The Minister's refusal to even talk about the loss of farmland... says volumes
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO - ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Wednesday 16 November 2022 - Mercredi 16 novembre 2022
Land use planning
Mr. John Vanthof: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture.
Every day in Ontario, we lose 320 acres of farmland—farmland that is paved over and will never again grow food.
In 2020, the government was actually looking at things to perhaps stem this flow. They were talking about agricultural impact assessments. But now they’re even talking about paving over farmland that was formerly protected in the greenbelt. Speaker, the nine billion people soon in the world are going to need that farmland, and so are Ontarians.
Do you think housing is expensive? Do you think food is expensive now? Just wait.
Why is the Minister of Agriculture so silent on the preservation of our precious farmland?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Hon. Steve Clark: I thank the honourable member for the question.
The consultation that the government has engaged in is for a very important purpose: We have a crisis in housing in our province.
We are proposing to remove 15 areas from the greenbelt, and in exchange, we’re going to be adding over 2,000 acres. Many of those thousands of acres will be prime agricultural land that we’ll add in as part of the Paris Galt moraine and the urban river valleys. The government is taking a balanced approach.
Again, when you look at the fact that last year was our best year in over 30 years—we only had 100,000 starts. The proposal that we put forward to Ontarians to consider will allow, as a minimum, 50,000 homes to be built. In addition, we will add significant opportunities for protected land that will go back into the greenbelt. The net gain is thousands of acres.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Mr. John Vanthof: Speaker, there are already now thousands of acres that are zoned for housing development. Housing development isn’t being hindered by the land specifically in the greenbelt.
We are going to need agricultural land. Despite the great job that farmers have done increasing productivity—I’m a farmer; I know—you need the base land.
Again, why is the Minister of Agriculture so silent on the need to protect one of the greatest gifts that God has ever given us, the farmland in Ontario?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Hon. Lisa M. Thompson: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is, when we met with stakeholders just last week—the Premier and our parliamentary assistants—we heard loud and clear from our agricultural stakeholders that the number one issue in Ontario right now is labour. You can grow all the crops that you want in this province, but if we don’t have processors with the proper labour force, then it’s all for naught.
Our number one priority is making sure—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Waterloo, come to order.
Hon. Lisa M. Thompson: —that we’re in a position that there is adequate housing in this province to satisfy the increased employment that we need to satisfy and make sure our processing facilities are operating at optimum efficiency.
Again, we have a housing crisis in this province of Ontario—and our processors and our stakeholders are asking for more homes to support that labour.