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PC Party Plan for a Better Rural Ontario

(March 25, 2013) Farming and agriculture is a rich part of our history that as global populations grow will play a significant role into our future. But, for this to happen, the sector can no longer be ignored. The urban-focused McGuinty-Wynne government's view of farming has been more of a quaint past-time of the 19th century than the modern and sophisticated engine for job creation that it is today. This has to change.

To compensate for years of Liberal inaction, the Ontario PCs have undergone an extensive consultation process with farmers, food processors and agribusinesses to better understand the ways we can improve the system. With the feedback we've received, we produced our twelfth whitepaper entitled, Paths to Prosperity: Respect for Rural Ontario that details our job creating ideas to get the rural economy and agriculture sector back to where it should be. Let me share some of these reforms.

The number one problem found during the consultation process was red tape and the unnecessary regulatory burden forced on the sector. Of those surveyed, 77 percent of farmers, 76 percent of food processors and 86 percent of agribusinesses reported that needless paperwork is hindering their operations. Just look at Miller's Dairy in Creemore. Their on-farm milk processing plant was delayed by various government regulations including the requirement to build a receiving bay for milk trucks to transport unpasteurized milk. On-farm milk processing means milk is pasteurized on-farm and that both a milk truck and receiving bay isn't needed. We want to reduce red tape by 33 percent and create one-window access to government, as well as, review licenses, permits and certificates to see which could be combined and which could be eliminated.

Another idea is to implement a two percent biodiesel mandate on biodiesel sold in Ontario. This reform would benefit the environment by reducing waste and be good for jobs by expanding markets and creating new manufacturing opportunities. Other provinces have already implemented this reform and Ontario farmers need to have access to the same opportunities to remain competitive.

We also want to strengthen Ontario's Risk Management Programs. Production Insurance has proven invaluable to farmers, especially in my riding over the last year when an early spring followed by a severe frost caused irreparable damage and destroyed crops in the apple and tender fruit industries. We would move to strengthen this program along with forage insurance, as well as, set aside all business risk management program premiums--given by both farmers and the government--into a dedicated fund. We want to cancel the Feed-in Tariff program to reduce electricity costs while honouring existing contracts.

We want to provide supports to local food production to harvest the benefits of home grown foods. We want to ensure we develop the skills needed by encouraging students to pursue careers in modern, high-tech farming. And, we want to rebuild partnerships with the horseracing industry by cancelling the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's plan to abandon racetrack slots.

There is a lot that has to be done, but if we want to benefit from future global demands we need to foster the environment that is conducive to that growth.

These are some of our proposed reforms, but for a full list or to read our complete whitepaper on agriculture please visit our website. I look forward to hearing your input.


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