Minister Hardeman will engage with the ag industry and rural communities
By Diego Flammini
Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs is looking forward to engaging with farmers and rural communities as part of the 2021 budget consultations process.
“It’s an opportunity to give all sectors input into what should be in the budget, what the challenges are that they are facing and what they believe governments can do to help out,” Ernie Hardeman told Farms.com. “My job is to make sure I consult with the (agriculture) sector so when I meet with (Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy) I know some of the things we should be looking at.”
The minister’s staff is planning roundtable discussions which will include representatives from the finance ministry.
Ontarians as a whole have until Feb. 12 to submit comments to the ministry of finance or any specific sector they are interested in.
“I’m not asking people to wait for us,” Hardeman said. “I want people to get online and give us their thoughts. We might not be able to do what individuals want, but you can deal with trends and what the industry is looking for collectively.”
This round of budget consultations is a follow up from a previous consultation window held in November 2020.
Industry groups like the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) submitted documents at the time and will discuss some of the topics further.
“There was a focus on Ontario’s recovery and working our way out of COVID but we know there are a number of key areas that we’d like to focus on,” Drew Spoelstra, vice president of the OFA, told Farms.com. “Investing in rural infrastructure, like roads and bridges and drainage, but also in rural broadband across Ontario. “Farmers are struggling to do business and educate their kids.”
Some of the industry items brought up during the November discussions are likely to remain important now, Hardeman said.
“The thing we heard mostly is we have to make sure we do a better job of being self-sufficient in the processing sector,” he said. “The livestock and even the vegetable producers are concerned about the capacity we have in our processing sector. And when we rebuild our economy after COVID and get our jobs back, we have to make sure we’re addressing the needs of the agriculture and food sector.”
The provincial government plans to release its budget in the spring.