Remarks By Dalton McGuinty, Premier Of Ontario To The Ontario Cattlemen's Association
Check Against Delivery
Thank you very much for your kind welcome and your invitation.
It's good to be here.
I spent the last few days in Vancouver, meeting with the other premiers.
Two things struck me at that meeting.
One ... for all the challenges we face here in Ontario, we really do have the best province in a very remarkable country.
Our size, our economic clout, our people, provide us with opportunities other provinces and countries can only dream about.
When you can see things in a national, or international context, you can't help but be optimistic about our future.
And I am.
The second thing that struck me is this: while we stand out as a province, we do not stand alone.
I can tell you that your concerns -- on BSE and on access to the American border -- were very high on the premiers' agenda.
And one very positive development coming out of that meeting yesterday was the establishment of a national beef "strike force" to rebuild international confidence in Canadian and North American Beef - and to do so in a very high profile way.
The strike force will undertake international missions, act as ambassadors for the safety and quality of North American beef, provide information and promotional material, send industry experts on speaking tours, and advise industry and government on BSE issues.
In other words, the strike force will use every tool at its disposal to "move the yardsticks" of public opinion by demonstrating the safety and quality of Canadian and North American beef.
Your concerns are also very high on our own government's agenda.
We are focused on delivering real, positive change for the people of Ontario.
And that means we're focused on some very important priorities - priorities that we ran on and that the people voted for.
One of those priorities is building a strong and prosperous economy.
Another is building strong communities.
And I say "communities" for a reason.
You see, while the media often talk about a new deal for cities, we place an equal value on our rural communities -- and our rural way of life.
The work you do makes a tremendous contribution to both of these priorities -- to our economy and our rural communities.
So, on behalf of all Ontarians, I want to thank you.
For the work you do ... the food you put on our tables ... and the opportunities you provide our people.
For the pride you take in your ability to make a living close to nature, off land and livestock.
And, most of all, for the strength you have shown in difficult times.
That strength has really shone through.
Particularly in the last year.
I know you have lost millions in income.
Only you know the price paid in lives on hold, sleepless nights and anxious days.
You have been strong.
Like our province, you stand out.
You face challenges.
And, like our province, you do not stand alone.
I'm here today to announce new investments and assistance to help Ontario farmers.
You face a backlog of cull cows caused by the BSE-related closure of the American border to Canadian livestock.
I am announcing that we will provide $10 million to support a new cull animal strategy -- and to provide new markets for Canadian beef.
We are also providing some $7 million for beef farmers to ease the transition to a new generation of farm safety net programs.
This transition funding is part of a new $64 million provincial commitment to all farmers.
In all, about 36,000 farmers will receive an average payment of about $1,700.
It's no secret that our resources are scarce.
Our government has inherited a $5.6 billion deficit.
We face another $2.2 billion worth of additional risks, for things such as hospital deficits.
But our beef farmers are caught in a crisis -- a crisis that is not of their own making.
It is a crisis that is having an impact both on our economy and on our rural communities.
And helping, at this critical time, is the right thing to do.
As I said at the outset, you stand out, but you do not stand alone.
I want to publicly acknowledge the hard work of our Minister of Agriculture and Food, Steve Peters, in putting this package together, along with members of your industry.
But there's more to do -- especially when it comes to the border issue.
We're now two full months into 2004 and the U.S. border is still closed to the movement of livestock from Canada.
This is disappointing given the fact that Ontario, the provinces and the federal government are cooperating on BSE policies and surveillance measures.
And it's disappointing given Canada's generous response to the discovery of a BSE-infected cow in the United States.
That border should be open.
I can tell you my fellow premiers think so.
The Europeans think so.
Many U.S. governors and politicians think so.
And many farmers on both sides of the 49th parallel think so.
I want to reassure you today that we are working hard with the federal government, and, in turn, with authorities in the United States, to reopen the border to livestock movement.
Minister Peters is working hard on this issue, as well.
He was there when the Agriculture Secretaries from the Great Lakes States essentially issued a call for the border to be reopened to the movement of live cattle.
And last weekend he took our case to the Bush administration in Washington.
Our message: We've got the international BSE panel on our side.
Our beef is safe.
It's time to reopen the border.
At the same time, we know that international markets perceive this as a North American problem.
So we need to work with the Americans to further improve the surveillance and safety of the industry on both sides of the border.
In this way, we can present a united front to the rest of the world, assuring every market that North American beef is safe, nutritious and delicious.
We are doing our part here in Ontario.
We made a commitment, during the election campaign, to hire more meat inspectors.
And I'm pleased to announce today that by April 1st, we will have 118 new part-time and full-time meat inspectors on the job.
I'm optimistic that our work on the border issue will pay off.
And when it does, we want to be in a position to show the world that our system of checks and balances -- that Ontario's field to fork pipeline -- has complete integrity.
It's heartening for all of us to know that domestic consumption of Canadian beef was not affected by last year's discovery of mad cow.
In fact, consumption increased.
I want to commend Ontarians, and Canadians, for showing that confidence in our industry.
We all have a responsibility to repay that loyalty by responding to what Ontarians are telling us matters to them and their families.
They want cleaner water and cleaner air.
They want the highest standards for food safety.
So farming today is more about innovation, technology and good stewardship of the land than ever before.
I want you to know that the government will work with you to ensure the change facing farming is real, positive change.
There are exciting possibilities.
A few years ago scientists at the University of Toronto discovered how to convert slaughterhouse waste to yellow grease, which, when added to diesel fuel, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent.
We're excited about getting this breakthrough on the market.
And to do so, we're going to be working with your association and other farm sectors to develop a bio-diesel strategy for the province.
This innovation is really the best of all worlds.
We save on landfill space and the carbon gases associated with them.
We get cleaner air.
And we strengthen the industry.
There's no need to take sides, because we all have a stake in a successful outcome.
I believe the same is true when it comes to cleaner water.
I know you face expenditures to comply with the regulations of the Nutrient Management Act.
I want to assure you here today that you will not have to bear those costs alone.
We all have a stake in clean air and clean water, and we will stand with you.
You see, when we talk about real, positive change, we mean real, positive change for all Ontarians.
To me, leadership is not about pitting one group against another, or abandoning one group for another.
Frankly, we do not govern on the basis of which ridings we hold, or which voters we are trying to get.
That is the politics of division -- something voters rejected in the last election.
That is old-style politics, which is a recipe for failure in the new, competitive, global economy.
For Ontario to succeed, to achieve its tremendous potential, we need everyone at their best, everyone working together.
That is why we have hired more meat inspectors, because a strong food safety system is good for consumers and for farmers.
That is why we are working to protect our land, air and water, because liveable communities and sustainable agriculture go hand in hand.
And that is why we are working with you today, to provide support and reopen that border, because your success is important to Ontario's success.
Because we're in this together, and Ontario can only stand out as the best place to live and work and farm, when we stand together.
When we do that, we can overcome any challenge, grasp every opportunity, and provide our people with a quality of life, that's second to none.
We can build an Ontario where people live in safe, clean, liveable communities -- and thrive in a strong and prosperous economy.
We can, my friends, build an Ontario that's the envy of the world, once again.