Paint the town…orange? What an NDP government could mean for rural Ontario

Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP  (Photo supplied)

Perhaps you saw it differently if you took in the televised Ontario leaders’ debate earlier this week, but from what I saw, Kathleen Wynne is done, Doug Ford did not impress, and — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — the NDP’s Andrea Horwath knocked it out of the park.

It’s most certainly Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives’ election to lose, and if the opening days of this campaign is any indication, he’s off to a roaring start.

Wynne is on the defensive, and from what I’ve seen and heard from attack ads, she’s got her sights on Ford. I’m not the first to suggest that it’s Horwath she needs to worry about, but while Ford and Wynne trade barbs, Horwath’s team is selling itself as the alternative to both, and now has the backing of the teachers’ union.

I’m less concerned about how the leaders themselves are doing and more concerned with what a red, blue, or orange government means for farmers and rural citizens of Ontario — the teeny minority of voters in this province. I sent the call out earlier this week to each team for details on their agriculture and rural platforms. Perhaps surprisingly, only the NDP responded.

Imagine my surprise, too, when as I read through it, it occurred to me that perhaps the NDP have actually been paying attention to what’s been happening in rural Ontario.

To start with, the NDP plans to get rid of “unfair rural hydro delivery costs that are the highest in Canada, while reducing hydro costs by 30%.” As someone who has paid both an urban and rural hydro bill with the same company, I can attest to the “unfair” aspect of delivery fees, to the tune of $240 vs $80 per month in delivery fees for similar energy use.

Competitiveness and services are an issue for rural Ontario, for sure, and Horwath’s platform promises a 10-year, $1 billion fund to bring broadband service to rural and northern Ontario, and $100 million in natural gas expansion for rural Ontario. Also mentioned is investment in turning farm waste into biogas and connecting it to the natural gas grid.

For those who spent last year fighting school closures, the NDP say they will “stop and reverse the cuts and closures, and invest in rural transportation, healthcare, schools and infrastructure.”

Toronto’s Greenbelt has been a hot-button issue heading in to this election. The NDP’s platform includes language surrounding “protecting prime farmland from land speculators, and strengthen Ontario’s Greenbelt to expand economic opportunities for family farmers and local producers.”

There are also plans to increase the cap for the Risk Management Program, help for young farmers, promises of developing Provincial Food and Water Strategy to “strengthen Ontario’s food security and the resilience of its food systems.” The NDP also fully supports supply management, plans to create a food curriculum in schools, and improvement of food safety rules to ensure “fair and appropriate regulations for smaller and less-risky local producers.”

To make even our own Bern Tobin take notice, Horwath’s platform also includes the promise to undo the “damage caused by the Liberals’ reckless decision to cut the Slots At Racetracks Program,” and will build a “long-term plan to revitalize this sector.”

Now, how does the NDP plan to support all this? Funding, at least in part, will come from higher business taxes (on the big guys, of course) and sin taxes. They also plan to run deficits each year.

So, there you have it. We already know what a red government means for the province as evidenced by the current dynasty, and I suppose we’ll keep waiting on what a blue government has in store for rural Ontario — we’ll keep you posted.

 

Lyndsey Smith

Lyndsey Smith is a field editor for RealAgriculture. A self-proclaimed agnerd, Lyndsey is passionate about all things farming but is especially thrilled by agronomy and livestock production.

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