By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady
Ontario’s farm and arable land is finite, it’s non-renewable. In debate last Wednesday of my Private Member’s Bill – Bill 62 – I asked members of the Ontario Legislature to take pause and ponder this important fact. Once our productive land is paved over there’s no making more, there’s no digging it back up.
This fact, along with the loss of 319 plus acres of Ontario’s productive land was swept under the rug last week as the government ensured Bill 62 would not see the light of day. Bill 62 was lost on a vote of 68 to 29.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of the debate, I want to thank my colleagues who vehemently supported protecting Ontario’s farmland. Special thanks to Mike Schreiner (Green Party), Mary-Margaret McMahon (Liberal Caucus), and John Vanthof (NDP). Rob Flack (MPP Elgin-Middlesex-London) and Trevor Jones (MPP Chatham-Kent-Leamington) spoke on behalf of the government and were respectful in their approach. The two PC MPPs cited Bill 62 as redundant adding Ontario already has the tools necessary to protect the province’s land.
In my rebuttal following debate, I questioned why, if the tools exist, they are not being employed. One constituent on social media suggested the tools may be so rusty they no longer work.
MPPs Flack and Jones both, respectfully suggested Bill 62 created a layer of red tape by establishing a new committee. They also repeatedly spoke of the government’s commitment to soil and crop funding and research. I respectfully disagree and question the efficacy of soil and crop research and funding if the soil is paved over. Further, I fail to see how a committee of Ontarians making recommendations on the province’s top resource can be seen as red tape.
John Vanthof was first to counter the PC point of view.
“This government wants to pave over everything as fast as they can…They want us to trust them so badly that they don’t even want to talk about the issue. They’re not going to support this bill because they don’t even want to talk about the issue. Doing things about soil health: no problem. Doing things about the actual loss of the physical acres: mum’s the word. Quiet.”
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner picked up the torch to support Bill 62 and also took exception to the government’s rejection of my concept to establish a Farmland and Arable Land Advisory Committee to advise the minister.
“So, the government calls a committee red tape, a committee to talk about how we preserve our food security, protect our economy and protect jobs red tape. I actually call it democracy. Isn’t that what democracy is about? For all of us to work together.”
MPP McMahon was the last to stand in support of Bill 62. “I want to talk about how shocked and appalled I am, and how shocked I am to hear—in this chamber, I hear endless conversations about farmers and farming and support for agriculture…but you know, the proof is in the pudding. Your actions speak louder than words, and I’m appalled at the actions. You think you can get this land back? You can’t. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Despite Bill 62 being turned down by the government, my fight to save our precious productive farmland will continue. I know the government felt my bill was a good credible piece of legislation and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if my ideas are soon adopted by this government and passed off as their own. And if so, this country girl won’t play politics and will vote in favour because it’s the right thing to do for our future.
Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk