Ontario’s new government puts the brakes on farm funding

Ernie Hardeman has been on the job less than a month and farmers have plenty of questions for Ontario’s new minister of agriculture.

One question many are asking is what’s happening with Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) funding? RealAgriculture’s own Lyndsey Smith submitted a funding application back in May and waited patiently through the 45-day business day approval process only to find out this week that “funding decisions have been paused.”

Smith’s contact added: “We expect to receive further direction from OMAFRA in the near future, but at this time, I don’t have an exact date.”

Earlier this week during RealAgriculture’s first interview with Hardeman, Smith asked why the province has paused its participation in CAP ­­– a federal, provincial and territorial program ­­– and asked when he expects the program will be ‘unfrozen’ and farmers can get access to needed funding.

Hardeman says that they are working on moving the program forward in “days, not weeks,” but that the next CAP intake may not open (it was slated for early August) until they’ve resolved the first round of funding approvals.

Since winning power in June, Ontario’s new premier Doug Ford has been busy sweeping away former Liberal government policies and programs that impact farmers and agribusinesses. The Liberal cap and trade climate change plan is dead; the Green Energy Program has been cancelled; and, Ford made good on a promise to oust Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt and the utility’s entire board of directors.

In the interview, Smith asks Hardeman what other changes his government can implement at Hydro One to help give farmers and agribusinesses access to affordable hydro.

Hardeman also comments on his government’s plans for the future of Ontario’s $15 per hour minimum wage. Labour-intensive farm sectors in the province, including fruit and vegetable growers, say the hike would kill farms and make growing some crops unsustainable.

After 15 years in the Liberal political wilderness, will farmers, the agri-food industry and rural communities have their voice restored and regain some clout at the Cabinet table? That’s the intent, says Hardeman, who shares his plans to bring balance back to a wonky government when it comes to ministry responsibilities and influence.

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