This week at Queen’s Park
by Jim McDonell
In our office and across the riding, I often meet seniors who are struggling to keep pace with the spiralling cost of living. Basic dental care is expensive and out of the reach of many seniors. They are often forced to ignore smaller issues and endure the discomfort until it escalates into a major medical problem. This week, I am proud to announce that our government took another step in its promise of making life more affordable by rolling out dental coverage for low-income seniors. Eligible seniors can now apply to the program online (www.Ontario.ca/page/dental-care-low-income-seniors). They can also contact their Eastern Ontario Health Unit for an application and further information. This program, not only will improve the quality of life of the seniors who helped build our province, but help free up expensive emergency room resources.
Another key priority of this government is to make Ontario open for business. To this end, the provincial government announced funding support to two of our local businesses. Biscuit Leclerc in Cornwall has been approved by a modernized Eastern Ontario Development Fund (EODF) to receive $1.5 million. This grant will help Biscuit Leclerc establish a new peanut-free food processing and production facility in Cornwall that will create 59 jobs. The government wants to ensure the EODF is there to help businesses grow, invest and create good jobs for Ontarians. The EODF and its sister program for southwestern Ontario will make government investments of more than $100 million over four years into successful business applicants. The program also offers complementary services and supports that include advisory services, compliance approvals, skills and training support assessments, and information on tax credits.
Upper Canada Creamery in South Dundas also received a Canadian Agriculture Partnership (CAP) grant of $37,582. This grant will help the company complete projects that will increase food safety and labour productivity while reducing waste.
The CAP program is a five-year, $3-billion commitment by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the federal government to support the agri-food and agri-products sectors. CAP also provides funding for expanding agri-businesses to train workers in the safe operation of new equipment. Applications for the partnership grant began in February of this year, and I am happy to see that it has already helped to assist 2,400 projects initiated by farmers, processors, agri-businesses, and sector organizations.
Below, Josh and Ellen Biemond hold up milk and cheese produced at their dairy plant located beside their South Dundas dairy farm. The plant started out making yogourt from the organic Biemond herd but has since branched out to cheese curd, cheese and fluid milk.
As our farmers struggle to harvest their crops during these difficult weather conditions, the Hon. Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, has been busy announcing new measures that will help the agriculture sector prosper. The ministry appreciates the ability of the farmers and agri-business sectors to adapt to the changes in crop specialization and market conditions. Consultations are taking place to reduce red tape and grow untapped economic opportunities across the sector. The production of biogas has been ignored as a solution for our greenhouse gas reduction strategy, and we believe that our farmers could be part of this solution. Studies show that the $35-million biogas sector could be grown by 50 percent over the next five years. The program could also help food processors lower their waste disposal footprint at landfills and save municipalities millions of dollars. At the same time, more organic materials will be returned to the land, helping to build soil health and fertility. We will continue to work with our partners to look for new opportunities and help our businesses grow and create new jobs.