This week’s guest commentary comes from Mark Reusser, Executive Member, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Great ideas and efforts often come from the ground up. And when the Wellington Federation of Agriculture tabled a resolution asking the Ontario Federation of Agriculture to lobby the government to reinstate infrastructure funding for “connecting link” roads in rural Ontario, the result was a renewed commitment by the Ontario government to the tune of $15 million annually to municipalities across Ontario.
Beginning in spring 2016, the Connecting Links Program will be reinstated in Ontario after it was abruptly cancelled in 2013. The program will once again fund the maintenance of “connecting link” roads – those sections of provincial highways that extend through municipal boundaries across Ontario. The program had provided up to 90% of provincial funding needs in 77 municipalities across the province to maintain more than 355 kilometres of road and 70 bridges.
When the Ministry of Transportation discontinued the program two years ago, maintenance of roads and bridges was downloaded to local municipalities. That resulted in one of two scenarios – maintenance was not kept up by municipalities because of a lack of budgets or local residents shouldered the burden for infrastructure upkeep through higher taxes.
Based on the grassroots activity of the Wellington Federation of Agriculture, the OFA rallied behind this loss of funding, something that was clearly impacting OFA members and their rural communities. We reached out to the Western and Eastern Wardens Caucuses of Ontario, and together we took our “ask” to the Ontario Treasury Board, and the Ministries of Transportation, Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, and Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
With the help of our partners in the wardens caucuses, the OFA took a grassroots concern right to Queen’s Park and delivered a win back to our members this spring.