Premier Doug Ford’s government released its latest budget for Ontario, with a major focus on health care and housing. Tucked in the budget, however, are a few items directly or indirectly applicable to agriculture in the province, including a focus on improving veterinary access in under-serviced areas, support for trades, and a manufacturing credit.
In the budget, the province notes it will support the Collaborative DVM in Rural and Northern Community Practice Program, with a commitment to train 20 additional veterinarians annually with targeted recruitment from northern and rural areas.
The Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) have been lobbying the government to improve access to veterinary medicine and expand capacity of existing vet practices, especially in northern and remote communities.
“The commitments included in the 2023 Ontario Budget to improve access to veterinarian education and service capacity come as welcomed news to BFO and Ontario beef farmers, particularly those in underserviced regions of the province,” says Jack Chaffe, BFO president.
“A partnership between the University of Guelph and Lakehead University in the north is a positive step for our northern sheep producers,” says John Hemsted, chair of Ontario Sheep Farmers. “We look forward to working with the universities to support their students’ hands-on learning in northern farm communities.”
Additionally, sheep producers have expressed concern with the low number of veterinary school graduates who choose to practice in rural areas and with livestock. OSF is encouraged by the government’s commitment in the budget to increase enrolment in DVM programs to support Ontario’s live
Announced previously, the province also committed to an increased budget for the Ontario Risk Management Programs (RMP), including those for lamb and beef.
“BFO is happy to see continued support for risk management, and we look forward to continuing to work in a collaborative manner with provincial decision-makers to ensure the risk management needs of our members can be sufficiently addressed,” says Chaffe.
The province is also launching an Ontario Made Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit, which would provide a 10 per cent refundable Corporate Income Tax credit to help local manufacturers “lower their costs, invest in workers, innovate and become more competitive.” There is also a $224 million budget for the Skills Development Fund to leverage private-sector expertise and expand training centres, including union training halls to provide more accessible, flexible training opportunities for workers, the province says.