ORAL QUESTIONS AGRI-FOOD INDUSTRYFebruary 25, 2014
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Minister, you know that the agri-food industry not only provides significant economic output; they purchase the majority of our farmers’ products. Four months ago, you told the agri-food industry to double their growth but did nothing to make that possible. Premier, these businesses want to grow. It’s your government that’s holding them back. We’ve heard from the food processors that their biggest challenge is the massive hydro increases. In fact, we’ve heard that many of them have told you the same thing. As Premier and Minister of Agriculture, have you done anything at all to deal with these hydro increases hitting these food processors?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know that the Minister of Energy will want to speak generally to the energy sector in the supplementary, but what I want to say is that we are very aware that supporting the food processing industry right now is extremely important. The Minister of Children and Youth Services made an announcement on Friday with Thomas Canning, an investment that will help that organization to grow and to create 40 new full-time jobs.
We’re very, very keen, Mr. Speaker, on supporting the agri-food sector. When I posed the challenge to the food processing and agri-food sector, I said that we were not expecting them to go it alone. We knew that they would need support and investment from government. We are right there with them. In fact, the food processors of Ontario have set out a plan. They know what their objectives are, and they know they have a partner in this government.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Premier, since you issued your challenge, Heinz and Kellogg’s both announced closures. That’s 1,260 jobs. Add the 40 jobs that you just talked about, and that’s still a loss of 1,220 jobs.
Food manufacturers are facing challenges caused by your government. Research by the CFIB, Alliance of Ontario Food Processors and our caucus shows that. These businesses are struggling with red tape, trade barriers and high costs of operating in Ontario.
Two weeks ago, I wrote you and asked you to support the Million Jobs Act to reverse your government’s policy that are forcing businesses out of Ontario. It would create jobs and help food processors meet your challenge. Premier, will you help these businesses to grow by supporting the Million Jobs Act introduced by our leader, Tim Hudak?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: The Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.
Hon. Eric Hoskins: Mr. Speaker, you know, one of the great things about the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund, which has created and retained nearly 24,000 jobs together with the Eastern Ontario Development Fund, is that 95% of the investments go to manufacturing, and many of those are in food processing. I’m just going to name a few: Original Foods in Dunnville—I had the pleasure of being at the opening—150 new jobs; Armstrong Milling, 10 jobs in Hagersville; Conestoga Meat, 100 jobs in Breslau; Elmira Pet Products, 25 jobs in Elmira. The list goes on: Natra in London—I was there with the Minister of Health just a couple of weeks ago—56 jobs there as well; NutraBlend Foods in Brantford, 53 new jobs. That’s in addition to the many hundreds of jobs that are retained. That’s just in the last few months.
I’d be happy to continue the list—