From a release
By Mark Wales, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Every year brings the opportunity to refresh and regroup on the key issues the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) zeros in on with politicians and policymakers. And in 2014, the OFA has identified three key issues to focus on with MPPs, issues that impact the way Ontario farmers carry out their business operations.
On behalf of our more than 37,000 members, the OFA will be addressing these issues with politicians, and we encourage our members to also take the time to talk with local MPPs in their home ridings, before the legislature reconvenes in February.
Natural gas is the first issue, and the need for greater access to natural gas throughout rural Ontario. The OFA will continue to push the province to invest in a long-term infrastructure project that provides low cost energy. At half the cost of electricity and one-third the cost of propane, natural gas would save rural Ontario farms, families and businesses more than $800 million per year in energy costs. In advance of the spring 2014 budget, OFA is asking the provincial government to commit to expanding natural gas infrastructure in Ontario. A long-term infrastructure project that provides low cost energy is a valuable investment in rural Ontario – one that will pay big dividends and help fuel growth.
OFA’s second priority for 2014 is to continue to build on Open for Business successes. Regulations are the number one issue impacting farm businesses, and the OFA looks for continued improvements through the Open for Business initiative. We have already had the opportunity to work with several ministries on behalf of the Ontario agricultural sector to address problematic regulations and to improve the regulatory process. We rely on good regulation to protect our crops and land. And the OFA is continuing to advocate for upfront consultation when regulations are developed to avoid unintended consequences that we often see in the farm sector. We’re also advocating for well-trained enforcement officers who act consistently and with appropriate discretion.
OFA’s third area of focus for 2014 is new ground for us – Ontario’s proposed Not-for-Profit Corporations Act. The OFA supports the intentions of this act to provide more transparency and accountability by not-for-profit corporations to their members. But we feel strongly that it encroaches on the rights that OFA members value. Specifically, the OFA is concerned with the proposed elimination of geographic-based elections. If directors were elected by all voting members at an annual meeting, as the act proposes, we would lose geographic representation and the ability of members to vote for a director in their area. This is an important issue for OFA members. OFA has some specific ideas for how to address this, and other unintended challenges with the act, and we will be bringing them forward to MPPs in the coming weeks.
As we begin a new season, the OFA looks forward to continuing our work with government and policymakers, advocating on behalf of Ontario farmers for profitable and sustainable farms.