By Nathan Stevens
February 24, 2012
The long awaited Drummond Report was released last week. The weighty report calls for a serious change in direction in this province. If implemented, all Ontarians will be impacted, including agriculture and rural Ontario.
The report points out that Ontario is not in a crisis... yet. There are a lot of good things that are being done, but we aren’t facing the reality of being a province in slow decline. Rather than a crisis, the report argues that Ontario faces a challenge – which can be met with “well-considered, firm, steady and even imaginative action” to resolve the looming difficulties before they build into a larger crisis that requires drastic action with fewer options to use in response.
The report calls for an economic vision and a road map to reform public services in a way that proactively promotes building for the future. Maintaining the status quo cannot be the focus of this reform. The report calls for a fundamental shift away from focusing on simply creating jobs to policy and programs that are focused on improved productivity for Ontario businesses.
The report also calls for sustained fiscal restraint. If the recommendations of the report are taken seriously then the total budgets for health, education and social services will be facing serious fiscal restraint over the coming years. Every other department is going to be collectively dealing with four billion dollars less through to 2017-18.
For agriculture, there are some concerns that farm organizations will need to consider. The new Risk Management Program was not given a specific recommendation in the report, but it was used as an example of a program that is not in line with the new direction recommended in the report. The horse-racing industry is specifically targeted in the report, which may have repercussions for hay and horse farmers in the province. Finally, indicating that government’s environmental programs and services be based on full cost recovery and a user-pays model may have serious implications for all farmers.
The Drummond Report is a potential catalyst for change in this province. The recommendations of the report have implications for everyone in Ontario. It remains to be seen if government, business, and individuals are willing to embrace the tough recommendations of the report that build for the future, or if this province will continue with the status quo.
Nathan Stevens is the Interim Manager and Director of Policy Development for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston and in Brantford and Woodstock. It is also found on the CFFO website:www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.