It isn’t about the bees

FROM THE CEO'S DESK

Barry Senft, CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario

IT’S BECOMING INCREASINGLY apparent that the Wynne government is only paying lip-service to our legislative processes. How else could regulatory changes get implemented so quickly?

Governments are known for moving slowly; consultants are hired, studies are requested, and polls are taken. It can take years for governments to decide on regulations or legislation. I’m not suggesting this is a good system — needless delays never accomplish anything. However, due diligence is needed to make sure that the regulations and laws we operate under in this province are fair and balanced. That hasn’t been the way this Ontario government has been operating.

It’s clear that Kathleen Wynne has little interest in opinions which differ from her own and little time to hear from those who will be most affected by the legislation the provincial government is pushing through.

Grain Farmers of Ontario has been very vocal about our opposition to the way new restrictions on neonicotinoid insecticides are being developed. The decision making has been done entirely by government officials based in Toronto who only understand agriculture from an academic perspective and appear to rely heavily on anti-agriculture activists for their information. This was made clear when the final comment period for the regulation was posted during the busy spring planting season, reducing the ability of grain producers to submit replies.

Some may rightly claim that, as a farmer, I could be biased in my views when it comes to this particular regulation. However, the proposed ban on neonics is not the only change that Wynne is making with seemingly little regard for due process.

Take climate change as an example. Wynne has a deal with Quebec to move forward with a carbon cap and trade system. This was announced just two weeks after public consultations were held to garner feedback on a comprehensive climate change strategy and the comment period for the Climate Change Discussion Paper posted on the Environmental Registry was closed. Whether you support the cap and trade system or not, the swiftness of this decision does come under suspicion.

There are other examples, such as the issue of phosphorus levels in the Great Lakes and the sale of spirits being treated differently than beer and wine, that could or will have an impact on our farmer-members.

Some will say, that having won the election, the government has been given a clear mandate to implement Wynne’s agenda. A majority government does give you the right to pass legislation freely — but when it comes to changing existing regulations, it doesn’t mean you can ignore government protocol and due process.

I believe, for Wynne, it isn’t about saving the bees, it isn’t about protecting the environment for future generations — it’s about maintaining influence with the urban population who put her in power.

The trouble is, we are now starting to see that very same public raise questions about policies and decisions outside of agriculture which more directly affect them. They are questioning whether she is making the right choices for their future and they are beginning to see the questionable consequences of the direction the provincial government is taking.

We continue to believe in compromise even though our concerns are falling on deaf ears. People who live in our city-centres should know we want to work on agricultural issues with them. We don’t want to widen the urban-rural divide that Wynne has created. •

About Barry Senft 61 Articles
CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario