This week’s guest commentary comes from Peter Peeters of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario
For the first time in over fifty years, rural Ontarians are not represented by the reigning political party. In the most recent election, rural ridings did not play a role in the final result. Urban Ontario alone decided the outcome of the election. Rural Ontario does not have the clout that was held even twenty years ago. You may not like the fact, but it is the new reality.
What does this new reality mean for farm organizations such as the CFFO? We need to adapt our strategies and policies to capture the interest of the decision makers. Protests are not likely to work in this political climate. The Premier and her caucus can quite easily ignore our concerns and complaints if they want. It’s time to adjust how we tackle the issues and how we communicate and work with the politically more powerful, non-farming population.
There is an old saying that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. We need to take this to heart. Instead of approaching politicians with a fiery attitude and raised fist, we need to take a gentler and more cooperative approach. We need to bring our issues to the table backed with scientific facts and figures, presenting the problems and solutions as a package. If we are adversarial to the government we will lose. They are Goliath and we are David without a slingshot.
I am not suggesting that we stop talking to the politicians, that it is a lost cause. What I am saying is that we need to be engaged in dialogues, working together to find policies and programmes that work for farmers and the rest of society, rather than protesting. The current government is providing ample opportunity to farm groups to provide input. But at the same time, just because you have the chance to weigh in on issues doesn’t mean that your opinion will be the winning contribution at the end of the day. Getting angry because you’re not getting your way isn’t helping the cause.
We need to work as a team for the betterment of our industry and our province. Otherwise, we will find out that Ontario won’t pay attention to our opinions anymore.