Guelph – Yesterday’s (last week’s) provincial budget focused on much needed investment in transportation infrastructure but failed to support Ontario farmers with rising on-farm energy costs. With no mention of a province-wide farm electricity rate and a delay in the natural gas expansion program to rural Ontario, farmers will have to wait longer for more competitive energy costs.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is disappointed recommended policy of a farm and industrial electricity rate did not make the budget. OFA sought a program to achieve an electricity rate comparable to neighboring jurisdictions to maintain the competitiveness of farming and the industrial sector. This would maintain a sustainable farming sector and create jobs across Ontario.
Farmers will also have to wait a while longer for access to natural gas in rural Ontario. “We agree with Minister Duguid, who announced today that natural gas in rural Ontario will attract new industry, make commercial transportation and agriculture more affordable, help to create jobs and provide more energy choices. It is disappointing the announced grant and loan program remains under development,” says Don McCabe, OFA president. “The economic activity made possible by this lower cost energy would certainly take some pressure off energy costs. Delays in program details of the grant and loan program means possible loss of a construction season for needed natural gas line expansion.”
“Despite OFA’s disappointment in energy investments, we are pleased to see the budget reintroduce the Connecting Links Program, as recommended by the OFA,” says McCabe. “We welcome the annual funding of $15 million for program projects that will see increased funding to rural municipalities for roads and bridges.”