and quality of services and infrastructure as their urban counterparts.
With a leadership election in sight, the OFA looks forward to getting back to the business of lobbying on behalf of Ontario farmers. We look forward to contributing to hearing the discussion from each candidate in the coming weeks on strategies for a stronger rural Ontario, and we look forward to working with the next premier on issues that matter to Ontario agriculture.