This week’s guest commentary comes from Nathan Stevens of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario
The CFFO is taking on the challenge of job creation within the agriculture sector. The Premier has challenged the sector to double its rate of growth and produce more jobs. As we look at this issue more closely, government’s role in enabling this growth is becoming increasingly clear. The sector needs our municipal and provincial governments to play a strong role in tackling key stumbling blocks that will allow the sector to innovate and grow.
Collectively, the sector and government needs to take a look at what other jurisdictions are doing to actively co-ordinate the efforts of states or provinces and local municipalities to bring business into their respective jurisdictions. The province and those municipalities that are genuinely interested in generating new business need to put together robust packages that both brings in new business and retains current businesses. We cannot afford to stand still on attracting new business because we will be falling behind the competition in other parts of North America.
The sector needs government to continue to focus on red tape reduction across the industry. For both new and existing businesses, there would be a great deal of value if the approvals process for a variety of upgrades, expansions or changes to an operation could be streamlined. To do that, we need our provincial and municipal governments to work together to identify ways to remove redundant regulatory hurdles.
Finally, over time we need municipalities to embrace the spirit of the new Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) when it comes to on-farm value-added industries and secondary industries related to agriculture. There are many municipalities that have constrained the ability of value-added businesses to grow, interpreting the term “small” in the old PPS in a very restrictive manner. As the process of updating to the new PPS begins, agricultural businesses need to let their local politicians know that updating to the spirit of the new rules is important for growth, for jobs, and eventually, more tax revenue for municipalities if our businesses prosper.
The agriculture sector has been challenged to grow and create jobs. In order to do that, the sector needs key hurdles removed that are holding the sector back. Furthermore, we need our municipal and provincial governments to work together to create a setting where efficient growth in value-added and secondary industries can occur. Working together, we can grow the industry.