by Crispin Colvin,
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Ontario went to the polls for the second time this year with the municipal elections on October 22. While municipal politics may not be as high on some people’s radar as what happens at Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill, agriculture and our rural communities depend on sound municipal government for many aspects of our day-to-day farm businesses and lives in rural Ontario.
Politics can be a thankless calling. OFA salutes all the candidates who put their name on a ballot with a desire to serve in public office and we congratulate all those who were successful. Municipal leadership is a vital cornerstone of successful and sustainable communities across Ontario.
Municipal government manages local services, facilities, safety and infrastructure for our communities. The decisions made in council chambers impact many aspects of daily life, including education, land use planning and development, permits, inspections, municipal tax rates, parks, public utilities and services.
OFA members and local county federations regularly engage with municipal council to advocate for local decisions impacting farmers and rural living. In the weeks leading up to the October 22 election, many local federations hosted meetings with candidates and all-candidate events. Issues that impact farmers were discussed and opportunities were identified where communities can work closer with the local agri-food sector to leverage economic development in their areas.
OFA members also took the election process as a reminder to candidates about the important role agriculture and food play in their communities. The economic contribution and employment opportunities farmers, food processors and agri-businesses provide – especially in rural communities – is enormous, with tremendous potential for growth.
To help position our sector to newly elected or re-elected municipal politicians, OFA developed a new resource – Agriculture Matters – a Guide for Municipal Councillors and Staff – to support advocacy efforts at the local level. The guide provides an overview of issues affecting farmers today and identifies opportunities for local communities. OFA is encouraging members and local county federations to continue to use this resource, taking the opportunity to introduce new councillors to the guide as they begin their new term in municipal leadership.
Now is the time to keep the agri-food sector top of mind with our municipal leaders to ensure we receive the recognition, support and opportunities to keep us driving the provincial economy.