May 30, 2012

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I’m pleased to rise today to respond to the statement by the Minister of Agriculture, and I want to recognize the recipients of the awards for their hard work. I want to recognize all of Ontario’s farmers and food processors for the great products that we sell to the world. It’s great to see these products being marketed and the exports growing.

Ontario’s food and beverage industry is the largest customer for our farmers, buying 70% of their production. They also employ approximately 110,000 Ontarians. However, we need to ensure that Ontario is a good place for these companies to operate, and many of them have been clear: Right now, government policies are holding them back. When it becomes easier and cheaper for an international company to operate in another jurisdiction, they move and take their jobs with them. We’ve seen that repeatedly, but the government refuses to acknowledge the impact of their policies.

The Alliance of Ontario Food Processors says, “Without a different approach, Ontario’s second largest manufacturing industry will watch its contribution to the economy and society of Ontario erode as international competitors move further ahead in both productivity and innovation.” One step they recommended is to provide one-window access for government for the agri-food sector. The government committed to that one-window access in the last election, but so far they’ve taken no action to implement the one-window approach to fix the red tape problem.

Farmers in agribusiness tell us they can’t get a straight answer from the government on all the steps required to expand, so many of them are just choosing not to. We have farmers and businesses that are being buried in red tape, and this government isn’t taking any real action to deal with the problem.

The CFIB study released earlier this year found that 67% of their members said that red tape had actually increased over the last three years. Businesses are telling us that the red tape makes it difficult to compete with companies in other jurisdictions.

I want to acknowledge the great work our food and beverage manufacturers do, and I hope that the government will do more to ensure that our companies are competitive and can stay and share great Ontario products with the rest of the world.