By Keith Currie
President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
There’s something in this year’s federal budget for everyone, at least that’s the government’s intent ahead of a federal election this year. The good news for Canadian agriculture is the emphasis on food, developing a food policy and new school food programs. Dedicated funding support for farmers in supply managed sectors in response to recent trade agreements and the promise of rural broadband also highlight the 2019 budget announcement for farmers.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), along with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) submitted budget recommendations outlining what we believe the agri-food sector needs to be competitive and sustainable. A number of these requests were included in the March 19 budget announcement.
Food security is a must for Canadians and the budget allocation to create a National Food Policy is a welcome promise. OFA is especially encouraged by the 3-year agricultural immigration pilot that will help address year-round agricultural labour shortages, the development of a national school food program and a $25 million commitment to buy a Canadian promotional campaign that are all included in the proposed strategy. A National Food Strategy is a landmark announcement for Canadian agriculture and together, OFA and CFA will be working directly with the federal government to understand how this program will be implemented in support of the whole agri-food sector.
OFA maintains rural access to reliable, high-speed broadband is a must. The federal budget announcement unveiled a plan to implement targets of 95 percent of Canadians to have high speed internet by 2025 and 100 percent by 2030. As likely the last 5 percent to get the service, many farmers and rural communities are looking at another 11 years before being able to actively participate in the digital age. This is not acceptable and defies the real economic potential of rural Ontario.
The $3.9 billion allocated to assist supply managed sectors responds to the market access concessions made through recent trade agreements signals the federal government understands the significant impact our farmers make to the Canadian economy. This monetary support is meant to sustain the incomes of eligible dairy, poultry and egg farmers. While this revenue recovery announcement is good news, relief for those farmers affected by the US-China trade war is missing from the federal budget. It’s hard not to look south of the border where US grain farmers are receiving billions in compensation from their government and not ask Canada’s leaders why they aren’t supporting Canadian farmers.
The housing initiatives aimed at housing affordability and incentives for first-time home buyers will appeal to many Canadians. However, OFA is concerned the real impact of these incentives will see a rise in housing prices in areas where very limited housing supply is already an issue. The housing crisis in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe will only get worse. OFA maintains the best solution to help Ontarians realize home ownership and alleviate the housing crisis is to enable opportunities across Ontario. Investment in rural areas including realistic broadband targets will create jobs, attract new residents and see our communities outside of the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area flourish.
OFA believes some of the 2019 budget investments in Canadian agriculture will see economic returns for all Canadians. Many budget details have yet to be determined but together, OFA and CFA will work closely with government to ensure effective policies and programs are implemented that will benefit our agri-food sector, one of Canada’s largest economic industries.