By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com
**UPDATED Feb. 13**
The Ontario government criticized the federal budget Wednesday, making the case that the province got the short end of the stick.
In an unusual move, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa held a media conference weighing in on the federal conservative’s tabled budget.
Sousa said the federal government has “ripped off” Ontarians, making reference to $641 million cut in equalization payments.
While the topic of agriculture wasn’t brought up at the announcement, Wynne who also acts as the minister of agriculture did share with Farms.com that it appears as though the province’s agriculture sector got shafted.
“Once again, Ontario is left out,” she said. “With yesterday's budget, it is clear they continue to disappoint Ontario's agriculture sector.”
Wynne said that while the federal budget expands the livestock insurance program in Western Canada, it fails to support Ontario’s livestock sector.
“The federal government has opted for a regional deal with Western Canada and continues to refuse to discuss the business risk management options preferred by Ontario’s producers,” explained Wynne.
Most of what was covered in the budget on the agriculture front had already been announced in advance, including the new livestock insurance program for Western Canada.
All provinces were given the option to buy into the livestock insurance pilot initiative, but unlike the western provinces, Ontario decided to stick with its Risk Management Insurance program, or RMP model, which the federal government does not support.
"The fact is that rather than support this bankable and predictable insurance based program, Ontario remains stuck on RMP which is countervailable, distorts market signals, would put trade at risk and thus is not supported by the federal government,” said Ritz.
While the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), the official voice for the country’s 68,500 beef farms reacted favorably to the budget - praising the government for reaffirming its commitment to the livestock insurance program for Western Canada, not everyone in the industry is happy.
Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO), an industry branch of the CCA said it is unhappy with the arrangement. “We are disappointed that the federal government did not extend the program across Canada, as we understood that the CCA had requested that,” said LeaAnne Wuermli, Communications Manager for BFO.
Although BFO didn’t get what they were hoping for out of the budget, Wuermli continues to encourage producers to participate in RMP. “The program was founded on the principles of providing stability, predictability and bankability for farmers and we are actively working with the highest levels of government to restore this,” she said.
Ontario Pork was contacted for comment, but Mary Jane Quinn the organization’s communications manager said that they were unable to comment at this time, and are still reviewing the budget to examine its implications for the province’s pork producers.
“To date, the industry has been clear that their interest is in the provincial RMP program, and the government has responded by working with them on establishing the program, even with the lack of federal participation,” said Mark Cripps, Communications Director for Kathleen Wynne. “We are always willing to work with industry to determine what the best tools available are to help them manage business risks,” he said.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the province’s largest farm lobby group could not be reached for comment.