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Rural / Urban Divide: Closing the Gap

Ontario Federation of Agriculture Argues Prosperity Depends on Success of all Communities

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Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) President Mark Wales participates in a panel discussion at the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference on the topic of whether or not Ontario’s prosperity still depends on the fortunes of its rural communities.

It’s the cause of friction among our rural and urban communities that most don’t care to acknowledge – the rural and urban divide.

At this year’s OGRA-ROMA conference, which is held annually with the purpose to engage and debate about how municipalities should respond to new and growing challenges and tackle the topic of the rural and urban divide. The conference was well attended with more than 1,400 municipal leaders, over 20 provincial cabinet ministers, MPPs, and even the Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

A resolution was put forward for debate on the topic if whether Ontario’s prosperity still depends on the fortunes of its rural communities and two presenters from each side presented arguments for and against the resolution. Two raised compelling arguments about why urban Ontario can stand alone, while OFA President Mark Wales and MPP Randy Hillier (PC Critic for Labour) spoke on behalf of rural Ontario against the resolution.

Wales spoke passionately for rural Ontario and argued that the fortunes of rural Ontario are sometimes qualified by more than economic value. Wales also went on to state that while farmers may only represent less than 2% of Ontario’s population – farmers also own almost 80% of all privately held land in the province. With that, farmers are multi-generational stewards of the land who play a pivotal role in producing safe and healthy food for all Ontarians. Perhaps the heart of the argument is this – the fortunes of rural Ontario translate into the fortunes for urban centers. Economically speaking, according to a 2010 report on the Economic Contributions of the Ontario Farm Sector, found that 13% of Ontario’s GDP is derived from agriculture – which doesn’t include other industries that are closely linked including mining, forestry and tourism.

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