By Keith Currie
President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
As the provincial government develops its 2018 budget, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) offers recommendations on spending and investments needed to strengthen our provincial economy and benefit all Ontarians. In OFA’s pre-budget submission, we’re advising the government to shift spending by distributing economic development across Ontario.
Ontario’s rural communities offer tremendous potential for the entire province and our economy. OFA believes public investment will strengthen rural communities with new economic opportunities for families. And distributing population growth can help solve current urban concerns like the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area’s (GTHA) transportation problems and soaring home prices.
This year, OFA is recommending the Ontario government focus on rural Ontario in their 2018 budget. Infrastructure investments like widespread broadband, access to affordable energy with natural gas and increased social infrastructure including schools and medical care will attract new business and new residents.
OFA has developed a campaign to secure a policy of distributed economic development through prudent public investment – Producing Prosperity in Ontario. And that’s the advice we’re presenting to government. Sound investments in rural Ontario will jump-start farming and overall rural Ontario growth. This will, in turn, stimulate the entire Ontario economy. Dr. David Freshwater recently addressed delegates at OFA’s 2017 annual general meeting, noting that investing in underperforming regions can provide a higher rate of return to society than simply abandoning these places. Rural Ontario is feeling abandoned, but it is the place with the most potential to deliver economic and social return to the province.
OFA is partnering with organization across Ontario agriculture, asking for investments in the upcoming provincial budget to address the fundamental problem rather than just applying band-aids. With the proper investments, our rural communities will relieve the strain on the GTHA housing market and offer long-term economic growth. OFA strongly recommends the Ontario government work with municipalities across rural Ontario to develop and adopt a cost-effective infrastructure program including roads, bridges, drainage and broadband, and provide funding to rural municipalities to implement growth and economic development.
It’s time Ontario adopted a new approach – a concerted effort to boost our rural economy through a planned program of distributed economic development to produce prosperity in Ontario.