Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Paul Bootsma, CFFO Field Services Manager
Recently the provincial government released its 2017 Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review which gives its perspective of the economy and the government’s plans.
For the last number of years, the CFFO has been encouraging the government to fix its financial house first, before spending more money. Many have criticized the Government of Ontario for how much money it is spending, questioning how it will eliminate the deficit. Passing on expenses to the next generation or two will never help our economic problems today. The report indicates that the budget is on its way to being balanced, but removing expenses for later does not balance a budget.
There is some good news for agriculture in the Economic Outlook. First, the province is reducing its corporate tax rate from 4.5% to 3.5%, which will help those farms that are incorporated.
Secondly, there are benefits for on-farm processing and commercial facilities that are assessed below $1 million. On the first $50,000 of a business’s assessed value of qualifying value-added and commercial activities, municipalities will now be able to tax 75% lower than the commercial or industrial tax rate. The hope here is to level the playing field for small agri-businesses, encourage job growth, and support rural economies.
Another piece of good news is that the government is giving $60 million over two years to assist the fruit and vegetable growers to get through the adjustments they need to make with the increase to the minimum wage. The sharp increase and short implementation period created challenges for this industry.
As the next provincial election is coming around the corner, agriculture needs to get its priorities in order.
Agriculture has had little in new government support programs in the last few years. Now producers face challenges by environmental and natural resource concerns that often seem to threaten their businesses. Not only that, but with the number of urban ridings equalling or surpassing the number of rural ridings, agriculture can easily be left out of the discussion.
The Economic Report signals where the attention will be drawn during the upcoming spring election campaign. Ontario’s farmers will need to be vocal to get the attention of candidates. The CFFO is working to prepare its district leaders to represent the Federation’s policy concerns during the provincial elections. We need to recognize that the urban and rural sections of the province need each other, so if the government ignores one over the other it will be to the province’s detriment.