OFA supports premier in ag minister role

Throne speech | Nothing specific for agriculture

Ontario Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne has been in office for only a few weeks, but the province’s farmers say they are optimistic they have a friend in government.

Wynne, a Toronto politician with a long history of urban activism, took the unprecedented step of naming herself agriculture minister when she became premier.

“Ontarians grow the best food in the world, that’s why we’re continuing to push hard to promote local foods and support our farmers with risk management programs,” she told the Ontario Federation of Agriculture before the provincial election in early February.

Last week’s throne speech opening the Ontario legislative session promised infrastructure investment but nothing specific for agriculture.

This week, Wynne and her cabinet attend a meeting in Toronto about the need for infrastructure across the province, including rural Ontario.

OFA president Mark Wales said Wynne is off to a good start despite the lack of agricultural mention in the throne speech.

“Clearly the real test will be in the budget later, but I think she is eager to learn and I’ve been meeting with her once a week,” he said.

”How much higher profile can we get than having the premier as agriculture minister? It should work well and my goal is to bring her consensus solutions from the sector that she can move on.”

Wales said the OFA wants to be certain farm support funding and programs are maintained. Many of the policies the sector needs are changes in regulations that would cost the government little, he added.

He also said it is important that the farm lobby make its arguments for change quickly, considering the Liberals have a minority government that could be defeated on its budget.

Wynne’s surprise decision to become her own agriculture minister comes after the three-term Liberal government gradually lost almost all of its once-extensive rural support.

The opposition Progressive Conservatives now hold most rural seats and plan to use that rural base as a key platform to try to defeat the Liberals in the next election, which could come as early as this spring.

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