This is an open letter to Doug Ford, newly elected leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, with the assumption that he becomes the next premier of Ontario. It actually doesn’t matter if he wins or not, of course. The wants and needs of rural Ontario remain the same, and must be addressed by the next government regardless of party name.
Dear Doug Ford,
Congratulations on being named leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. You have a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time if you’re going to become the next premier.
Because you’ll be so busy, I thought it might be helpful to put together a handy list of things we need in this province. I compiled this list from a handy group of farming friends off Twitter. You can read the thread here, if you’d like.
What agriculture in Ontario wants is respect — respect for the good work that farmers do on the landscape and the incredible amount of economy driven by farming and food in this province. We’re not a bunch of hicks and hayseeds; we’re smart, educated, business people who work with land, livestock, and the weather to provide a good that everyone needs. It’s a noble calling, sure, but it’s also a vital part of any economy, and let me tell you, farming in this province is facing many challenges.
Part of respecting farming is providing rural and farm areas with the infrastructure to succeed. Agriculture needs high-speed internet, just like any other business. We need access to affordable energy on a large scale. Natural gas access is a game changer. Hydro should be an affordable option, but it is anything but. It’s a mess and stressful and a huge suck on profitability. Farmers need to be able to pay their bills to stay in business. Staying in business keeps local food local and keeps our rural communities thriving.
What Ontario needs is preservation of its farmland. As a province, we lose hundreds (yes, hundreds) of acres per day to sprawl. Here’s the thing about land — once paved or a house built, that land will never revert back to farmland. Beyond a few backyard tomato plants, the ability of developed land to provide any sort of food is forever lost. Lost land means farmers are being squeezed out, either through land prices or simply by lack of access. This irreversible loss is also incredibly expensive in the long-term — even ignoring the loss of farm productivity, the larger that cities spread the more infrastructure costs, the heavier the drag on services. Higher density housing in suburban and urban areas isn’t just sound land management, it’s sound business management for all levels of government.
Rural Ontario is a vibrant, busy, productive, meaningful part of this province, and, if I may speak for a few others, we feel like we’ve either been neglected or targeted — through increased red tape, ballooning energy costs, closed schools, and lack of basic business infrastructure.
We need attention and sound policy. We need to balance the environmental, social, and economical impacts of government agriculture policy. Because, as a province, we all benefit from a thriving rural economy. Support us in this and we will work so hard providing food for the people of this province at a local, national, and international level.
Agriculture is full of intelligent, passionate people with vision who want to see real change in this province. I hope you’ll seek these people out and work with them and actually listen to what agriculture wants and needs before rolling out new rules and regulations. It would be a welcome change.
For our part, we will work to do better. We’re responsible for an immense amount of land, water, and habitat, and our actions on this land have implications for each person in Ontario. We are willing and able to do our best to farm sustainably, providing safe, nutritious, and abundant food for Ontario. A little support would go a long way.
And while we are all going to try our best, every now and then we might accidentally call you Rob. He was a larger-than-life personality in this province. We apologize for the slip in advance.