Keeping our Eyes on the Prize: CFFO Provincial Pre-Budget Recommendations for Investing in Long-Term Sustainability

The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario has weighed in on the next provincial budget this week with three major recommendations to Finance Minister Vic Fideli: (1) to provide provincial leadership for tax reform, (2) to invest in modern planning tools that will equip the government for making decisions that can generate both prosperity and sustainable growth, and (3) to invest in research that will help farmers, and all Ontarians, improve our soil, water and air.

The CFFO is asking Ontario to take the lead on tax reform, and two very recent occurrences highlight the need for a better tax system for Ontarians.

Firstly, the overwhelming public outcry against the now-cancelled Schedule 10 of Bill 66—the Open-for-Business Planning Bylaw—demonstrated how concerned Ontarians are about protecting our source water, precious farmland and green space from urban sprawl. We recommend a formal and comprehensive review of municipal revenue sources and expenditure responsibilities to remove any distortions so municipalities can be supported in responding to broader social preferences.

Secondly, the release of the new Canada Food Guide tells us clearly that the healthiest diet is too expensive for many people living in Ontario. This example drives home the urgent need for not only social policy reform, but also basic income and tax reforms. Ontario needs to deal with its provincial income disparity problem.

The CFFO is urging the provincial government to invest in modern planning tools that will help policy makers assess the best methods for achieving prosperity and sustainable growth.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s why the CFFO recommends investment in building a framework that can link forecasting models, data banks and mapping systems across government departments. Accurately tracking changes in our province’s natural capital assets (like our soils), will help decision-makers assess policy options such as where best to expand housing supply and public infrastructure, how best to steward good farmland, how to manage emissions to air and water, among others. We need to know the likely social, economic and environmental – triple bottom line – impact of all public decisions. That’s very simply the foundation of public accountability. Integrated modelling tools exist and are used elsewhere, so we need to use them here, too.

If Ontarians know the most likely triple bottom line impact of, for example, development, zoning and density target policy decisions on what we value, including farmland preservation, then we can better decide what is best overall.

Finally, the CFFO requested increased investment in research to support improvements in natural capital including soil, water and air quality.

We cannot exist on this land without having some impact. For this reason, we need to undertake the best possible stewardship of our natural capital. The government has the duty of care to society now and into the future to ensure environmental sustainability. This requires an ongoing commitment to improving how we all impact the environment and how we can best minimize harm. In short, we need good research and more of it.

The CFFO calls on government to invest more in research that will enable farmers to be the best possible stewards of the land. We gain a double dividend with this research because it will do double duty by helping us fulfill our international commitments for Great Lakes water quality and other environmental issues.

With requests for tax reform, integrated modelling systems, and more quality research, the CFFO is asking the province to invest in the long-term. Certainly, these requests will be costly, but the expense is only one side of the equation. Investments in a sustainable long term will generate ongoing benefits for Ontarians. Good data and good tools for making decisions are needed today so we can better choose a path to sustainable prosperity.

Brenda Dyack is Director of Research & Policy for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXFM Chatham, and CKNX Wingham.

Posted by Brenda Dyack on February 8, 2019

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  • jasper Vanderbas says:

    Wondering about This healthiest diet? Based on science or public perception or based on environmental footprint. And according to Whome??

    Most people also can not afford the most environmental sustainable car either

  • Phil Moddle says:

    Interesting points. I would also add:
    Tax reform is needed to support small businesses by reducing our burden as tax collectors (HST). Tax reform should be used to boost innovation and productivity so we can grow more local, nutritious, environmentally sound and accessible food.
    Planning changes – maybe integrating across government departments will reduce the size of government! The end use of these tools should be primarily to promote local decision making that reflects the ecological systems that smaller communities are living with and aware of.
    Research – how about supporting farmer-led, evidence based research to measure the effectiveness of BMPs? Tools to measure local eco-system health? Encouraging local farm-watershed groups to pool knowledge and resources to work within their local eco-system? Investing in education to tell Ontarioans about the real nutritional and environmental value of buying local food instead of that from California? Research to support urban farming which can improve food access to low income groups, and encourage do-it-yourself growing and nutritional knowledge?

  • John Schwartzentruber says:

    I echo the above questions presented by Jason.

    Before this piece can be accepted as representative of the views held by CFFO membership, it needs to answer some very troubling questions that it raises.

    As far as reviews conducted with a focus on environmental concerns, why are we asking the government to do what our “NGO” farm organizations should be doing on their own? Has agri-business had any involvement in these issues which will surely impact them as well?

    Who, ultimately, determines policy?

    Surely the various farm representative groups, with their feet planted firmly in the soil we depend upon, could cooperate to spearhead beneficial approaches or projects and work to implement them under the umbrella of someone like the Ontario Soil and Crops Improvement Association, for example.

    These types of affiliated efforts could be conducted on an local level, addressing the micro systems that reflect local needs. Each locality taking proper care of its own area would naturally lead to improvements on the macro scale. This approach would guarantee a much more farm-based and practical avenue of progress.

    How is policy put into place, once written?

    We can hold municipal, provincial and federal elections time and again and see little real change in the policies that determine the course and profitability of our farm operations.

    This CFFO member states his strong disagreement with the following statement from above: “The CFFO calls on government to invest more in research that will enable farmers to be the best possible stewards of the land.”

    We have a government that has stupidly and recklessly created billions of dollars of debt, burdening my children and grandchildren, and (McKenna) permits the dumping of raw sewage into the Great Lakes system that we farmers are trying to clean up. So, please pardon me for expressing a deep and abiding distrust of government telling me what is best for me and my farm.

    One fact that is well-known but under-regarded is that government at every level has been co-opted by non-agricultural interests – coloured by extremism – which have managed to insert their operatives behind government desks as life-long, professional bureaucrats. Never having even so much as a whiff of farming scent on them, these come equipped with their preconceptions of our “good”. (Google: ICLEI )

    These people, like the stubborn, winter cold bug, survive every government change and THESE are the real policy writers, not the elected officials. The ones we elect are too often merely the rubber stamp required to give these subversive, anti-agricultural policies a thin veneer of legality required for implementation.

    (To their credit, there are those rare bureaucrats and politicians who have tried to speak into these policies with a voice of informed reason, but usually found themselves either marginalized, or have quit due to their exercise in futility. This is documented.)

    Policy is dictated from the top down and imposed by regulation or through the local Trojan Horse more commonly known as the “Official Plan”, a term with its own Leninist ring. Existing Planning Policy seems to have less to do with good planning and much more with funneling money from the private sector into oligarchic interests through suppressive development restrictions and exorbitant fees for those who bravely undertake an expansion, or even tougher, a new enterprise.

    The latest food guide provides ample evidence to support the claim of extremism influencing policy. And remember when butter was said to be badder, not better? Now there’s a beef with beef, pork should be chopped from the menu, and a drumstick is something to be beaten, not eaten. Slice the roast, toss it out, lick the knife and that’s your serving of meat for the week.

    Therefore, how could anyone look to government for policy direction and expect to get results that are unbiased and given in the best interests of those whom it will impact the most – farmers?

    Without answers to this light scrutiny, this commentary could be a page taken from the McGuinty/Wynne playbook which for 15 years subjugated private interests to a socialist plan. Like a snowball down the neck, the Ford government has been shocked into understanding how hard it is to resist that ingrown, globalist influence.

    Farmers, possessing that independent streak required to make them successful, will generally be more inclined to work with a local voice and initiative, rather than someone sent by the United Nations.

    So some code words to watch for are “sustainability, heritage, social preferences, global goals, etc…” they are lifted directly from the U.N Agendas and show up in our local and provincial policies… Look it up for yourself – “U.N. Agenda 21”, and its update “The 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development”.

    You will either be informed, or imposed upon. Ignorance is not bliss.

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