Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary By Don McCabe, OFA President
Ontario’s majority Liberal government has reached the halfway point in its four-year mandate. They have initiated and completed many legislative bills and actions. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has actively responded to and influenced many of these.
To achieve the best outcomes for our farm members and rural Ontario, advocating with the best advice means working across multiple government ministries, and with various partners. OFA wishes to thank the many individuals who helped to move issues ahead through joint action. Some folks are part of county federations, Chambers of Commerce, farm organizations, environmental groups, other non-profit organizations, subject matter coalitions and many others too numerous to mention. The effort by OFA staff in participating and coordinating must be acknowledged here too for the preparation of responses on so many topics and so many deadlines. The hours spent by many in attending town hall meetings, county federation organized political outreach meetings and consultations of all descriptions to carry OFA supported messages has got messages delivered.
Bringing the collective voice of 36,000 OFA members to fruition cannot be done without having informed elected MPPs. No matter the side of the aisle a party sits on in Queen’s Park, the OFA is thankful for the opportunities given by all MPPs for meetings, breakfast caucuses, lobby event attendance, committee hearing appearances, phone calls, etc. to hear OFA’s input to their deliberations.
Here is a snap shot of some of the legislation, issues and activities that OFA has been engaged in over the past two years with the provincial government. We’ve provided input and offered amendments on several pieces of legislation including the Supporting Trails Ontario Act, Waste-Free Ontario Act, Conservation Authorities Act, Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, Agriculture Insurance Act, Great Lakes Protection Act, Invasive Species Act, and many others. This input is achieved through providing written submissions via the Environmental Bill of Registry system, letters to Ministers, MPPs and bureaucracy. Opportunities to appear before various Standing Committees have also brought OFA input to the government. In particular, OFA participated in providing input to Ontario’s budget, Bill 173, Jobs for Today and Tomorrow (Budget Measures) Act via invitation to the Standing Committee responsible for consultation on this bill.
OFA has participated in government established advisory committees. The recently released Crombie Report – a 10-year review of four significant land use plans – had OFA Vice President Keith Currie present as a panel member. OFA has or is involved with similar committees on the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, phosphorous concerns for Lake Erie algae, aggregate policy, livestock evaluation and others.
Sometimes issues that have been ongoing for a long time come to the top during a majority mandate, and are addressed. Two issues illustrate this point. To deal with wildlife damages on the farm, OFA helped secure the use of relaxing cable restraints in the province and a spring bear hunting regulatory change.
OFA’s work continues on the need for natural gas infrastructure across the province. Our advocacy is focused on an Ontario Energy Board hearing that’s looking at setting rates to enable an investment in rural pipeline infrastructure. The recent $100 million renewable natural gas program from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has spurred a working group to move this initiative. OFA is at the table.
The recent cabinet shuffle will bring a few new players around the table, and OFA looks forward to working together with new and returning cabinet members on all the issues that impact the business of farming in Ontario. The next two years will remain busy with the power of a majority government behind them.
The important legislation recently passed and the regulations arising from it will now come forward for implementation. OFA will continue its vigilance for the implementation coming. This must allow the number one industry in the province to not only remain competitive, but expand to a brighter future.