Ted Arnott, MPP
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2013
MPP Arnott brings MPAC issue to floor of Legislature
(Queen’s Park) – In recent weeks, many farmers in Halton Hills have been alarmed by large
increases in the assessed value of their farmland, following the 2012 MPAC assessments,
resulting in steep property tax increases.
Bert Andrews, of Andrews’ Scenic Acres in Halton Hills, a member of the Halton Agricultural
Advisory Committee and the Halton Region Federation of Agriculture has been speaking up for
fairness for Halton Hills farmers.
“Farmers in Halton expect to pay their fair share of municipal taxes based on their ability to pay,”
said Mr. Andrews. “However, a review of 2012 Farmland Assessments needs to be undertaken
as a 93.8% increase jumps out of the page.”
Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott took the farmers’ fight to floor of the Ontario Legislature
on April 18.
“In my riding of Wellington-Halton Hills, some farmers today are facing astronomical increases in
the assessed value of their farmland,” Mr. Arnott informed the Legislature. “I’ve been told that
the average increase in assessment on vacant farmland, based on farmer to farmer sales, is
93.8%, over and above the previous assessment. Farmers are rightly questioning this, and
those who are angry about it have every right to be.”
“Here’s what needs to happen: the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Agriculture and Food,
and the Minister responsible for Rural Affairs need to work together and instruct MPAC to review
their methodology, and come back with a more realistic, fair and accurate assessment of current
values of farmland in Halton Hills,” Mr. Arnott argued.
In addition to the MPAC issue, Mr. Arnott raised a number of other issues that are important to
farmers, including expressing farmers’ frustrations with the Government over large fee increases
on tires for tractors and other agricultural equipment under the Ontario Tire Stewardship
“In one case, the fee apparently goes from just over $15 a tire to $353…a 2,200% increase,”
said Mr. Arnott.
Mr. Arnott maintains that the Wynne Government’s agriculture policy is yet another example of
how the Government is continuing to go down the same road as it did under Dalton McGuinty, in
many cases supported by the NDP.
– 30 –
Ted Arnott, MPP
Text of Mr. Arnott’s speech in the Ontario Legislature, April 18, 2013
I’m glad to have this chance this morning, to speak about Bill 36, the Government’s Local Food
Last week, I achieved the dubious distinction of reaching the age of 50. And I must confess, the
older I get, the more I think about food!
I was glad to celebrate the occasion with my family, who surprised and delighted me by coming
down to Toronto last Monday night. And what did we do? Of course, we went out for dinner. And
we ate our meal together.
As families, and as communities, food is almost always part of our special celebrations.
But even more than that, food is a basic human need. We need to nourish and sustain
ourselves with nutritious food. If we don’t, we perish.
This is why our farm families are so important in our society. This is why we should
acknowledge and recognize their importance.
It is their labour and effort, their ingenuity and knowledge, indeed, it is their passion for a life in
agriculture that feeds us all.
There’s an old saying in Rural Ontario, and it’s as simple as it is true: “If you ate today, thank a
And you know, the local food movement has really taken off in this Province.
We now have restaurants that proudly identify the origin of food, farmer’s markets in so many
communities selling local produce, and specialty independent grocery stores that have opened,
all to cater to the customer who wants to eat food that’s been grown or produced within a 160
km radius of their home, or as it’s sometimes called, “the Hundred Mile Diet.”
We appreciate the idea of local food: the idea that it’s fresher, safer, and more flavourful. The
idea that eating local food has environmental benefits, because transportation costs are
But it’s more than just a successful marketing strategy: the local food movement has contributed
greatly to an enhanced understanding of the importance of our farm families.
We know that by buying local food, we support our local farmers, and local food processors.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague in the Legislature, the Member for Perth-Wellington is doing a super
job in this House. He’s our deputy critic to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Together we
represent all of the residents of Wellington County. Mr. Pettapiece spoke on this Bill 36 on
Tuesday, and he made a number of very important points.
He said on Tuesday in order to have local food, you need local farmers.
A simple declaration, but a profound statement we need to reflect upon.
He’s absolutely right. And this is why, Mr. Speaker, we need to broaden the scope of this
debate, to some of the other important issues facing our farm families and our agri food sector.
I agree with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture:
We need a continuation of the Ontario Risk Management Program as a fully funded program,
which means we need look at how we can move beyond the $100 million program cap. Through
finding efficiencies and eliminating waste in other programs, I’d like to see us make a concerted
effort to try to find a way to do this.
We need research funding to strengthen the long term competitiveness of Ontario’s agriculture
sector, and we need to strengthen our partnership with the University of Guelph in this
We need to give farmers financial incentives to encourage them to adopt new technologies.
We need to encourage innovation in energy generation through biodigestion of manure, crop
residue or purpose grown energy crops.
We need to support environmental stewardship practices, food safety and traceability, to show
how safe Ontario food really is.
We need an EFFECTIVE program to promote Ontario grown food to Ontario consumers. In
other words, we need a Local Food Act and accompanying policies which achieve what the
Government says it wants to achieve.
We need to invest in rural infrastructure, and I think of our local hospitals, schools, roads and
bridges, which need to be prioritized.
We need to extend natural gas distribution into rural Ontario, and deal with the concerns of local
Those are some of the issues we face in rural Ontario, and we need leadership and support
from the Provincial Government to overcome them.
But we have other challenges.
In my Riding of Wellington-Halton Hills, some farmers today are facing astronomical increases
in the assessed value of their farmland.
I’ve been told that the average increase in assessment on vacant farmland, based on farmer to
farmer sales, is 93.8%, over and above the previous assessment.
Farmers are rightly questioning this, and those who are angry about it have every right to be.
Meetings have been held, the Town of Halton Hills as well as the Region of Halton have
become involved. Our Regional Chair Gary Carr is pushing hard for our farmers, and I know our
local and Regional Councils would support fairness for our farm families. But many of our
farmers have valid, outstanding questions that MPAC has yet to satisfactorily answer.
I have spoken with my friend Bert Andrews, of Andrews’ Scenic Acres, in the Town of Halton
Hills. Mr. Andrews is part of the Halton Agricultural Advisory Committee, is a member of the
Halton Region Federation of Agriculture. He has done a great deal of research and analysis on
In a recent summary of the issue, Mr. Andrews concluded that the property tax assessment
system is presently broken in Halton.
Here’s what needs to happen: the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Agriculture and Food, and
the Minister responsible for Rural Affairs need to work together and instruct MPAC to review
their methodology, and come back with a more realistic, fair and accurate assessment of current
values of farmland in Halton Hills.
The Premier wants farmers to believe that their interests and issues are a high priority for her.
She wants us to believe that by appointing herself Minister of Agriculture and Food, the
concerns of farmers will be given greater weight than might otherwise be the case.
She has a chance to prove that, by taking immediate action on this farmland assessment issue
in Wellington-Halton Hills.
If she chooses to take no action, farmers will conclude that having a part-time Minister of
Agriculture and Food is really no advantage at all, and may actually be a disadvantageous for
farmers in Ontario.
Again, as Randy Pettapiece observed, in order to have local food, you need local farmers.
Local farmers in Wellington-Halton Hills are dealing with a myriad of problems, created during
the last 10 years of Liberal Government:
Excessive regulation and red tape, which is irritating, time consuming, costly, and does little to
make our farms more competitive or profitable,
Skyrocketing hydro bills, and we know that much of the upward pressure on the hydro bill has
been caused by deliberate and misguided policy decisions of this Liberal Government,
Abattoirs closing, because of overzealous and excessive regulation,
Uncertainty in the horseracing industry, caused by their decision to cancel the Slots at
Racetracks program, even though a proper economic analysis had not been done.
The list goes on and on.
What does this Bill 36 do to address these problems? Objectively, nothing.
In order to have local food, you need local farmers.
Local farmers in my area were proud when in 1998, the Legislature passed a bill proclaiming
Ontario Agriculture Week during the week leading up to Thanksgiving. Our friend Bert Johnson,
then the MPP for Perth, had introduced the Bill, and fought hard for its passage.
So on this side of the House, we ask:
How is Bill 36, with its provision to delete the idea of “Ontario Agriculture Week,” and replace it
with “Local Food Week” a step forward?
Did they even think of this when they were drafting the Bill?
Why would they want to take away Mr. Johnson’s significant and signature achievement in
getting agriculture the recognition the industry deserves?
Why are they taking such a partisan approach to this Bill, in contrast to their constant rhetoric
about wanting to work with the Opposition parties, in a spirit of cooperation?
If you want to have local food, you need local farmers.
The local farmers in Wellington-Halton Hills have been astonished to learn of the Ontario Tire
Stewardship Fee increases on tractor tires, and other agriculture equipment tires.
In one case, the fee apparently goes from just over $15 a tire to $353…a 2,200 percent
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture say they were not informed of these changes in advance,
and there was no opportunity for public input or comment.
My colleague, the Member for Oxford, has pointed out that no other province has tire taxes even
close to the level of this new fee schedule just launched in Ontario.
Mr. Hardeman has launched a petition calling on the Government to stop the increases. He
deserves credit for helping farmers protest this continued nonsense, which the Liberal
Government can’t blame on anyone but themselves.
This same tired, recycled Liberal Government, that introduces the same Local Food Act, as was
introduced by the McGuinty Government before they prorogued the House in last fall.
This same tired, recycled Liberal Government who wants us to think they’ve changed, even
though the policy agenda remains largely the same.
This same tired, recycled Liberal Government, propped up on many key votes by the New
Democrats in this House.
And I say to the Government: listen to the OFA’s suggestion that we need to raise the basic
food literacy of all Ontarians. We need food awareness programs including nutrition, food
preparation programming, and a food literacy component in our schools.
And listen to our Agriculture Critic and Deputy Critic for Agriculture, and take a look at the ideas
our Caucus expressed in our White Paper on agriculture, where we outline some of our ideas
for a better future for our farm families,
The promise of the future,
Under an Ontario Progressive Conservative Government.