Ontario Agriculture

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The CFFO Commentary: Water, Water Everywhere ... But We Need to be Stewards

By Nathan Stevens
February 4, 2011

A recent Water Innovation Forum focused on the importance of water for agriculture and food. The people of Ontario are blessed with tremendous access to fresh water and this has instilled the belief that we live in an area of water abundance. The reality is that while there is a considerable amount of water available for use, wise stewardship of this resource is needed to ensure that we do not create a “Tragedy of the Commons” with our water resources.

Before delving into the issue of water, a brief explanation of the tragedy of the commons is in order. The commons is a situation where a resource is used freely by all. The tragedy is that this free access leads to overuse and degradation of the resource that was enjoyed by all. The common example is overgrazing of common ground by the herdsmen surrounding a rural town during the Middle Ages.

When we look at water as a possible tragedy of the commons we need to recognize that there are other competing interests for water in Ontario. Broadly speaking, industry, ranging from energy production to manufacturing of all types, is often water intensive. Our urban areas use a lot of water for various reasons. The natural areas of rural Ontario need fresh water for all types of flora and fauna to thrive.

The broad challenge moving ahead is ensuring that we are able to allocate our water resources in a way that meets the needs of 9 billion people around the world. The need to grow enough food is a key priority moving forward, and ensuring that agriculture’s importance is well known in the coming years is essential.

Furthermore, it needs to be stressed that the region surrounding the Great Lakes needs to be a key player. We live in a country that, by and large, does not have to deal with food scarcity. Food producers have become so competent at meeting our food security needs that it is easy to forget just how critical the business of producing food is today.

Moving forward, conscientious use of water is going to be critically important, even in areas of abundance like Ontario. Ensuring that all players in the game are aware of the need to be responsible in their water use is critical. Wise decision-making today can lead to long-term prosperity for many industries in Ontario, including agriculture.


Nathan Stevens is the Research and Policy Advisor for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. It can be heard weekly on CKNX Wingham and CFCO Chatham, Ontario and is archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. The CFFO is supported by 4,200 farm families across Ontario.

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Comment by Joann on February 10, 2011 at 6:09pm

Mr. Stevens, you wrote: "The people of Ontario are blessed with tremendous access to fresh water and this has instilled the belief that we live in an area of water abundance. The reality is that while there is a considerable amount of water available for use, wise stewardship of this resource is needed to ensure that we do not create a “Tragedy of the Commons” with our water resources."

 

What a curious turn of phrase!  You have a truly insightful thought about our water resources in Ontario and yet your fail to follow through with your intuitiveness.

 

Farmers in Ontario have been truly "blessed" with the right to water.   That statement is undeniable and entrenched in our property rights.

 

But then your commentary goes sideways when you warn of a possible “Tragedy of the Commons”.

 

If one looks at the very first Act of Upper Canada, (Ontario), we see that property rights were entrenched.  The Crown awarded land grants to qualifying persons (farmers) under an ancient system call Free and Common Socage.  The land grants are Sovereign signed, Sealed (twice) contracts docketed by the Auditor General of the time.

 

The land grants commonly start with the phrase:

GEO.lll (or another presiding Crown at the time) By the grace of God......  it is this phrase that signifies the blessing of whatever rights held within the contract.

 

By the Grace of God means by Divine Gift.

 

Many of the land grants have special stipulated rights.  The one in front of me states in writing:  the said lands.... together with all Woods and Waters thereon lying and being under the reservations limitations and conditions here after Expressed.....  the expressed part relates to reservations claimed under Indian Treaties.

 

The phrase Free and Common Socage are, in my

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