Premier Tries To Ease Concerns In CK
Premier Kathleen Wynne made a lot of promises to a lot of people during her stop in Chatham Thursday afternoon.
Premier Wynne met with vegetable growers, greenhouse operators, and Mayor Randy Hope at Truly Green Farms.
During a closed door meeting following the tour, she heard about the impact the increasing minimum wage and rising hydro costs will have on the industry’s bottom line and growth.
Wynne says she heard their concerns and believes there’s a solution as businesses go through this minimum wage transition.
“It’s interesting, I was here a couple of years ago and the conversation we had then was about electricity prices. We’ve changed the way electricity pricing works so that greenhouses are going to be able to qualify for the ICI programs,” says the premier.
The Industrial Conservation Initiative or ICI program provides an incentive for large electricity consumers to shift their electricity consumption to off-peak hours to reduce their bills by about one-third.
Greg Devries of Truly Green Farms says several minimum wage options were presented to the premier and he’s also optimistic a solution is on the horizon.
“Not so much the impact on the bottom line but how that moving forward impacts the growth and stability of the industry. It’s an industry the premier expressed she cares a lot about and we have some options we’re going to explore and work through,” Devries says.
Devries gives the premier credit for changes to hydro rules over the last year to make it more attractive for greenhouses to stay in Ontario and grow year round.
“The biggest challenge to our industry is Mexican product that comes up because they have the ability with their climate and their latitude to produce without any higher up front investment. I think every grower in Ontario would like to get to year round production if the numbers made sense,” says Devries.
The premier also briefly spoke with Water Wells First, OPSEU, and Unifor 127 at the Chatham-Kent Museum and promised she would look into the local contaminated well water issue.