Farm and rural prosperity will boost provincial economy


by Drew Spoelstra, Vice President, OFA

Although economic news regularly dominates headlines these days, the economy will be of particular focus on this week’s public and media calendar.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual Ontario Economic Summit in Toronto this week, and the provincial government will be releasing its annual Ontario Economic and Fiscal Review, or what we more commonly know as the Fall Economic Statement.

The Summit will bring together leaders and stakeholders from the public and private sectors to network, as well as discuss and learn about the current economic landscape and solutions that could help drive prosperity, encourage innovation and investment, and address pressing issues like housing, inflation, healthcare, education and economic prosperity.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) will have representatives at the Summit, and I’ll be one of them. I’m a Vice President with the OFA, the largest general farm organization in the Province, representing close to 50,000 Ontario farmers and farm families. I also farm with my family near Binbrook in the city limits of Hamilton, giving me unique perspectives into both the farming community and the intersection of urban and rural issues.

Many Ontarians probably don’t know that agriculture is one of the largest sectors of the provincial economy, generating more than $47 billion in economic activity every year and supporting 750,000 jobs or about 10 percent of the Province’s workforce.

That makes farming and rural Ontario directly connected to most if not all major segments of the provincial economy, from transportation and manufacturing to infrastructure, education and healthcare.

And that’s why, for me, this is one of the most important and interesting events to attend every year. The needs of agriculture and rural communities can be quite unique, and I find it extremely valuable to learn more about where our sector intersects with others, to explore where common goals might lie, and to engage with people and organizations representing different interests and perspectives.

This year, perhaps fittingly, the theme of the Summit is partnerships for prosperity which mirrors OFA’s overall mission of Farms and Food Forever and our drive to work collaboratively with sectors, organizations and individuals who share a similar vision.

The government’s Fall Economic Statement will provide a snapshot of where public finances are at, as well as serving as a kick-off to Ontario’s annual provincial budget consultations. This is where Ontarians will be able to submit their ideas to the government about what they believe should be priority spending areas for the coming provincial budget year.

OFA takes part in this consultation every year, making sure that the needs and priorities of farmers and rural communities are communicated to government. We present ideas for action on both short-term, immediate issues in need of solutions, as well as recommendations for larger, longer-term challenges that have impact beyond our own stakeholder community.

Sound investments in rural Ontario will enhance farming, agri-business and rural economic growth, which will spill over into the rest of the provincial economy.

Investing in critical infrastructure like energy, broadband internet, roads, bridges, schools, and healthcare for our communities helps distribute economic development across the Province. Access to natural gas, and reliable and affordable electricity and broadband internet is essential to keep rural Ontario competitive and productive – and appealing for families.

This means long-term investments in rural roads, bridges, high speed internet, and natural gas to attract new businesses and residents in rural communities. And it means social infrastructure investment in schools, healthcare and mental wellness to make rural Ontario an attractive option for families.

We appreciate the critical investments the government has made in broadband services, new and updated hospital projects, and other important infrastructure. It’s essential that these projects happen quickly, and that the government continues to invest in critical infrastructure that supports rural Ontario’s residents and businesses and drives the provincial economy forward.


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