Mr. Ernie Hardeman: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Premier, the auditor’s report on the Ministry of Citizenship’s year-end slush fund made it clear to your government that the availability of grants must be communicated to all potential recipients.
We discovered that, as Minister of Agriculture, you’ve been giving away year-end grants to hand-picked companies. There was no publicly available application; in fact, companies were only invited to apply because of their relationship with staff in your ministry.
Minister, do you believe that the rules of financial accountability don’t apply just because you’re trying to get money out before year-end?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I actually would have expected that the member opposite, a former Minister of Agriculture, would have understood that it’s very important that we work with food processors and with the agriculture community to make sure that they can make the investments that are necessary.
The investments that we’re making through the Local Food Act—for example, I was at a bakery just on the weekend. The applications had come in. Those grants—I think it’s over 60 grants to promote local food and make sure that they have the capacity to grow their enterprise.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, second time.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: You know what? These are businesses all over the province. They are businesses that have a wide range, whether it’s bakeries or whether it’s farmers’ markets and local food strategies. All of that promotes local food and allows food processors and food producers to do better in the province. I would think he’d be supportive of that.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Premier, you must have missed the original question about which grants I’m talking about. Premier, these grants included $1 million given to a distillery even though their project didn’t create a single new job. Over $6 million went to two companies that had almost completed their building projects on their own.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Minister of the Environment, second time.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: This is the worst type of picking winners and losers. Competitors had no idea the grants even existed and couldn’t apply. They were reviewed by a panel whose membership isn’t public and then approved by you personally.
Premier, at any time during this process of hand-picking, did it occur to you that it was wrong to do it this way?
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: The member opposite has made a couple of allegations. If he’s talking about McLaren’s Distillery, that was a grant that was made through the Local Food Fund. If he’s talking about Hiram Walker and Sons, $1 million, that actually did create 10 new jobs. Hiram Walker currently supports Ontario’s agriculture sector by purchasing 4.2 million bushels—
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: The folks who work at Hiram Walker think that’s pretty good. The people who work at St-Albert Cheese Cooperative think that’s pretty good, too, that they will be able to create 10 new jobs. The people at Thomas Canning, with the $3-million investment creating 40 new jobs—the people who have those jobs and those companies think that it’s a very good thing that they have a government that works with them and is in ongoing conversation with the sector to find those companies that need the support to help them to grow. They think that’s a good idea, and I do, too.