Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ontario Budget Will Impact 2 Elections

Agriculture usually isn't considered sexy unless you get a copy of the Faces of Farming Calendar (Jen and Amy are May's calendar girls.) That all changed with Tuesday's Ontario Budget announcement of a multi-commodity Risk Management Program. Now the Toronto media, which barely write about Agriculture have taken notice. The Toronto Star's Martin Cohn concludes this may be the program that keeps the Ontario Liberals in power:

Unsurprisingly, an obscure agricultural program barely rated a mention in the Toronto papers. But it is destined to get acres of space in rural Ontario. And if it works as planned, the results will be big news across the province when ballots are counted on Oct. 6.

It’s called the “Risk Management Program,” a kind of insurance policy for farmers. The program isn’t sexy, but it sells — so don’t stop reading here. The economics and the politics behind it are what’s interesting, as are the players who joined forces.

First, the politics, without which no deal: The 71-member Liberal caucus has about 17 MPPs from rural ridings, mostly in the province’s southwest and east. If the Progressive Conservatives are to topple the Liberal government, they must first trample the thin red line of MPPs that serves as a defensive perimeter around Liberal-dominated cities. If the agricultural heartland doesn’t crumble, the urban fortresses may withstand a Tory assault.

Cohn is absolutely right, the decision is smart politics by the provincial Liberals and the fact that the Ontario PC Party had previously endorsed the program means the only criticism they can face is that the program came too late. The program will work for farmers, it will provide the beef and pork producers in this province with a predictable and bankable program upon which they can confidently make investment decisions.

The issue will resonate not just in rural Ontario but in a number of other urban ridings where agricultural suppliers and processors are a very important part of the economy. Consumers will have the assurance as well that safe, environmentally responsible, locally grown food will remain a viable option for them and their families in the future. The good press should continue as long as program details are done well. So it works politically.

With the momentum they've gained from this announcement farm groups will almost certainly turn their attention to the Federal campaign. The politics are similar, if Ignatieff endorses this program and the Conservatives continue to oppose it several seats that the Conservatives thought were safe could come into play. Not sure if Ignatieff is smart enough to capitalize on it, but Harper should shore up his rural Ontario base and get on board with the program.


Anonymous said...

Announcing RMP was a smart move by McGuinty and Carol Mitchell. Harper's failure to support the program has opened the door for Iggy on this issue.

Time for all federal candidates, regardless of their party stripes to say where they stand on RMP.

farmland investments said...

Hey, who said ag wasn't sexy. Its the best of the long-term commodity investments in my opinion!

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