by Keith Currie
President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
In early December, the provincial government laid out its approach to expanding natural gas access and reducing red tape for rural Ontario and the agri-food sector. Both announcements have been long awaited and the initial response from the agri-food sector, rural residents and business owners was enthusiasm, but the devil is in the details.
Both announcements are still in the early stages, and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has been closely reviewing the few details that have been released.
The passage of Bill 32, Access to Natural Gas Act, 2018 is a step in the right direction to reduce soaring energy costs that so many rural, remote and northern Ontario residents and businesses are currently facing. But the details of the announcement reveal the expanded access is intended to only reach up to 78 communities and 33,000 homes. Those numbers will only meet approximately one tenth of those currently without access to natural gas – a far cry from the complete natural gas access Ontario needs.
OFA has been advocating for expanded access across rural Ontario, encouraging the government to lay down a long-term plan. Bill 32 is a step in the right direction but appears to come up way short of needs. We’ll be following up with government to address OFA’s concerns and push for our recommendations of smart expansion to be implemented.
OFA will be pushing for the delivery of natural gas that will pave the way for more expansions and ensure new projects connect rural business and agricultural customers. We’ll be advocating for rural and northern, or remote communities to be prioritized, and we’ll be looking for a real long-term commitment to rural and remote expansion throughout the entire province.
Change can be a good thing. The government has made some long-awaited promises and OFA looks forward to more details. We’ll be working to ensure the programs work for Ontario farmers, rural residents and businesses. OFA will hold the government accountable for its plans and ensure agriculture and rural Ontario is prioritized for long-term growth and prosperity.