Ted Arnott, MPP
Wellington – Halton Hills
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 4, 2010
McGuinty government failing farmers, says MPP Arnott
(Queen’s Park) – The McGuinty Liberal government is paying far too little attention to the crisis in agriculture, says Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott.
“Not acting on the crisis in agriculture is, in fact, the McGuinty government’s deliberate choice,” said Mr. Arnott in the Ontario Legislature. He made the comments during debate on a motion from his Progressive Conservative colleague, MPP Jim Wilson, who is advocating a comprehensive Business Risk Management Program for Ontario farmers.
In a June 1 letter to MPPs, the Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition called the future of
farming in Ontario “very bleak” without risk management programming.
“Of course, the McGuinty government should have known the magnitude of the crisis facing farmers in Ontario,” said Mr. Arnott.
Mr. Arnott wrote to the Premier in December 2009 to call attention to insufficient safety net
programs, a risk management program that must be fixed and extended, poor weather and growing conditions, escalating input costs and excessive government regulation.
Not at all satisfied with the government’s actions since that time, Mr. Arnott wrote a second, highly critical letter to the Premier on May 17 . He called out the Liberals for blaming the federal
government for not supporting risk management programming.
“It’s a pathetic excuse,” said Mr. Arnott, pointing to massive federal equalization transfers of nearly $1 billion after Ontario became a have-not province under the McGuinty Liberals.
By a vote of 24 to 16, the Liberals used their majority to vote down Mr. Wilson’s risk management motion. The vast majority of Liberals in attendance voted against it, while the Premier wasn’t there and the Minister of Agriculture did not bother to show up, either.
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Mr. Ted Arnott: It’s a privilege to speak today about Ontario agriculture and our farm families, to whom we owe so much, for they labour to feed us. We thank them for that, but we also appreciate their presence in so many of our communities, and the presence of the OCA here today. So it follows that this government owes it to them to pay attention to the challenges they face so as to ensure the viability of agriculture for generations to come. Unfortunately, under this government their challenges have for many families become nothing short of a crisis, and this government is paying far, far too little attention.
I want to quote from a June 1 letter which all members of this House should have received:
“The economic situation facing Ontario farmers is dire, but numbers released by Statistics Canada thispast week show a continuing decline and a situation that is even more serious than we had anticipated.
“The future of food and farming in Ontario, without risk management programming, is clearly very bleak.”
Those are very strong words coming from our farm leaders, who have come together to form the Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition, including the OFA and the Christian Farmers.
Of course, the McGuinty government should have known the magnitude of the crisis facing farmers in Ontario. Last December, I wrote to the Premier to call his attention to insufficient safety net programs, a risk management program that must be fixed and extended, poor weather and growing conditions, escalating input costs and excessive government regulation. In that letter I asked the Premier if he would follow the advice of the OFA and the OASC to make new strategic investments in this vital industry and engage in developing a national food strategy.
More than five months later, the McGuinty government had failed to take such meaningful action, and so on May 17 I wrote to the Premier again. In that letter, I pointed out that this year, the McGuinty government will receive almost $1 billion in equalization payments from the federal government-for we are now a have-not province under the leadership of Dalton McGuinty-yet the McGuinty government continues to insist that it can’t do anything about the consensus proposal on risk management because the federal government won’t help. It’s a pathetic excuse, especially in light of the Liberals’ massive day care expenditures, which they went out of their way to hype in their budget speech as their initiative, taken without federal help.
Not acting on the crisis in agriculture is, in fact, the McGuinty government’s deliberate choice. It was the former Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain, Nigel Lawson, who coined the phrase, “to govern is to choose.” Farm families, it would seem, are not this government’s choice here in Ontario.
I want to offer this government another constructive suggestion that would help farm families. Many agribusinesses have fixed cooling requirements mandated by regulation or legislation. Milk, for example, must be kept cool. This requires electricity. But this makes adapting to peak energy prices difficult, if not impossible, for agribusinesses to simply absorb. Exempting peak energy expenses for agribusiness would go a long way to solving some of their cost pressures. Fruit and vegetable growers also need a break on hydro costs because their produce must be promptly refrigerated to ensure freshness and to conform to food safety guidelines. The Minister of Agriculture should consult and examine the options to help; perhaps a rebate program would be the answer. My friend Jeff Wilson, who with his wife, Sharon, owns Birkbank Farms near Orton in the town of Erin, always offers me good advice. He tells me that fruit and vegetable growers need support from the province. The cost of this government’s minimum wage increases comes right off the farmer’s bottom line, and the farmer, in many cases, has little choice but to hire fewer workers and give them fewer hours.
To conclude, I want to thank my colleague Jim Wilson for this resolution, which I obviously
wholeheartedly support. But the people who deserve our support most of all are the farm families of Ontario, and I call on all members not to let them down this afternoon.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Mr. Wilson has moved private members’ notice of motion number 33.
All those in favour of the motion will please rise.
Arnott, Ted Kormos, Peter Prue, Michael
Bisson, Gilles Kular, Kuldip Ruprecht, Tony
Clark, Steve Marchese, Sergio, Mario
DiNovo, Cheri Wilson, Jim
Ernie O’Toole, John
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): All those opposed will please rise.
Albanese, Flynn, Kevin Pendergast,
Laura Daniel Leeanna
Arthurs, Wayne Jaczek, Helena Phillips, Gerry
Balkissoon, Bas Lalonde, Jean- Qaadri, Shafiq
Berardinetti, Sandals, Liz
Lorenzo Mangat, Amrit
Cansfield, McNeely, Phil
Murray, Glen R. Kathleen O.
Naqvi, Yasir Zimmer, David
The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 16; the nays are 24.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): I declare the motion lost.