What are your thoughts on government policy for our rural, farm and agri-food sectors?

By MPP Toby Barrett

During this period in Ontario’s election cycle, all political parties are now thinking about and developing policy for the next election and for the future.

As Opposition, we have created a rigorous, lengthy policy development process involving people across Ontario, party members, caucus and stakeholder groups.  In my position as Opposition Critic for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, I am reaching out to farm and food organizations and individuals to garner ideas and information.

Agriculture and food production, like most segments of society, has changed dramatically.

A hundred years ago, most people had a connection to faming – if they didn’t live on one themselves. It took more than 40 per cent of the population to produce enough food to feed themselves and everyone else who didn’t produce their own food. Today, less than one per cent of people are involved in production of food.

This level of productivity is unprecedented and is responsible for helping to drive the high standard of living we have today. Not only are we high in productivity, but also we have ample supplies of the safest food anywhere

When grocery store shelves are overflowing, there is an expectation it will always be that way. However there are always ongoing challenges facing our agri-food systems.

Agriculture policy needs to reflect these changes and these challenges. And policy makers must also be cognizant that much of the general public does not have a concept of how farming works today.

These are some of the issues the Ontario PC Party hopes to be addressing as part of its agriculture and food policy deliberations leading up to the coming election and beyond.

We believe there is no monopoly on a good idea. Opposition Leader Patrick Brown is challenging the farming and agri-food industry to offer practical solutions to help bring prosperity back to Ontario.

In the coming months, we will use every tool in the box to conduct the most exhaustive and inclusive consultation in the party’s history. In order to ensure no opinion is left behind, we have launched www.ForOntario.ca — a ground-breaking, modern, inclusive and ongoing online consultation tool. Anyone can participate. There are also policy committees being established. Further information is available on the web site.

The present government’s policies have resulted in our province facing unnecessarily onerous challenges. Simply put, life is harder under the present government. Our province deserves a government that puts the needs of Ontarians first – a government that works hard to help Ontario families, farms and businesses prosper and reach their full potential.

Our principles include, but are not limited to, a belief that progress requires a competitive economy and freedom of opportunity; a belief in the ethical and accountable execution of the business of government.

Opposition Leader Patrick Brown has mapped out a four-pillar plan for economic development and a more prosperous Ontario, including:

1)            reducing the regulatory burden and cutting red tape

2)            investing in infrastructure

3)            creating competitive energy prices

4)            addressing Ontario’s growing skills gap

Over the next several months, I will be focussed on agri-business policy development and would welcome you contacting me directly, or go to www.ForOntario.ca. Our policy development process is ambitious, but we have full confidence we can achieve our goals through consultation and working together.