Melanie ConsCanadian Farm News

Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary

By Keith Currie, OFA President

Great opportunity lies in rural Ontario, including affordable housing. That’s the message the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) wants candidates to understand as they head into the provincial election race.

OFA has clearly outlined what provincial parties and election candidates to know about what agri-food and Ontario’s rural communities require. It’s the basis of OFA’s Producing Prosperity in Ontario campaign. We’re confident our call for distributing economic investments around the province with deliver long-term benefits for all Ontarians. This is a strong solution that we believe should be part of every party’s platform, and a key deliverable for the next provincial government.

It’s a simple premise. When we distribute development dollars, or targeted public investments, in the agri-food sector and in rural communities across the province, we create long-term solutions to most of the ongoing issues and challenges Ontarians are facing today. Here’s what OFA wants every election candidate to know.

Agriculture matters. The agri-food industry drives our provincial economy. From primary production to food processing in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA), agriculture and food is big business. Agriculture contributes $13.7 billion to Ontario’s annual GDP and $1.4 billion in provincial tax revenues. The total number of farmers and rural residents may not compare to the number voters in urban centres and the GTHA, but our contribution to the provincial coffers should give us a stronger voice.

Long-term payoffs. Spreading economic investments around the province will benefit everyone across Ontario. Long-term vital infrastructure improvements, like widespread broadband, access to affordable natural gas energy and increased social infrastructure, including schools, medical facilities and improved medical care, will attract new business in rural areas. New jobs will attract new residents. Stronger rural communities with new economic opportunities for families will help distribute population growth more widely across the province and ease the ongoing population imbalance and reduce the GTHA infrastructure crisis.

Affordable housing is attainable. Affordable housing and transportation are key election issues. OFA knows that with the right planning and proper investments from a committed government, Ontario’s rural communities will provide new lifestyle and home ownership opportunities. That means more Ontarians could have the chance to buy an affordable home.

There is still room to for growth within the GTHA while preserving the existing Greenbelt – for now. But in the long term, Ontario must invest in economic development in rural communities to realize economic and lifestyle opportunities that include affordable housing and improved transportation. Our Producing Prosperity in Ontario plan will help create jobs for families looking for affordable communities.

OFA is bringing our message of Producing Prosperity in Ontario to political parties ahead of the June 7 election. Now, we’re taking our plan to candidates across the province, outlining our answer for economic growth for Ontario. We want all candidates to understand the value and tremendous opportunities the agri-food sector and our rural communities have to offer. OFA urges all voters to get involved in advocating for Ontario’s agri-food sector and rural communities by asking election candidates about their positions. All candidates, especially in urban ridings, need to understand the opportunities that lie in rural Ontario.