BY ANDREW SMITH
LISTOWEL – The Ontario PC party is putting their support behind rural Ontario with the release of a new white paper designed to restore prosperity to agriculture in the province.
PC leader Tim Hudak was at David Carson Farms and Auctions in Listowel on Wednesday for the announcement of the Respect for Rural Ontario paper, joined by Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece and Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson. The paper is the 12th in the Paths to Prosperity series, committed to strengthening Ontario and creating jobs.
“The current government seems to see agriculture and small town Ontario as some quaint antique from the 19th century,” Hudak said. “They don’t understand the sophistication of technology, the innovation and productivity that defines modern agriculture in Ontario.”
Hudak said he’s concerned about the urban-rural divide that the current Liberal government has created, which he said is unhealthy for the province. For Ontario to be a leader, Hudak said all parts of the province need to move forward together.
“It seems like agriculture and rural Ontario have been out of sight, out of mind,” Hudak said. “My Ontario includes Listowel.”
One of the focuses of the Respect for Rural Ontario paper is a reduction in the amount of red tape forced upon farmers and small businesses. Hudak said the PCs will reduce the amount of regulation by at least 33 per cent in three years.
“If we don’t do that, I’ll dock my cabinet minister’s pay and I’ll dock my pay as premier as well,” Hudak said. “I think when you do that, you make politicians accountable to those promises.”
Hudak said a survey revealed that 77 per cent of farmers, agri-business members and food processors across the province feel that red tape is an issue, with individual farmers saying they spend as much as four weeks a year working on government forms.
Another priority in the white paper is to create one-window access to government, so farmers no longer have to deal with multiple ministries that often conflict with one another, leaving more time for them to be working on what matters.
“They want to be in the barn producing product, not sitting behind a desk waiting for a letter that never arrives, or pushing more paper,” Hudak said.
The elimination of red tape is just one of the issues dealt with in the Respect for Rural Ontario paper, available online at www.ontariopc.com/paths.
“This is a thoughtful, forward-looking plan that says agriculture is a growth industry in our province,” Hudak said.“