Ottawa/Queen's Park




- by Karen Gventer

While the Ontario Federation of Agriculture all candidates meeting in Keady was not televised, I appreciate the opportunity that the Owen Sound Hub has offered the candidates to share our agriculture and rural platform.

One thing I am very proud of is that rural affairs is not an entirely separate section of the Ontario NDP's platform. Rural needs are not an afterthought, they are incorporated throughout the entire platform.

A few examples are protecting local hospitals and rural health care, fixing school funding so that it meets the needs of rural communities, ensuring rural hydro users pay the same delivery costs as urban users, investing in rural infrastructure, and supporting buses that run between cities.

There are some key issues that affect rural areas, and especially farmers, more than urban areas. One example is the cost of gas. Not so long ago, the gas price at the pumps reflected the cost of a barrel of oil. This is not the case any more. Taking the tax off gas gives no promise that the oil companies won't just increase the gas prices by the same amount, and it reduces the revenue we need for our services like health care and roads. The NDP commits to implementing regulations that will put some controls on the gas prices; one example would be to look at policies that can remove unfair regional price differences.

Rural areas are challenged by limited options for heating. An NDP government would invest $100 million in natural gas expansion to rural Ontario. Those of us who live in rural areas also have limited choices for internet, An NDP government would spend $1 billion to bring broadband service to rural and northern Ontario.

There are a few specific agricultural issues which the NDP recognizes. The cap on the Risk Management Program must be raised. We will defend supply management for Ontario's farmers. We will protect Ontario's Production Insurance program, and work with farmers to keep it fully funded and simple to access, so it offers them real protection. And an issue that I've heard several times is the number of barriers for young people to go into farming. The Ontario NDP commits to working with farming groups to ensure young farmers can get their foot in the door.

Looking at broader issues again, the NDP's commitment to change loans to grants for post-secondary education would help many people of Ontario, including rural residents. As well, our commitment to invest $57 million from the Jobs and Prosperity Fund will create opportunities in the trades. Furthermore, we need thousands of student co-op jobs created to give students hands-on experience instead of just book learning.

Our commitments to properly fund health care, to buy back Hydro One, thereby reducing hydro rates by 30%, and to provide drug and dental coverage for all Ontarians have been very well received. We are the only party which has a fiscally responsible plan, where part of the revenue will come from having the wealthiest pay their fair share. We can have change for the better in Ontario.


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