During question period Tuesday, Ontario NDP agriculture and food critic, John Vanthof, called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to stop jeopardizing the future of Ontario farmers, after the Liberal government interfered in negotiations between vegetable growers and food processors, and dissolved the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers board (OPVG).
Instead of an elected board that is accountable to farmers, the negotiating rights of vegetable growers are now in the hands of a government appointee who answers to Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“The processing-vegetable sector is extremely important to the economy of southwestern Ontario and to the province,” Vanthof said.
“Each year at this time there’s a negotiation that goes on between the processors and the farmers. The farmers are represented by the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers, a duly-elected board, that represents their members and holds annual meetings. These negotiations sometimes can be tough — as all negotiations are — and sometimes they end up in arbitration, as often negotiations do. That’s the spirit of negotiations. But what happened on Friday is that the powers of the board were stripped. The minister removed the board.”
“Are strong-arm tactics like that in the best long-term interests of a sector that’s vital to the Ontario agricultural economy?” Vanthof asked.
Vanthof said fairness for farmers doesn’t appear to matter to Wynne as she passed the question to the minister of agriculture, who defended the Wynne government’s decision to dissolve the farmers board.
“Members of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers are elected by their members to do those negotiations,' Vanthof said. 'I’m getting emails from vegetable growers wondering where they fit in this, because a public meeting was held where questions from the floor weren’t allowed, only to be read. They have millions of dollars invested -- but their voices are being taken away.”
“Where do the farmers fit in this equation? Because they certainly weren’t part of the decision to strip the powers of their board.”