This week’s guest commentary comes from Northwood (Chatham-Kent) farmer and Board Member, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Louis Roesch
If you could pick the infrastructure priorities for your community, what would they be?
The Ontario government is travelling across Ontario this summer asking for input from local communities as it works on a new plan to fund infrastructure programs in areas outside the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).
The invite-only consultations started on July 6 and are running in 16 locations across the province. The Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure want to understand local priorities when it comes to building roads, bridges, hospitals, schools and transit.
These consultations are a great opportunity for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) members to be a local voice to advocate for local investments in the community. Anyone can apply to attend a meeting in their area. And the OFA encourages members – on their own or through their local federation – to call the ministry and apply to attend a local meeting. Meetings run until August 6. Space is limited and anyone who didn’t receive an invitation to attend, but would like to have their say, can contact the ministry by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1.855.893.1010.
The OFA is working on a formal submission to the ministry. Our submission offers key recommendations for government as it looks at planning new infrastructure projects outside the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Our members and rural Ontarians need expanded access to natural gas. We must have more reliable high-speed internet across the province. Our rural municipalities need stronger financial support and funding. And there are unique needs for northern infrastructure projects.
In our submission, we have outlined four guiding principles that we are asking the government to consider with any new infrastructure projects in rural communities. The first and most important principle is that any expansion to roads and other infrastructure investments must not come at the expense of losing any prime agricultural land. The second principle is that rural Ontarians must have access to a similar level and quality of services as their urban neighbours. Our third principle involves the proceeds from the sale of Hydro One. The OFA believes that money should fund rural infrastructure projects in rural communities since that’s who paid for the majority of the company. And the fourth and final guiding principle when it comes to new infrastructure projects is that any transportation investments on roads and bridges must consider and meet the needs of modern agricultural equipment.
Most people like to be asked for their opinion, especially when it’s about spending tax dollars back in our communities. The OFA encourages members to help advocate for improvements that will help our industry meet the Premier’s challenge for growth. The projects that will help Ontario agriculture grow need to be on the radar of the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. Let’s work together to be sure they have read our wish list.