by Keith Currie
President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Speaking with one voice and working together to strengthen Ontario agriculture has long been a strategic goal for Ontario’s agricultural industry. And with a new federal minority government, Ontario farmers and voters across the country are counting on our elected officials to work together and put Canadians ahead of political party differences.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), together with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), laid out the groundwork for the next federal government in their election campaigns. We outlined the investments needed to drive economic growth through the agri-food industry. We’ll continue with this focus on producing prosperity in agriculture and rural communities as MPs settle in. And we challenge all parties to work collaboratively to support the economic powerhouse that is Canadian agriculture.
We heard from the political parties about where they stood on agricultural issues like trade and transportation, infrastructure, Business Risk Management and securing a skilled labour force for our industry. Here are OFA’s top priorities for the new federal government.
Trade – Canadian farmers produce some of the highest quality agricultural and food products. We need unrestricted, reliable access to global markets to sell our products, remain competitive and support our families, employees and local communities. Recent trade disruptions caused by political interference have put Canadian farmers at a global disadvantage and we look to our government to remedy this situation. Farmers also want to see investments into marketing Canadian agricultural products and support for exploring new markets.
Labour – The agri-food sector depends on a skilled labour force to bring our diverse range of products to market. Building on successful programs like the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, we will advocate for continued development of practical labour programs needed for domestic and international farm workers and residency programs for labourers and immigrants.
Environment – A healthy environment is essential to food production and water is an environmental priority. We anticipate the finalization of the Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health that includes agriculture as part of the Great Lakes community.
Carbon tax – Agriculture and farming practices can naturally sequester carbon and contribute to reducing carbon pollution. The Federal Carbon Pollution Pricing System (Federal CPPS) and its impact on agriculture must be addressed. OFA believes the agricultural sector should have an across-the-board exemption from the Federal CPPS. OFA has strongly recommended expanding the exemption to ensure all farm operations receive relief from the Federal CPPS. OFA has also requested a rebate application process be put in place for farmers who may have inadvertently been charged the Federal CPPS.
Connectivity – Farmers and rural residents need reliable internet and cell service, no matter where you live. It’s been nearly three years since the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared broadband a “basic” or essential service. OFA has been advocating for secure, reliable broadband and cell service across rural, remote and northern Ontario and we will continue addressing this issue with government. Our priority will be holding the government accountable for the Liberal announcement earlier this year, and pushing them to speed up timelines for the national target to ensure 95 percent of Canadians have high-speed internet by 2026, and 100 percent by 2030.
There are a long list of issues and concerns to be addressed when the new minority Liberal government gets down to work. We expect our federal leaders and local representatives to put political interests aside and work together for Canadian agriculture. We look forward to collaborating to make sure we deliver for the agri-food industry.