Ontario Government Building Strong Rural Communities

Archived Release

Ontario Government Building Strong Rural Communities

Farmers And Other Businesses Benefit From Provincial Support TORONTO, Dec. 30 - The McGuinty government has worked with the province's agri-food industry and rural communities during 2005 to build a more solid foundation for the future, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Leona Dombrowsky announced today. "We remain committed to strong rural communities, as well as to the farmers, food manufacturers and many other businesses they support and depend on," Dombrowsky said. "By working with our partners, we have provided short-term support where and when it was needed, and moved forward in new, innovative directions for the long term." "In this year alone our government has provided $23.7 million for nutrient management, $50 million directly to tobacco producers and tobacco-growing communities and $174 million to grain and oilseed producers," Dombrowsky added. "The province has invested close to $175 million in our rural communities, to help improve their bridges, roads, solid waste management facilities, water and wastewater treatment facilities, as well as revitalize their economies, enhance local skills and increase access to health care services. Our investment has leveraged more than $160 million in federal funding as well," she said. "Our comprehensive rural plan is working - building strong communities, a strong economy and a healthy environment in rural Ontario." "I look forward to the second Premier's Summit on Agri-Food in the new year, where we will discuss with stakeholders ways to take advantage of new trends and technologies for the betterment of the industry, rural communities, and the province," Dombrowsky said. Disponible en français www.omafra.gov.on.ca Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- December 30, 2005 A YEAR IN REVIEW FOR THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT AND THE AGRI-FOOD SECTOR The past year was a busy and productive one for Ontario government initiatives aimed at encouraging the agri-food sector, which pumps $30 billion into the provincial economy, employs 650,000 people and ships $8.4 billion in exports annually. Among the 2005 achievements are: Healthy Environment - Investing $520 million over 12 years to boost ethanol production in Ontario. This is part of the government commitment to the Renewable Fuels Standard, requiring an average of five per cent ethanol in all gasoline sold in Ontario by January 1, 2007. - Implemented with the federal government and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association two initiatives (Greencover Canada and Water Supply Expansion) worth $20 million to help farm and agribusiness operators care for the health of the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. - Introduced nutrient management improvements to ensure that requirements to protect the environment do not place an unbearable burden on farmers, nor compromise our commitment to safe, clean drinking water: - Established a Nutrient Management Standards Science Committee; - Committed to funding research through the nutrient management joint research program; and, - Proposing to prescribe the Nutrient Management Act under the Environmental Bill of Rights. - Invested an additional $3.7 million under the Nutrient Management Financial Assistance Program to help farmers make environmental improvements on their operations and meet the requirements of the Nutrient Management Act. Brings the total to $23.7 million allocated under the program. Strong People, Strong Communities - Invested $1 million through ReNew Ontario, a five-year, $30 billion infrastructure investment plan, to complete the Rudy H. Brown Rural Development Centre at Ridgetown College. This funding is in addition to the province's allocation of $2.5 million in 2004. When completed, the centre will include classrooms, a lecture theatre, office and administration space to accommodate Ridgetown College's increasing enrollment while newly created community space will be used to host local events. This funding complements the efforts of the Ridgetown College Agri-Food Foundation, which has raised half of the total funding needed for this project. - Invested a total of $24 million over five years in projects including: infrastructure improvements at Ridgetown College's new Rural Development Centre; health and safety upgrades to the Food Quality and Safety Laboratory, and improvements to Ontario's three agricultural colleges and 14 research stations. - Preserving the province's valuable agricultural heritage by taking action to transfer ownership of Country Heritage Park, in Milton, to Country Heritage Experiences Inc. A total of $750,000 will go towards support of the park and a further $143,000 will be provided to help maintain and preserve the collections if the transfer is completed. - Renewed agreement with 4-H Ontario by providing $2.1 million over three years to enable the organization to continue its important work in developing skills in rural youth. - Helped more than 4,000 young people find summer jobs in rural Ontario to enhance their skills and gain valuable experience. - Better protection for agricultural workers by extending Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) coverage to farming operations. The regulation is to take effect June, 2006. - Revisions to the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) to reflect advice provided to the government by the Agricultural Advisory Team (AAT) to ensure Ontario's land use policies protect agricultural lands and support farming activities. - A $50 million transition fund was provided to assist tobacco growers wishing to exit the industry, and encourage economic diversification and innovation in their communities. Food Safety - Introduced stronger standards for meat safety in Ontario, as recommended by Justice Haines' review of the province's meat regulation and inspection system. The new regulation, among other things, requires: licensing and inspection of freestanding meat processors; strengthened process controls at meat processing facilities; and training for food handlers. - Created the Office of the Chief Veterinarian of Ontario and consolidated responsibility for food safety in one division in OMAFRA. This office responds to a key recommendation in the Haines Report, protects public health and encourages greater competitiveness in the agri-food sector. Competitiveness and Economic Support - Continued support to the Ontario Cattlemen's Association by providing $4 million in further funding to maintain deadstock collection, in addition to $1.3 million the previous year. In addition, $800,000 was provided for three projects to increase slaughter capacity in the province, which was part of $7 million earmarked for this purpose. - An additional $79 million was provided to assist grain and oilseed producers. - Provided $6 million under the Agricultural Drainage Infrastructure Program to farmers and municipalities for drainage construction, improvement and maintenance. - Exempted farmers from an administrative fee for permits to take water applications. - New, more equitable tax assessment criteria for equestrian properties to ensure that farms on which horses are bred, raised, maintained and cared for are treated consistently with other types of farm activities. - Simplified the process for farmers to claim their retail sales tax exemption when buying eligible farm-related goods, services and insurance for their businesses. Effective April 1, 2005, farmers could use their general farm organization identification cards to obtain point-of-sale retail sales tax exemptions. - With agricultural counterparts in the federal and provincial governments, making improvements to the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization program to ensure that Ontario's farmers have access to business risk management programs that truly meet their needs. - A new Foodland Ontario television advertising campaign encouraging consumers to buy Ontario fresh fruits and vegetables. - Presented the Foodland Ontario Retailer Awards to 24 food retailers who have shown outstanding commitment and creativity in their marketing of Ontario fruit and vegetable products. Research and Innovation - Transferred ownership of three colleges and 14 research stations to the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario to promote new investment in Ontario's agri-food research facilities. - Launched, in partnership with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Agricultural Management Institute (AMI), a $5 million business management and skills initiative. AMI will provide Ontario farm families, managers and farm advisors with improved access to the tools they need to help them achieve higher levels of business and economic success. - Provided, with the government of Canada, more than $5 million in innovation projects that will strengthen links between producers and consumers, identify commercialization prospects resulting from advancements in life sciences and bioproducts, and capture opportunities related to new trends in healthy living. The initiatives are cost-shared under the $15.2 million Science and Innovation envelope of the Canada-Ontario Agricultural Policy Framework. - Created the new Institute for Agri-Food Policy Innovation to develop innovative recommendations with long-term policy benefits to improve the quality of life of all Ontarians. Disponible en français www.OMAFRA.gov.on.ca www.ontarioconserves.gov.on.ca Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- December 30, 2005 A YEAR IN REVIEW FOR THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT AND RURAL COMMUNITIES Ontario's rural communities contribute significantly to the high quality of life Ontario offers its citizens. The McGuinty government is delivering on its plan to acknowledge the important contributions that rural Ontario makes to the vitality of our entire province. The rural plan reflects input from rural residents and organizations. Their priorities include ways to boost economic development, the best strategies for addressing fiscal pressures and infrastructure needs, and the importance of healthy communities and a clean and healthy environment. The rural plan offers strategies for addressing these priorities. The Ontario government has invested close to $175 million in our rural communities, to help improve their bridges, roads, solid waste management facilities, water and wastewater treatment facilities, as well as revitalize their economies, enhance local skills and increase access to health care services. Highlights of the many achievements made in rural Ontario follow. Rural Economic Development (RED) Program The Rural Economic Development (RED) program invests in projects that support sustainable rural economies and community partnerships. The priorities for the RED program are access to health-care services, community revitalization, and skills enhancement. Under this program, 33 projects were approved for funding in 2005-06, in which the province is investing more than $11 million. This funding, in addition to the investments made by the communities themselves, amounts to a total investment of nearly $78 million. Examples: Community Revitalization: - The government will contribute $425,643 to the "Tourism Revitalization in Stratford" project. This project is a partnership between seven stakeholders who have identified that providing a "superior Stratford experience" is a key component in re-gaining Stratford's vitality as a visitor destination. The project is comprised of three key activity streams that consist of: skills development for the tourism/hospitality sector; downtown revitalization; and, enhancement of year-round tourism. The project will: develop a five-year business plan for the Centre of Service Excellence; provide customer service training for 800 participants; determine the feasibility of a Stratford Chef School; facilitate the revitalization of downtown Stratford including new public spaces and signage; and, develop a year-round Strategic and Operational Plan. The total project cost is $851,285. Skills Enhancement: - The Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC) and their project partners, received a cost-sharing grant of $1,458,890 from the province of Ontario to enable communities and manufacturers in rural Eastern and Northern Ontario to enhance their global competitive capabilities through the deployment of advanced manufacturing training strategies, labour-pool building initiatives and seeding new management network clusters. Project partners include: Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Community Futures Development Corporation, the Renfrew Industrial Commission, the County of Lennox & Addington, the Kingston Economic Development Commission and the Communities Quality Initiative. The total project cost is $ 3,171,500. - The government will contribute $590,335 to Confederation College Forestry Centre and their project partners who hosted four educational camps aimed at job skills training and summer employment for 75 First Nations youth. The camps were held at sites across Northern Ontario: Upsala, Sioux Narrows Provincial Park, Aaron Provincial Park and Guylfoyle Camp near Kapuskasing. The program provided the youth with training in skills related to forestry and natural resources, practical experience through summer employment and workshops on employment opportunities in the industry. The total cost of the project was $1,124,995. Ontario Small Town and Rural Development (OSTAR) Infrastructure Initiative During 2005, the province invested $38.7 million under the Ontario Small Town and Rural Development (OSTAR) Infrastructure initiative to help 40 municipalities achieve compliance with the Drinking Water Systems Regulation. Example: - The Town of St. Mary's opened a refurbished water pumping station and improvements to well number one in May 2005, both of which were funded through OSTAR. The Town has now completed work on two of the three well supplies that OSTAR is funding, at a total eligible cost of almost $3 million with a provincial commitment of close to $1 million. This investment in the town's water supply ensures that the town will meet provincial regulations for water quality and monitoring. Canada-Ontario Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund (COMRIF) The governments of Canada and Ontario are each contributing up to $298 million to COMRIF. With municipal investments, this program is expected to stimulate up to $900 million in infrastructure investments over five years to help meet local priorities. In 2005 the Ontario government, through the COMRIF program announced investments of up to $249,178,024 in 120 communities through Intake One of the Canada-Ontario Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund (COMRIF). These investments will provide municipalities with the support they need to renew essential infrastructure in their communities. Examples: - The governments of Canada and Ontario will each invest up to $899,000 for improvements to the Third Concession Road, Roseborough Road and Hanlan Street in the Town of Essex. The Town will contribute the balance of the total project investment of nearly $2.7 million. - The governments of Canada and Ontario will each invest up to $275,000 to replace the York River Bridge. The bridge will be replaced with a new steel truss panel bridge. The Township of Carlow/Mayo will contribute the balance of the eligible project cost of up to $825,000. Other Rural Development Initiatives Downtown Revitalization - Eleven communities - from Tweed to Brussels - are working with OMAFRA to pilot a series of market analysis tools aimed at understanding their downtown. Six of these are also following a Main Street revitalization process. The pilot experience will be used to develop a new package of tools expected to be available in mid-2006. First Impressions Community Exchange - Eleven of these exchanges were conducted involving 22 communities to test resource materials and processes aimed at setting priorities for local community revitalization projects. Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) - This program is aimed at promoting job growth and economic prosperity in Ontario by helping communities identify both opportunities for expansion and the barriers facing local businesses. In 2005, staff completed BR+E Co-ordinator Training sessions in Peterborough, Thorold and Sudbury, which were attended by 60 participants. More than 50 communities have signed up for a new web-based application since June, 2005 using a new web-based application. A number of seminars and workshops were also conducted on topics ranging from increasing local tourism to developing wind power to linking small businesses to apprenticeship opportunities. Disponible en français www.OMAFRA.gov.on.ca www.ontarioconserves.gov.on.caFor further information: Chris Flavelle, Minister's Office, (416) 326-3072, (416) 554-1058 (cell)