This week’s guest commentary comes from Kent Bridge farmer and OFA Board Member, Louis Roesch
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is advocating for affordable, accessible natural gas across rural Ontario. For more than a year, our focus has been to address this issue with government and policy makers at Queen’s Park. And in 2014 the OFA welcomed the announcement of the provincial government’s investment in natural gas expansion with $200 million in loans and $30 million in grants over two years. Last year’s announcement was a good start.
This year, the OFA is committed to growing awareness of the benefits of expanding natural gas to farms and rural Ontario. Expanding the reach of this cost-effective energy will dramatically boost business with significantly lower energy costs. Natural gas is currently available to less than 20% of Ontario farms and rural households. Simply expanding access to natural gas to just 60% of Ontario farms, rural residents and businesses would free up $800 million per year in new disposable income. Those savings would fuel substantial reinvestment and economic development in rural Ontario.
The OFA is determined to see the expansion of natural gas. We are partnering with groups who support our call for expanded natural gas infrastructure and starting discussions with groups that share a common interest in the growth and development of rural Ontario like the Ontario Warden’s Caucus. We have a solid relationship with this group and regularly meet with both the western and eastern groups to discuss common interests and support each other’s efforts to develop and maintain healthy, well-funded municipalities.
OFA’s President Don McCabe will be addressing the importance of natural gas expansion to small and rural Ontario communities at the upcoming joint convention of the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association. McCabe will be participating in a workshop discussing the need for natural gas infrastructure in rural Ontario. OGRA has stated one of its main business objectives is to advocate the collective interests of their members through consultation with partners and stakeholders. The OFA is pleased to be invited to consult on this important infrastructure venture. Opportunities like this are important for OFA to collaborate with influencers who are directly involved with determining the needs of our municipalities and building a stronger infrastructure for rural Ontario.