Election homestretch: Farm & rural platforms of the NDP and PCs

Photo by Michael (Flickr, CC BY 2.0).

In a surprising twist to this already tumultuous provincial election, Premier Kathleen Wynne held a press conference over the weekend to concede defeat, days before the election is to be held.

Wynne, emotional in her speech, admitted she has no chance of being re-elected premier, and instead urged voters to still vote Liberal to ensure that her opponents, the Progressive Conservatives Doug Ford, and the NDP’s Andrea Horwath, are not handed a majority.

While most assumed this provincial election was going to be a two-horse race, few predicted it would be so close between Horwath and Ford. As election day looms later this week, Ford is just a few days into trotting out his full platform, including mention of farm and rural needs. Horwath’s NDP has shown to be the best prepared on rural policy, with a full platform ready at the outset (albeit with a since-corrected major financial miscalculation).

When considering agriculture, farm, and rural issues, the PC party has depth. Several sitting MPPs have farm backgrounds, farm experience, or years of policy experience sitting as the opposition. The NDP has one very well-respected MPP in John Vanthof, the representative for Timiskaming-Cochrane, in Ontario’s north.

Ford’s ag and rural platform is brief: they’ve committed to increasing the Risk Management Program (RMP) cap by $50 million annually, and that his government will “enable private sector participation in the expansion of natural gas across Ontario.” This would generate “savings of up to $100 million” to be re-invested in cellular and broadband expansion across rural and Northern Ontario. Like the NDP, the PCs have committed to bring back the Slots at Racetrack program.

The NDP government has a wider farm and rural platform (read more on that here), including commitments to reduced energy costs, support for rural schools, and a billion dollars for broadband. On the surface, the promises check all the boxes, but the typically-conservative farming sector has voiced concerns over costs (the NDP plan to run deficits each year) and over the party’s lack of agriculture knowledge and real-world experience. What’s more, several NDP candidates have quite controversial views in relation to agriculture, views largely at odds with conventional farming in the province.

Ontario field editor Lyndsey Smith spoke with Vanthof last week to ask him about the NDP’s plans for the north, the very real lack of agriculture experience within the party, and how to balance activism pressures within the party, in the face of leading an entire province.

To his credit, Vanthof fields each question and commits further that if the NDP form government, important consultation periods will not be held during seeding and planting, such as was the case with the neonicotinoid consultation in 2015.