Saskatchewan and Ontario work together on agricultural priorities

QUEBEC CITY — Agriculture ministers from Saskatchewan and Ontario say their two provinces will collaborate on priorities that support the sector’s growth in both provinces.

Saskatchewan’s David Marit and Ontario’s Ernie Hardeman held an inaugural meeting under a memorandum of understanding for free trade signed by their premiers last fall.

They met before the federal-provincial-territorial meeting with their colleagues in Quebec City last week.

Their shared priorities include trade, market access and development, labour and red-tape reduction for agri-business.

Marit said there are obvious connections between the two jurisdictions. They account for 45 percent of Canada’s farm cash receipts from primary production and more than 40 percent of food and beverage processing revenue.

“I think when we look at ag production in Saskatchewan, Ontario is a big player on the processing side for what we do,” Marit said in an interview. “I think we complement each other that way.”

Developing more value-added industry in Saskatchewan is important and partnerships can assist with that goal, he said.

Labour shortages affect all parts of the industry and the ministers agreed they want Ottawa to consult provinces on any changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker and Seasonal Agricultural Workers programs.

Marit said even in primary agriculture production labour shortages are becoming more significant.

“When you see the (shortfall) it’s huge, and the impact it’s having on the economy as a result” is also large, he said.

Hardeman flagged the issue of labour mobility. That proposed change could mean employers who spent the thousands of dollars required to bring foreign workers to Canada could lose them.

He also said if the industry is to grow, then red tape and regulatory burdens must be addressed.

“It is more urgent than ever to lighten the regulatory burden so the agri-food sector can grow and thrive,” he said.

The ministers encouraged Ottawa to continue working to resolve the trade dispute with China and agreed to work together on finding new markets.

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