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Ontario Liberal Candidates Answer Agricultural Questionnaire

Some Liberal Candidates Provide Responses to Farms.com Agricultural Questionnaire

By , Farms.com

 The much talked about Ontario Liberal Leadership race that is set to take place this weekend in Toronto, will choose the next Premier of the province among a selected group of Liberal supporters. While, the first debate revolved around rural issues, the topics of rural Ontario or agriculture have only come up a handful of times during this campaign. As one of the leading online agriculture news sources in Ontario, Farms.com felt that it would be important to bring rural concerns back to the forefront before the campaign comes to a close. After a three-day window of opportunity, only two out of the six campaigns managed to respond back to the written questions after several attempts were made to reach out. The following are the responses of Kathleen Wynne, one of the two front runners of the campaign and Charles Sousa.

Questionnaire and Response from Kathleen Wynne

Question 1 In what ways do you think that the Liberal party can re-connect with rural-Ontario voters?

Question 6 Why should rural Ontario support the Liberal party? (Answer to questions 1 and 6)

Sometimes, we Ontario Liberals are accused of not taking rural, agricultural and small town issues seriously. I am going to change that. To demonstrate my personal commitment to rural and small town Ontario and to make sure that a government I lead gets it right, as Leader and Premier I will appoint myself the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for at least one year. I’m also proud to have the support of Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Ontario Liberals have always fought for rural Ontario – strong rural schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. The Ontario Liberal 2011 budget took a significant step towards strengthening and expanding risk management for Ontario farmers to help provide bankability, stability and predictability.

Question 2 Do you plan on re-introducing the Local Food Act?

I have committed to bringing back and passing a strengthened Local Food Act, to support our farmers by promoting food grown and made in Ontario, and develop goals and targets around the production, processing, distribution, sales and marketing of Ontario food. I am strongly committed to protecting our family farms, with important programs such as risk management, announced in the 2011 Budget. We will continue to work with farmers and industry to put more Ontario food onto kitchen tables. That includes building on our $80-million investment in Ontario’s Buy Local Strategy and supporting our local Ontario food processors through economic development funding. Our Buy Local Strategy includes substantial funding for local farmers’ markets, which has helped them increase the number of farmers’ markets from 90 in 2002 to 159 today.

Question 3 What do you see as the future of Ontario’s Horse Racing Industry?

I recognize and understand the challenges facing Ontario’s horse racing industry. That’s why, in my rural Ontario platform released on December 6th, I committed to supporting a sustainable horse racing industry in keeping with the model proposed by the Horse Racing Transition Panel.

Question 4 Do you plan on making any changes to the Green Energy Act?

We need to move forward with our clean energy agenda in a thoughtful and collaborative way – that’s why I support increased municipal autonomy and local control of the siting of energy infrastructure. I know that we didn’t get it perfect the first time around, but I am committed to working with partners and communities across the province to get it right. I’m also committed to continuing to build a modern, reliable and stable clean energy system — one that is creating thousands of jobs, attracting investment and building a cleaner, healthier future for generations to come.

Question 5 What do you think are the most important issues facing rural Ontario? If chosen as Premier, which issue would you tackle first?

My top priority as premier is to grow the economy and create jobs, so we can protect the public services Ontario families rely on. That means promoting investment and reducing barriers to job creation, particularly for small business. I announced detailed commitments to support rural Ontario business and communities, including the vital need to build up record McGuinty Liberal infrastructure investments.

My plan includes:

Rural Ontario is Open for Business – Ensure that our “Open for Business” approach applies equally to small town and rural Ontario. That includes:

•Streamlining regulations that impact the Agri-food industry

•Review current rural/agricultural assessment and taxation policies to support local economic development

•A single window information approach to government for the farm community

Regional and Community Transportation – Develop a regional and community transportation strategy to support improvement of transportation between and within rural and northern communities. This includes building on record McGuinty Liberal infrastructure investments.

Ontario Local Food Act Continue Ted McMeekin’s good work by re-introducing an Ontario Local Food Act and working with farmers to bring more Ontario food to the table.

A Fair Deal for MunicipalitiesWork with ROMA (Rural Ontario Municipalities Association) to review the fact that some small municipalities, because of their size, are carrying too much of the burden of provincially mandated programs.

Sustainable Horse Racing Industry Ensure a sustainable Ontario Horse Racing industry in keeping with the model proposed by the Horse Racing Transition Panel.

Green Energy is Community EnergyWork with local communities on developing community-based alternative energy plans, and engage actively to ensure we get it right. Ensure increased municipal autonomy and local control on the siting of green energy infrastructure.

Premier and Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural AffairsBuilding on Premier Dalton McGuinty’s successful model after he appointed himself Minister of Research and Innovation, I will serve as the Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs for at least one year.

Questionnaire and Response from Charles Sousa

Question 1 In what ways do you think that the Liberal party can re-connect with rural-Ontario voters?

I believe the renewal of the Ontario Liberal Party must begin with rural Ontario. Our party needs to re-engage with rural communities and ensure the residents of rural Ontario know that we are not only hearing their concerns and identifying what matters to them most – but we are listening to, understanding and going to act on them.

Question 2 Do you plan on re-introducing the Local Food Act?

My platform has a focus on driving the Ontario brand and building on the potential of rural communities. I will re-introduce the Local Food Act as one step in promoting local commerce and encouraging local engagement.

Question 3 What do you see as the future of Ontario’s Horse Racing Industry?

From day one my campaign has been focused on job creation and economic growth across Ontario. The horse breeding and horse racing industries create and sustain jobs in rural Ontario. It is for this reason that I have committed to building off the recommendations of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel. I believe we need to use this report as the basis for ensuring horse racing and horse breeding continue in Ontario as viable, sustainable industries.

Question 4 Do you plan on making any changes to the Green Energy Act?

Re-engaging with rural Ontario means accepting that some of what we have done in the last few years needs to be reassessed. The process for where energy generation projects should be located, whether they are wind, solar or natural gas, must be improved. Local input matters. There are communities that will welcome certain proposals that others will not. We must work with communities from the earliest stages of the process to ensure that local concerns are addressed.

Question 5 What do you think are the most important issues facing rural Ontario? If chosen as Premier, which issue would you tackle first?

Rural Ontarians share the same concerns around growing the provincial economy, continuing to build and strengthen public services like health care and education and leaving a legacy of a clean environment for our children as all Ontarians. Specifically, though, rural Ontarians want to ensure their communities are strengthened through local economic growth, they want to know that their children can choose to raise their families in their community without sacrificing schooling and career opportunities and they want to maintain the rural way of life that they cherish. Growing local economies means helping small businesses grow; it means re-invigorating manufacturing by attracting new companies to set up in rural Ontario and ensuring existing operations stay and grow. We can and will do a better job of selling Ontario goods to foreign markets, encouraging entrepreneurship in our economy and supporting the potential that exists within our smaller communities for innovation and excellence.

Question 6 Why should rural Ontario support the Liberal party?

At its best the Ontario Liberal Party is about responsible fiscal management, strong communities and public services and leaving a better province for our children and grand-children. These are the values of rural Ontario and they are the values I will bring as Premier. I will eliminate our deficit by 2017-18 and I will do this without sacrificing important long-term investments that will strengthen our provincial economy over the long-run.

Editors Comments: Thank you to those campaigns who took the time to answer the Farms.com agricultural questionnaire – I understand it’s a busy week for all campaigns but your efforts to answer these questions have been noted and appreciated.

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