The candidates were asked about investing in the economic potential of local food and farming at the All Candidates Meeting held on Sept. 28th, 2011. The following is the question presented and below are the candidates responses. (Note: A submission from Rob Milligan, PC, has not been received yet)
Ontario Farmers generate $170 million annually in Farm Gate sales alone. There is no doubt that farming and food production and processing needs to be viewed as the profitable and viable business it is. If you are elected, will you fight for Provincial and Federal investment in the economic potential of local food and farming?
LOU RINALDI, Ontario Liberal Party (MPP)
Ontario Liberals believe in buying local, and we have supported that belief by investing more than $80 million in support of local food.
This has included:
- The Ontario Farmers’ Market Strategy — to help make it easier for people to buy food directly from Ontario farmers.
- The Ontario Market Investment Fund — giving 200 retailers, local food networks and processors the business tools they need to promote local food and capture a growing demand for Ontario products.
- The Foodland Ontario program — supporting ongoing collaboration with Ontario’s retail and food service sectors to promote Ontario producers and processors and their products.
We are now taking that one step further. Ontario Liberals are committed to working with farmers to bring more local food to the table — whether that table is found in our kitchens at home, or in our local schools and hospitals.
We have invested $6 million through our Broader Public Sector Investment Fund to help increase the amount of fresh, healthy and delicious local foods in our municipalities, universities, colleges, schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and day care centres.
Ontario Liberals have invested more than $80 million in support of local food, including: helping more than 200 local food networks, farmers and processors market their products and services, increasing the number of farmers’ markets across Ontario, and showcasing Ontario foods in grocery stores across the province with Foodland Ontario.
We are now taking that one step further, investing $6 million through our Broader Public Sector Investment Fund to help increase the amount of fresh, healthy and delicious local foods in our municipalities, universities, colleges, schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities and day care centres. We have also led by example: over 20 government cafeterias prominently feature Ontario foods. And, last year, we spent
more than $15 million on local food.
When they were in office, the PCs did not have a buy-local strategy. Instead, they cut the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs budget by $120 million in their last year of government alone, and sat idly by while more than 1,000 farmers left the land each year.
Ontario Liberals remain committed to promoting local food through key initiatives such as the Foodland Ontario program, the Ontario Farmers’ Market Strategy, and ongoing collaboration with Ontario’s farmers, processors, retailers and food service providers.
A strong food processing sector is not only good for rural Ontario because it creates jobs — it also represents a new and growing opportunity for farmers. Now, more than ever, processors are looking to buy the things they need for their business locally. That means more local food is being purchased from farmers, and Ontarians can buy locally processed foods at their supermarket.
Ontario is home to one of North America’s largest food and beverage processing sectors, with more than half of it located throughout our rural communities. Ontario Liberals recognize the diverse and growing market opportunity the food and beverage processing industry presents. That is why over the past four years we have supported food processing businesses, which have created and kept more than 15,000 jobs and generated nearly $500 million in economic activity across the province.
Part of our valued food processing sector includes our small- and medium-sized provincially licensed meat plants, which provide us with the safe, high-quality, locally raised meats Ontarians enjoy. Ontario Liberals know that keeping our meat plants strong and growing also means keeping our food safe: even one person sick is too many, so food safety is our first priority.
Under the PCs, food safety was compromised. Inspectors were cut from 130 in 1993 to 10 in 2003.
We made a number of positive changes to the meat inspection program, reducing the burden on small operators while maintaining food safety, and we provided more than $6 million through our Rural Economic Development program to help them strengthen their business and access new market opportunities.
The PCs did nothing to support local food when they had the chance — they did not have a buy-local strategy and instead fired inspectors and downloaded costs onto rural Ontario.
Our strategy is working. More than 50 per cent of Ontarians are buying more local food than they were before.
The Green Party of Ontario has a complete platform which puts a very strong emphasis on local food as essential to food security, health, economic development, jobs and environmental protection in this province. We will open local and regional market opportunities for farmers through quotas for local products, R&D for local food production,cutting red tape for small and medium sized farmers, providing peer to peer knowledge to produce more organic food, risk management insurance for a wider array of products whether or not the federal government participates. Not allowing CETA to impose restrictions on preference for local agricultural goods and services. We will make the family farm sustainable by these methods and by community and farm based energy production and biofuel production. As well, the Green Party will support farmers by paying them for the stewardship they do to protect the natural environment.
KIRA MEES, Ontario NDP
Yes. We will start by introducing legislation requiring Ontario’s government to spend more of taxpayers’ money on local produce. We will extend funding for the Ontario Marketing Investment Fund for a further three years to invest in local supply chains and regional food hubs that link farmers directly with restaurants and consumers. We will assist businesses, farmers, processors, and local community organizations, to develop materials and advertising that will inform consumers of what products are available locally and how/where they can purchase them. We will fund the planned expansion of the risk management program to include cattle, sheep, pork and veal, and horticulture. And we will provide relief from municipal taxation and zoning restrictions to encourage on-farm processing.