NOW THAT THE dust has settled from the provincial election this spring, it’s time to look ahead to the next federal election which is just about a year away.
The cabinet of Ontario’s newly elected government has strong representation from rural parts of the province. That’s not unusual for a Progressive Conservative (PC) majority. For the first time in a long time, rural Ontario has a voice at the Cabinet table to influence policy and ensure a stronger focus is put on solving the challenges facing rural communities and farmers.
When Premier Ford announced he would name a farmer as the next Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, I knew there were good candidates he could choose from. Many of our provincial representatives though, are not farmers. They are members of the non-farming rural public. They likely have more of an association with agriculture than those that live in the city, but they may not have direct farm experience. Is that necessary? Not entirely. However, because our business is influenced by political decisions and is increasingly complex, it does help if they have a respect and an understanding for the work we do.
And that brings me to the point I wanted to make about the upcoming federal election. We need farmers to run for office no matter what your political persuasion is. We complain that no one in Ottawa is listening to us — so why don’t we do something about it?
I know many of our farmer-members are already politically active at the municipal level — serving as a councillor (aldermen) or mayor (reeve). If you’ve ever thought about leadership on a broader scale, I would encourage you to throw your hat in the ring. I recognize that being a Member of Parliament, with duties in Ottawa as well as at home, is a significant challenge. It would mean giving up farming full-time; perhaps handing over the daily operation of your farm to the next generation sooner than you had intended or taking a less active role in a partnership you have with other family members. Making this decision isn’t an easy one. It requires a serious conversation with your family and an honest conversation with yourself if you feel passionate enough about taking on the role. But I think the more farmers we have on Parliament Hill the better.
Agriculture is a significant economic driver of this province and indeed the entire country. Too often though, our industry takes a back seat to others. We need to make sure that agriculture stays front and centre — particularly when we are dealing with issues such as trade agreements and financial support networks for farmers.
If you aren’t interested in being a politician, then I encourage you to speak with those that are, or to join a local riding association. Let them know about the need to have confidence in our regulatory system, the need for a more comprehensive Business Risk Management program, and the need for free trade agreements that benefit the grains sector.
I also encourage you to listen. Find out what your candidates stand for, what promises they are making, and how they plan to represent rural Ontario at the national level. You have a year to figure out who to vote for — maybe it will be yourself.
A NOTE ABOUT THIS ISSUE
This Ontario Grain Farmer magazine is focused on political issues and our political leaders. We reached out to the agriculture ministers and our political leaders at both the federal and provincial level. We posed specific questions to them about trade, support for agricultural research, and their commitment to fostering growth within our industry. Prime Minister Trudeau’s office declined to respond, referring us to Minister MacAulay’s office. NDP deputy leader John Vanthof responded on behalf of Andrea Horwath. We received a direct response to our request from our agriculture ministers, Premier Ford, and Andrew Scheer.
Business Risk Management, sustainability, and trade are featured in this magazine as well. These are key issues for us and we want to make sure our farmer-members remain engaged and up-to-date on the latest information and actions being taken by the Board and staff at Grain Farmers of Ontario. •