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Agricultural policy should be “based on evidence, not emotion,” says Brown

August 20, 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Brock Weir

 

Ontario’s agriculture should be “based on evidence, not emotion,” says Ontario’s Progressive Conservative (PC) leader Patrick Brown as he charts ways in which a revitalized PC party would benefit communities like Shelburne with a growing rural-urban mix.

Mr. Brown, MPP for Barrie, made his comments in a recent sit-down interview with the Shelburne Free Press, in which he discussed a wide range of topics, including the needs of communities striking a balance between the needs of farming and agricultural communities living alongside near-suburban development.

“One thing I would say to all those families in rural Ontario who have historically supported our party is the Green Energy Act and the fire sale of Hydro One are hitting rural Ontario pretty hard,” says Brown. “If you look at delivery surcharges, the global adjustments, rural Ontario is suffocating in exorbitant energy prices. Global News did an exposé on how jobs are fleeing rural Ontario because of energy prices and I don’t see Kathleen Wynne putting these giant wind turbines in her riding of Don Valley West. She is putting them in Rural Ontario against the objections of rural mayors and reeves. I would stop that practice immediately.

“I think the Green Energy Act is an unmitigated disaster. We have signed energy contracts for energy we don’t need. We are giving it away to Michigan, Quebec and New York and putting it on your bill – and we’re putting these blights next to farms and, frankly, dividing families.”

Nevertheless, Ontario is a province that is growing rapidly and this growth needs to find places to expand. This has occasionally put both rural and urban communities at odds with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), the Province’s arm’s length tribunal with mediates with municipalities and developers over development plans, among other issues, and is the ultimate decider in such matters.

There have been calls in many communities across Ontario, including Dufferin County, calling for changes at the OMB that would give communities more power to be the ultimate authority in how they look. While Mr. Brown agrees that changes should be made to the OMB, he does not support its abolition.

“One of my frustrations with the OMB is it takes so long and it is so costly,” he says. “You talk about the red tape of Ontario and you’re talking about decisions being delayed years. To be in limbo that long is not helpful. I want to create a culture of investment in Ontario where you want to be here, you want to invest here, and if we are viewed as a place where we are indecisive or unpredictable that is not helpful.

“I think you definitely need to have an appeal mechanism but I would like a way to expedite the timelines of decisions with mandated time periods that hearings and decisions have to be embarked upon.”

One driver of this expansion is Ontario’s Places To Grow legislation, which earmarks jurisdictions where growth can be targeted, and to what degree. Mr. Brown says he does have criticisms of the legislation as there can’t be “one cookie cutter solution in every committee.” It is a criticism he says he had as a municipal councillor in Barrie and one he continues to have in his new role as Leader of the Opposition.

If given the chance, he says he would review Places to Grow to offer “more flexibility and a greater municipal voice” in targets handed down to them from the Province.

“Where there is a market demand to grow, ultimately those rural municipalities and townships will be able to decide whether it is development they want or don’t want,” says Mr. Brown. “I would say that we do need to protect farmland, we need local food, we need to encourage families to stay on and carry on the tradition of the family farm.

“I work closely with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and I know there are policies whether it is the NeoNics ban (Neonicotinoid – a form of insecticide linked to declining bee populations), the red tape in farming – those are very hostile to the Family Farm and I am committed to working with pushing back those challenges. Agricultural policy should be based on evidence, not emotion. The NeoNics ban was based on emotion and not evidence, and we shouldn’t be putting farms, which have been struggling, under more financial hardship due to onerous regulatory burdens.”

         

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