Oct. 24 is voting day in Ontario
By Diego Flammini
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is encouraging farmers to be involved and engaged in the current municipal election campaign.
On Oct. 24, Ontarians in the province’s 444 municipalities will head to the polls to vote in municipal council and school board elections.
Becoming familiar with the municipality’s official plan and speaking with local officials or candidates is important for understanding how the upcoming elections could affect local agriculture, said Sara Wood, a director with the OFA.
“We want to ensure farmland preservation is top of mind,” she told Farms.com. “More infilling rather than expanding out.”
Ontario loses about 319 acres of farmland per day. That’s equal to 58 city blocks, or enough land to produce 23.5 million apples, 1.2 million bottles of Ontario wine or about 75 million carrots.
If producers aren’t engaged and don’t create relationships with local officials, Ontario could lose more farmland, Wood said.
“A lot of the decisions that affect farmers get made at the municipal level, with land being changed from agricultural to commercial or industrial (use)” Wood said. “If farmers aren’t engaged, someone from an urban setting may be making decisions without understanding what will happen to local agriculture.”
The OFA provided farmers with a list of questions to ask local candidates:
What do you believe to be the purpose of the urban boundary? Their thoughts on your community’s Official Plan and the integrity of its urban boundaries matters. Does the candidate think these are nothing more than a flexible guideline that should be easily moved if desired, or are they hard lines on a map to keep urban sprawl at bay?
What does your platform say about public transit? Efficient transit is key to strong urban communities, and helps encourage development in the right places. Transit corridors attract residential projects, commercial enterprises and institutions, and putting these in existing urban areas is much better than digging up a farm to build them.
What incentives do you support to bring new development to our community? Incentives can be a powerful tool to encourage the right development in the right places. They are effective for rejuvenating depressed areas of an urban community, and can encourage developers to look at rehabilitating a brownfield within the urban area as opposed to targeting a greenfield farm.
What is your future vision for our community? It is a sprawling concrete urban metropolis driven solely by the attraction of an expanded tax base brought on by widespread development beyond the existing urban area? Or perhaps it is a diverse, mixed-use community with local food sources nearby supporting a busy and vibrant urban core.