OFA Commentary 0410
OFA working with new ministers
By Keith Currie, Executive Member, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
January 29, 2010 - The route for taking agriculture’s issues to government has some new faces. I’m looking forward to working with Ontario’s new minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, the Hon. Carol Mitchell of the Huron-Bruce riding, and want to thank Leona Dombrowsky for her dedication and effort as minister over the past four+ years.
Minister Mitchell has undergone several years of training for the position – training conducted by some seasoned federation people at the grassroots level in Huron and Bruce counties. While she doesn’t come from an agricultural background, we believe her exposure to people like past OFA President Gordon Hill in Huron has given her a clear understanding of our industry.
The federation’s county organizations in both Huron and Bruce have held countless meetings with Minister Mitchell as she progressed to her present post. Those meetings with some of the strongest agricultural leaders in the province, have been an excellent training ground for our new minister.
OFA recently presented its annual brief to the Ontario Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. That document outlined the issues farmers see critical to stability and sustainability for agriculture in Ontario: support is needed for recommendations from the Ontario Agricultural Sustainability Coalition – the new body established by OFA that includes livestock, edible horticulture, grains and oilseeds and CFFO with the objective of securing Business Risk Management Programming and a more secure future for those sectors.
But as we’ve said in the past, agriculture is only one of the subjects OFA touches on when it deals with the provincial government. Premier McGuinty has moved a number of Cabinet ministers to new posts and a number are heading up ministries for the first time.
Minister Linda Jeffrey of the Brampton Springdale riding will be hearing from OFA in her new posting as Minister of Natural Resources. This will continue to be a key ministry for OFA as we deal with predator issues and species at risk regulations – both of high concern to farmers.
Brad Duguid of the Scarborough Centre riding in Toronto is the new minister of Energy and Infrastructure. OFA was able to make considerable progress with another MPP from Toronto, George Smitherman, when he was minister of energy and infrastructure. We are sure Minister Duguid will take a similar level of interest in agriculture’s potential in the energy field.
Transportation has always been a ministry with major impacts on agriculture. Farmers will continue to have issues with moving their vehicles and equipment along provincial roadways as those roadways see increasing traffic. The new minister there is Kathleen Wynne from the Toronto riding of Don Valley West.
John Gerretsen remains as minister of the environment – a portfolio that gave him a multitude of opportunities to interact with farmers, agriculture and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. It gives him the opportunity to work with OFA in recognizing the valuable ecological goods and services contribution made by Ontario farmers and the critical need, going forward, to purchase those services.
Jim Bradley is the new minister of municipal affairs and housing, will be across the table from OFA when local land use issues and zoning matters need to be discussed.
As agriculture’s voice at Queen’s Park, OFA looks forward to working with the new ministers Premier McGuinty has named to his team to secure the programs, policies and pragmatic regulations that will sustain a profitable farm sector.