By Keith Currie
President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
With the provincial budget announcement expected next week, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) reminds government and all Ontarians in the lead up to the June 7 election, that it’s time to invest in our agri-food sector and rural communities.
OFA’s Producing Prosperity in Ontario campaign supports our pre-budget submission, advocating for public investment across rural Ontario. The inclusion of distributed investments in the budget and beyond will provide immediate and ongoing economic and social benefits.
Distributing development dollars across Ontario is the solution to ongoing challenges facing rural and urban communities. When we invest in our small communities, we improve the physical and social infrastructure in rural Ontario, opening up new opportunities for working and living in communities all across the province. This is good for rural Ontario and alleviates the stresses in our urban communities.
A recent survey initiated by OFA and conducted by Grassroots Public Affairs, asked more than 1,000 residents in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) their opinions on rural communities and Ontario’s agri-food sector. The results showed strong support for our agri-food industry and interest in affordable housing in rural Ontario. But respondents had concerns about the availability of jobs, services and social infrastructure in our rural communities. Highlights of the survey showed:
- Those surveyed believe there is greater access to affordable housing in rural communities
- 69 percent believe the cost of living is higher in urban areas
- An overwhelming number believe the quality of rural schools is inferior to urban Ontario schools
- Availability of good paying jobs, access to health care and lack of amenities were listed as the top reasons GTA residents would not live in rural Ontario
- 9 out of 10 surveyed believe the agri-food sector is capable of creating more jobs in future decades
The full survey results are available at producingprosperity.ca
These survey results illustrate the challenges facing rural Ontario and the opportunities that can be realized with the right investments. As OFA advocates for Ontario agriculture, food and rural communities in the lead up to the provincial election, we are asking government to understand the needs and prospects of agri-food and rural communities. We are looking for a budget commitment that will spread economic investments around Ontario to produce prosperity in rural and urban areas.