Ontario Budget Released

Ontario Minister of Agriciulture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal (BlackburnNews.com photo)

Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs says the 2016 provincial budget continues to expand on growth on innovation and the agri-food sector.

There are also a number of environmental goals.

Jeff Leal says those goals will be reached with the help of the farming community.

“We have about 52,000 family farms in the province of Ontario. Well in excess of 30,000 are involved in the volunteer environmental farm plans,” says Leal. “That’s a good example of the how the farm sector in the province of Ontario are good environmental stewards.”

The Ontario budget does contain increases in service fees and an increase gasoline.

Leal says the $.043 per cent increase per litre does not include coloured gas but PC agriculture critic Toby Barrett says farm families still pump regular gasoline.

“We put a lot of gas through our cars and pick-up trucks,” says Barrett. “The climate change initiative means a $.043 litre mark up at the wholesale level.”

As for input from agriculture groups, Ontario’s agriculture minister says there were three top priorities and one was investing in rural infrastructure.

“We did that extremely well when the premiere released details of the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund and Connecting Links in her speech at Ontario Good Roads last Monday,” says Leal.

The other two notable requests were for a natural gas loan program and a going global strategy to grow agricultural markets.

From the other side, PC critic Toby Barrett says one thing that was lacking was expanded support for the risk management program.

“They’ve cut the budget (agriculture) $25-million, the OMAFRA budget is dropping from $943-million to $916-million,” says Barrett. “This budget did not touch at all the requests with respect to the risk management program to make it more sustainable.”