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Ontario Agriculture Minister Thompson resorts to name-calling; refuses to say the word "farmland"


Legislative Assembly of Ontario - November 30, 2022

QUESTION PERIOD - Land use planning

Mr. John Vanthof: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture. Ontario loses 319 acres of farm land every day to development—319 acres that will never, ever grow food again. Now the government’s trying to pave over the greenbelt as well, and farmers are concerned because the three farm organizations that represent almost every farmer in this province have written an open letter to the Premier expressing that fact, and I’d like to quote from that letter, “These losses are not sustainable and will become increasingly worse with the overreaching effects of Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022.”

My question to the minister is, does she agree with the farmers of Ontario that farmland loss at this rate is unsustainable?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Hon. Lisa M. Thompson: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It’s a pleasure to rise in this House to address the amazing industry that we have in Ontario, our agri-food sector.

Just on Monday, we released a Grow Ontario plan that has been well received by every commodity organization and every general farm organization in this province. Part of that strategy over the next 10 years is to see production increase by 30%. Farmers and agri-food businesses alike are applauding the fact that we have a strategy that’s going to see our agri-food sector not only excel, but year over year, increase yield as we embrace new innovations and new technologies that are going to see our yields go through the roof. Because why? Ontario consumers need confidence in their food supply, not only in this province, but across Canada. The rest of the world is watching our industry because they’re seeing us as leaders.

Again, Speaker, our future is bright in Ontario’s agri-food industry.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.

Mr. John Vanthof: I’d like to thank the minister for that answer. But you have the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and the National Farmers Union—those farmers telling you that yields are great, but yields are per acre. And when you lose 320 acres a day, over the long term, you’re losing the ability to produce food. They are ringing the warning bells to your government. They’ve written to the Premier with that warning.

My question is—and I have asked this question several times and yet to hear the minister say the word “farmland.” Does she actually represent farmers at the cabinet table to say the word “farmland”?

Hon. Lisa M. Thompson: Mr. Speaker, that assertion is absolutely BANANAs coming from that critic. Absolutely BANANAs. And look in Hansard to see what that acronym stands for, because the fact of the matter is, we have released a strategy that has been embraced by every single player and stakeholder in our value chain. We’re looking to strengthen our agri-food supply chain over the next 10 years. We’re increasing production by 30%. We’re increasing food manufacturing by 30%. We’re increasing our exports by 8% annually and, most importantly, we’re looking to increase our food and beverage manufacturing by 10%.

Again, Speaker, the future is bright because we have a government that not only understands, but cares for the agri-food industry in this province. By working through our three pillars—again, to strengthen our supply chain; to embrace innovation and agri-tech; as well as growing our labour force, our workforce and the talent within our agri-food sector—we are going to excel and the world is going to see us as a world leader.

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