36th Parliament, 1st Session

L235b - Wed 24 Sep 1997 / Mer 24 Sep 1997






The House met at 1830.



Mr Villeneuve moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 146, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production / Projet de loi 146, Loi protégeant l'agriculture et la production alimentaire.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): At the outset I beg indulgence of the House to permit me to share my opening statement time with the member for Hastings-Peterborough and the member for Durham East.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Agreed? Agreed.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Thank you, colleagues. First of all, we have a number of very distinguished guests in the members' gallery. We have representatives from the executive committee of the OFA, members from the sheep marketing board, the land use committee of the OFA, Ontario pork producers' representation, Ontario cattlemen's and other commodity groups. I want to welcome you here with us tonight.

It is my great pleasure this evening to introduce for second reading Bill 146, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production. It was a promise we made in the rural economic development task force and I believe it's the last promise we are in the process of completing. We have very strong support from the food production areas of Ontario.

This proposed legislation is crucial to protecting the ability of farmers to continue producing an abundant supply of wholesome, high-quality, affordable food and other agricultural products for Ontario's consumers and for the markets around the world. It reasserts this government's commitment to agriculture and food production as the vibrant, competitive and growing sector that it is.

Just to outline some things that some of my colleagues possibly are not aware of: It annually contributes $25 billion to the provincial economy; employs well over 600,000 people and creates more jobs every year; and exports products worth well over $5 billion annually to the far reaches of the globe, products that are recognized the world over as being of the highest quality.

In order to continue feeding all of us as well as creating jobs and economic growth, our farmers need assurances that they can conduct their normal business practices without fear of nuisance lawsuits and unnecessary restrictive bylaws. While we have a law that provides this kind of protection, it is limited and out of date and no longer effective.

In the previous 10 years since the Farm Practices Protection Act was introduced, the population mix in rural Ontario has changed, with more urban people moving into our rural areas. New, innovative kinds of farming are being introduced, involving non-traditional livestock and crops. Modern normal farming practices include activities not covered under the current legislation, and on-farm activities in which farmers add value to the commodities they produce are indeed increasing.

Times have changed and the current act has not changed with the times. Before this government was elected, we went out and listened to farmers and rural residents and this legislation was one of their key concerns. They told us that protection provided was not adequate. The legislation did not cover a number of modern farming activities. It did not apply to new and innovative operations that were starting up all over the province. There was concern about increasing conflict over restrictive municipal bylaws.

We made a pledge then that we would put in place a law that is more in step with the times; a law that protected the rights of farmers using normal farming practices to continue raising the food products we all use without having to resort to unnecessary, time-consuming and costly litigation; a law that would protect Ontario's ability both now and in future generations to maintain a growing, thriving job creating agrifood sector.

The bill before us today does this because it balances the rights of those who conduct their farming businesses in rural Ontario with the rights of all those who live in rural Ontario. It adheres to our strong health, safety, and I emphasize, environmental standards. It is forward-looking, providing much-needed protection for today's farmers and for generations to come, and builds on the tremendous environmental work that has been done by farmers and farm organizations over the past 10 years.

As an example, the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition has been working since the early 1990s with farmers across the province, encouraging them to conduct farming activities in a manner that respects the environment. Dozens of farm organizations and marketing boards are involved in the coalition, including the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, AgCare and the Ontario Farm Animal Council. All told, the coalition represents thousands of farmers and rural people.

Central to the coalition's efforts are environmental farm plans. These individual plans set out opportunities for environmental enhancement and provide a strategy for making low-cost, highly effective changes on the farm. In combination with educational workshops, technical advice, peer reviews and funding incentives, the plans are helping farmers make environmental improvements in their own operations. It's voluntary, it's working, and you may even ask why. Well, it's because farmers care.

So far, 10,000 participants have attended local EFP workshops. Close to 5,000 peer-approved plans have been developed. Last fall, the coalition launched phase 2 of the program, with a primary goal of involving 6,000 new farmers by the year 2000. I'm proud that the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has been involved from the beginning, providing technical expertise to develop program materials and answers to technical questions during workshops sponsored by the ministry.

I know from years of experience the significant changes that are occurring in rural Ontario. Having been a farmer and a rural resident for decades myself, I can understand the attraction that draws people from the city to the countryside. For most it is a more tranquil, less rushed and more desirable lifestyle, and I think we all understand that.

There's a real sense of community in rural living. Neighbours generally get along and help one another out. That's why so many have decided to make the move from, say, the streets of downtown Toronto, London or Ottawa to the concession roads of rural Ontario, and we welcome them. But make no mistake: For farmers it is their place of business that these people have moved into, with all the challenges and opportunities that entails.


The business of farming has evolved rapidly. In the year 1900, at the turn of the century that we're now completing, each farmer fed about 12 people and about 50 cents of every consumer dollar earned was spent on food. With growing populations, farmers have been called upon to boost their productivity, and indeed they have.

Today the average farmer feeds more than 120 people and our food prices are among the world's lowest, with food costing only about 12.5 cents of every dollar earned. Fewer than 3% of Canadians operate farms, yet they produce enough food and other numerous commodities such as herbs for pharmaceuticals, flowers, flax for fibre and feedstock for alternative fuels to supply most of the domestic and many import markets. And let's not forget, they accomplish all this in an environmentally responsible way. That is of utmost importance and I want to emphasize that throughout this presentation.

Farmers are the original environmentalists. They, more than anyone, know the importance of taking care of air, water and soil. These elements are literally their lifelines, the farmer's way of earning his or her living. They, more than anyone, understand that you need a productive, safe and healthy environment for things to go well on the farm. That's the first step in the production of wholesome, high-quality food that very often our consumers take for granted.

It's also a driving force for some of the non-food commodities, such as ethanol. It's what consumers demand and, as importantly, it's what farmers expect of themselves and wish to produce. That's why farmers and farm groups invest their time and money in many initiatives aimed at protecting our environment. Besides environmental farm plans, there are countless projects involving millions of farmers' hard-earned dollars aimed at such things as reducing pesticide use, improving tilling practices, developing more efficient manure management practices, erosion control, and we could name many others.

Farmers see these projects as long-term investments both in the environment and in their own businesses. For farmers, the two are connected at the most basic level. You cannot have one without the other.

I think we can all agree that creating a climate in which farmers continue to provide us with high-quality, affordable food without unnecessary restrictions is not only a worthwhile goal, but it's indeed a must. I think most of my colleagues in this Legislature would agree with that. That's why we're putting forward this balanced piece of legislation, and I emphasize the word "balanced" because it was carefully crafted after extensive public consultations were carried out by the parliamentary assistant to yours truly, the MPP for Hastings-Peterborough, my colleague Harry Danford, with help from Lambton MPP Marcel Beaubien. That's the way we like to do things: to ensure that new policy or legislation meets the needs of those it will affect. I emphasize, these were pre-bill consultations from farmers and rural residents across Ontario.

Earlier this year, my colleague Mr Danford did an excellent job gathering information, opinions and suggestions from farmers, rural municipal leaders and other stakeholders at eight meetings across this province. The response was most encouraging. More than 850 people attended these meetings and more than 60 written submissions were received. We received excellent input regarding the review of the current law and insights into how the new legislation could best be written and put into effect.

I certainly want to thank my friends across the province from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, normally known as ROMA, and many commodity groups that also contributed tremendously to both the consultation process and the development of the bill. I'd also like to thank all of the rural residents who took time to share their concerns and the issues, because they contributed immensely to bringing balance to this legislation.

Many of those suggestions are incorporated in the bill. It's a bill that's before the House today for second reading, a bill that we hope to have become law before the end of this year. I believe, and I think my honourable colleagues will agree, that the bill does what we all set out to do: strengthen the protection of farming and food production while keeping in harmony with health, safety and the environment. The proposed act provides added protection for farmers without overriding or duplicating other legislation and policies designed to protect the public of this province.

Farmers have told me again and again that their interest in strengthening this legislation is so they can get on with the day-to-day operations of their farms, what they know how to do best. They have said emphatically that they do not want a licence to pollute. I emphasize: They do not want nor does this grant them a licence to pollute.

Therefore, the new law would continue to be subject to the provincial Environmental Protection Act, the Pesticides Act, the Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act. Further, it would adhere to cabinet-approved policy statements. Farmers understand thoroughly the need to have these safeguards in place. They understand better than anyone the need to safeguard their environment. That's why they have wholeheartedly agreed with these provisions.

At the same time, the proposed act deals constructively with the emerging concerns around unduly restrictive municipal bylaws. Before its implementation, the ministry, our farm groups and municipalities will be working together to increase awareness among municipal decision-makers about what are the normal, modern farming practices.

Under the new law, the minister would be able to issue farm practices policy statements which can also be used by municipalities as guidelines in helping them develop new bylaws.

At the same time, a public awareness program would focus on the realities of living in rural Ontario. This would be accomplished in cooperation with farm and rural groups, along with realtors or real estate agents who are involved on numerous occasions in the transfer of titles and properties. We have to do a better job of informing people who move to rural areas that farms are also places of business where sometimes the crop can't wait until after the weekend to be harvested; where at the height of the season greenhouse operators have to run the lights all night; where weather conditions mean that farm equipment could well be running 24 hours a day. We do know that grain dryers, once the season starts, run 24 hours a day.

We must also do a better job in reminding everyone that Ontario's economic roots are firmly planted in our farmers' fields in rural Ontario and that we all depend on a healthy, wholesome and affordable food supply and all of the non-food products that also come from those very same fields and farms in rural Ontario.

I know that some farmers already regularly advise their neighbours when they need to combine or spread manure on an adjacent field. Often the timing of these activities can be worked out to everyone's satisfaction. If it doesn't or can't happen, staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs are quite knowledgeable and adept at helping mediate resolutions between neighbours before disputes escalate. These measures are designed to head off needless confrontation before it occurs and that too is the way we like to do things. That's why we had pre-bill consultation last winter and early spring.

The vast majority of conflicts in the past, and I'm confident those that we will have in the future, will be settled either among the parties themselves or with mediation help from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs staff. However, if after all these avenues have been exhausted the dispute continues, the issue can be brought before the new Normal Farm Practices Protection Board for a ruling on a specific farm practice. I see application to the board as a last resort. If the board rules that the farm practice in question is normal, the bylaw would not apply in that one specific case, and these cases will all be handled on an individual basis.

There have been a few concerns raised since this bill was introduced in June: that it would leave municipalities powerless to govern in their own development; and that large, intensive farms could be built without regard to local councils' or residents' wishes.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): It doesn't matter. You're going to amalgamate them all. You're turn Ontario into one large Chatham-Kent.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Algoma.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: I want to assure everyone that all farming operations, regardless of size, will continue to be required to adhere to current environmental laws and regulations. Farmers wouldn't have it any other way, nor would this government.

At the same time, we intend to increase representation from rural municipalities to the new board. This change would help ensure that a balanced approach is taken to making rulings and that the rights of everyone in rural Ontario are taken into serious consideration.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): You're going to turn rural Ontario into a megacity.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Cochrane North.


Hon Mr Villeneuve: The board's central role under the act is to determine whether or not the activity in question is a normal farm practice. In their deliberations, board members will take into account such things as the purpose of the bylaw, the effect of the practice on abutting lands and whether the bylaw reflects a provincial interest as established under legislation or policy statements. I have every confidence that the new board will have the necessary experience and knowledge to make fair and balanced decisions, I emphasize again, on what is a normal farm practice. It's not complicated.

Bill 146 is a major improvement over current legislation for a number of reasons. It clarifies what constitutes an agricultural operation and sets out more specifically the kinds of businesses included. As examples, farmers now raise emus or ostriches. Beekeepers, maple syrup producers, these are all added under the new law. It spells out that normal farming practices are those that are consistent with proper and acceptable customs and standards followed by the industry. It adds light, vibration, smoke and flies to the current list of noise, odour and dust as the effects that can be expected from normal modern farming practices. It includes activities that farmers may undertake on their farms to add value to the commodities they produce.

Let's not forget that a strong, viable farming sector in turn provides the input to maintain a strong, competitive food manufacturing and distribution system in Ontario. We have seen investment in food manufacturing rebound tremendously in the past two years in response to the improved business climate.

The proposed Farming and Food Production Protection Act is indeed a bill whose time has come. Just ask people like Neil McCaig, who is the fourth generation of his family to work his farm just outside Guelph, in the shadow of the city. He welcomes the proposed legislation, and after its first reading said, "We are seeing the city build up so fast, and this government says farmers need protection against those fast-growing urban areas." Neil is a lot like the tens of thousands of other family farmers in rural Ontario who want to ensure that both he and future generations can continue to work the land and supply our tables with wholesome, abundant, affordable food.

In fact, the new bill has a lot of supporters throughout rural Ontario even before it's passed. Here is a sampling. A Woodstock Sentinel-Review editorial states, "...we must protect what's left of our prime agricultural land. And that means giving our farmers the right to carry out the necessary chores which contribute to our province's multibillion-dollar agrifood business" sector " -- without the hassles."

An editorial headline in the St Thomas Times-Journal says, "It Takes Noise to Grow...Food." Some of the politicians in here make that noise, but I know they don't produce any food.

An editorial in The Guelph Mercury said, "The proposed legislation is a prudent move --

Mr Len Wood: Careful, or you'll wake up one of your members. He's sleeping.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Cochrane North, order.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: -- as urban development rapidly encroaches on farm lands."

Mary O'Connor, of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, who happens to be here tonight, said in the Brantford Expositor, "It's good for the farmers of Ontario because the government of the day is recognizing agriculture as a major provincial interest."

Even my honourable colleague the leader of the third party said, "I agree that farmers and the work farmers do is very valuable for this province, and that work needs to be protected."

I'm pleased that there continues to be strong support in the rural areas of Ontario for the hardworking people who produce the food we consume and the many non-food products we all use. I trust that Bill 146 will receive equally strong support here in this Legislature. The bill is one of several forward-looking initiatives that show this government remains committed to Ontario's agrifood industry in our rural communities.

Further examples: The rural job strategy will see $30 million of new money to go towards cost-shared projects which will boost economic development and job creation in rural Ontario. The strategy that was announced by my colleague the Minister of Finance in the May budget was this $30-million rural job strategy. Since then my colleague Barb Fisher, MPP from Bruce, conducted public consultation with farmers and rural residents and others across the province to ensure that the program meets their needs. I'm looking forward to launching the strategy in the next few weeks and I'm confident that this initiative will accomplish our goal of boosting business competitiveness, export investments and, most important, jobs in rural Ontario.

On the research front, the ministry has joined a group of agrifood companies, commodity groups, universities and financial institutions called Ontario Agri-Food Research. We've invested $1 million over five years in this non-profit corporation, which is dedicated to bringing scientific advances from the lab to the market. Our enhanced partnership between the agreement of the University of Guelph is successfully increasing the efficiency and responsiveness in the delivery of essential research lab and education programming.

J'aimerais en ce moment souligner le fait qu'une entente entre l'Université Guelph et les collèges, tels Ridgetown, Kemptville et Alfred, a eu une réaction très positive, et nos initiatives nous ont fourni plus d'inscriptions dans nos collèges et nos universités agricoles cette année que dans les 10 dernières années, et les nouveaux diplômés ont des emplois quand ils terminent leurs études.


Just one example is a major, half-million-dollar project looking to improve production and processing technologies for high-end, food-grade quality corn as well as enhanced corn drying and storage technology, and this was financed through the Grow Ontario program. There's a golden opportunity in products like tacos and corn chips that our producers and processors can take advantage of. With an expected 15% annual growth rate, this market definitely is on the front-end investment in research, and it's only one of the many other markets that could be explored with improved technology. This is a truly industry-wide effort, because the corn producers, processors, seed companies, the University of Guelph and Ridgetown college are all involved. I am pleased that through that Grow Ontario program we were able to invest $227,000, or about half the cost of this research project, which will inevitably bear fruit.

In marketing and investment, we're encouraging the development of products that add value to raw commodities, which will pay big dividends for the agrifood sector and for the entire province. A successful example is the new ethanol industry which this government has supported from its very earliest stages. I'm pleased to report that the Commercial Alcohols ethanol production facility in Chatham is going to be operational in December, fully two months ahead of schedule. Full production will begin January. Ethanol blends continue to be very popular at the pumps, and I understand that Sunoco is ready to do a major marketing of the blend in all their Ontario locations once the Commercial Alcohols plant comes on stream and the supply of Ontario-produced ethanol is more plentiful. This is terrific news for the industry, the Ontario economy and the environment. With production set at 150 litres a year, the Commercial Alcohols facility alone creates a substantial new market for farmers and the commodities they produce.

Ethanol production is the kind of activity that we will continue to support. It adds value to raw commodities, it boosts the rural economy and it creates new markets. It's a creator of jobs. In fact, the Commercial Alcohols plant has already given work to between 400 and 500 construction workers over the past two years and will employ some 45 full-time, high-tech people once the plant is open and operating on a 24-hour basis.

We're also committed to working with the industry to further develop export markets. We're determined to reach our target of doubling agrifood exports to $10 billion a year by the year 2001, and we're well on our way. These exports increased nearly 12% between 1995 and 1996. This year, between January and May, they increased again by more than $100 million over the same period last year. These exports are mainly to the US and to the Pacific Rim.

When you consider that every $1 billion of exports to other countries creates about 12,000 jobs in our local Ontario economy, I think we all realize the importance of the agrifood sector and the importance of these markets and exports.

This government has and will continue to encourage a strong agrifood sector and rural economy. We're doing it today with the second reading of the timely and much-needed Farming and Food Production Protection Act. I believe, and I think that all members can agree, that it achieves a balance between protecting the rights of those who farm in rural Ontario with all those who live in rural Ontario. With this legislation, we will continue working with the people of Ontario who contribute so much to our very high standard of living.

We'll forge ahead with research and technology advances, explore new markets here at home and around the globe, and boost investment and competitiveness throughout the province. We'll do our utmost to assist rural communities to reach their potential as full participants in the bright economic future ahead for Ontario's agrifood industry. Most of all, we'll continue to create a climate in which those who produce food and those who consume it can go on reaping the rewards of one of our most highly respected and vital industries. Ontario is known worldwide as a very high quality food producer and exporter, and I am very proud of that reputation, because when Ontario's agrifood industry thrives, everyone in Ontario benefits.

Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): I too am pleased to speak this evening in support of Bill 146, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production, and I want to spend a few moments to review how Bill 146 was prepared. Along with my colleague the member for Lambton, I was involved in the consultation process leading to this bill and I want to personally assure the House that the consultation process was both extensive and comprehensive.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Minister Villeneuve for providing me with the opportunity to be involved in the consultation and the input to Bill 146. It gave me the opportunity not only to work on this important piece of legislation for our government but also to meet face to face with a great many people from all walks of life in rural Ontario, and many have chosen to be with us here tonight. Whether it was in Ridgetown, New Liskeard or Barrie, rural residents spoke up about their concerns and gave freely of their ideas and suggestions on how we can get this bill right. I also want to assure the members that we listened with equal concern and care.

When we started this process, we asked our key stakeholders about the best means of consulting, and we worked closely with those stakeholders, those who would be affected by the bill. We established an advisory committee whose members provided excellent advice and became our partners in the consultation process. Those partners included the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association. The advisory committee also included representatives of the Farm Practices Protection Board, the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

The resulting consultation process was designed to include several methods of gathering input. We held open meetings at various locations across the whole province. We requested written submissions as well. We participated at the annual meeting of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association. We held discussions, as well, with the Farm Practices Protection Board.

I was involved in eight public meetings between January 23 and February 6 of this year. The meetings were held across the province: Ridgetown, Walkerton, Alfred, Kemptville, Peterborough, New Liskeard, Barrie and Brantford. The meeting in New Liskeard incorporated telephone connections to Dryden, Emo, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Gore Bay, Verner, Kapuskasing and Huntsville. I think it's fair to say that we ensured that both farming and non-farming residents from across this province had an opportunity to talk to us about this proposed legislation.

We recognize the concerns of non-farming rural residents, but I would like to reaffirm what the minister said about farmers being the original environmentalists. It is in the farmers' best interests to properly maintain the land they farm. All the participants were keenly aware of the importance of maintaining high standards for safety, health and environment, but none more so than the farmers themselves. Over 850 people attended these sessions: 75% were farmers, 20% were municipal politicians or their staff and 5% represented rural non-farm residents.

Prior to the public meetings, OMAFRA issued a discussion paper on the Farm Practices Protection Act to help identify the issues, and we used this paper to begin our small group discussions at the public meetings. Oral and written reports from the groups were collected at each meeting to ensure that every participant's view was documented. Another open meeting was organized by the local Federation of Agriculture in Kirkton, Ontario, and the format of their meeting mirrored that of those organized by OMAFRA.

We also wanted to make sure that we received input from rural municipalities. To that end, the member for Lambton and I participated in the annual conference of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association in February of this year, and in an open session, over 700 conference delegates were given the opportunity to comment on the Farm Practices Protection Act. As well, members of the Farm Practices Protection Board had an opportunity to provide their firsthand knowledge during a discussion at one of their board meetings.


Our consultation process also included written submissions, as I mentioned. In response to the ministry's request for these comments, 66 organizations and individuals provided comments either through the mail or electronically. Who responded? Twenty-seven percent of the written submissions came from individual farmers, 26% from farm organizations, 21% from municipal councils and planners across the province, 11% from producer and grower organizations and 15% from concerned rural residents.

I think you can agree we did indeed conduct extensive and comprehensive consultation to ensure that all interested parties had an opportunity to comment, and because of this process we received a full spectrum of comments.

We listened carefully to all the comments and concerns we heard at the province-wide meetings, we reviewed all the written submissions with equal care and, as a result, I want to assure my colleagues in the House this evening that we have proposed legislation that balances the right of farmers to conduct their business with the rights of all residents who live within our rural communities.

As Minister Villeneuve has told you, our guiding principle throughout the review of the current Farm Practices Protection Act was to strength the protection of farming and food production, while keeping keep it in harmony with health, safety and indeed the environment. Our aim was to ensure that the agrifood sector, which is after all Ontario's second-largest economic contributor, could continue fuelling economic growth and creating jobs without unnecessary restrictions.

We want to reinforce agriculture and food production as a provincial interest and meet the needs of the rural community as well., which I might say was the request at our ROMA meeting we had in February. It came from the floor of the municipalities that we establish agriculture as a provincial interest. With this proposed legislation, we're reaffirming our confidence in the province's farmers as valued generators of economic growth and as contentious custodians of the environment.

Our consultation confirmed that the current 10-year-old legislation does not meet the needs of today's growing rural population or its farmers. It is out of date and simply ineffective. The proposed legislation will remedy that situation, not only for today's agrifood industry but indeed for generations to come.

As the members know, our ministry's stakeholders come from all walks of life in rural Ontario. Our government has recognized that they may all be affected by this bill. We have an obligation to strengthen the production of farming and food production, and an equal obligation to maintain the health, safety and the environment of rural Ontario. With Bill 146 we have fulfilled these obligations.

I believe that this bill, if passed, will work for the benefit of all residents of rural Ontario. For the first time, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will be able to give advice to municipalities on what is acceptable in a bylaw that will affect food production, and this is something that municipalities have asked for.

Bill 146 will balance the need for a secure food supply with other equally important issues such as health, safety and the environment. This bill will support the needs of our growing agrifood sector and the needs of all those who live and work in rural Ontario. That was our goal when we started out on the consultations and I think we have achieved our goal with this bill, Bill 146.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I first want to thank, and feel very privileged that the minister, Noble Villeneuve, has asked me to contribute to this debate tonight. It's a pleasure for me to follow the member from Hastings-Peterborough, Mr Danford. I know just how hard he works and his contribution and knowledge in support of the agricultural industry today.

With respect to Bill 146, I monitored the process. In fact, I asked the minister to listen to input from my constituents in Durham East, and let me just speak for a moment about my riding of Durham East.

Durham East is a very unique, high-performance, high-productivity area in the agricultural sector of this very important province, and I am very proud to represent the agricultural sector, my riding of Durham East, here at Queen's Park.

Agriculture, as Mr Danford and the minister have said, is the second-largest industry in Ontario, and I'd like the members to know that in the riding of Durham, in fact the whole region of Durham, agriculture is the second most important industry both in employment and in dollars added to the value of Durham region's economy, a multi-million dollar agribusiness. In fact, it's the most important and successful growing sector in our economy.

This isn't done by any stretch by the minister alone, and the minister has clearly acknowledged tonight the important contributors. The important contributors are our partners; the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers and all the producer groups. It would be remiss of me not to mention some of them, and the more important ones I might add are the poultry producers, the Ontario Cattlemen's Association, the corn producers, all the other producer groups, and all of them are represented very clearly in my riding.

The gross product value is $25 billion and, as the minister said, over 600,000 jobs are created by the agricultural sector; $5 billion annually in exports of very high quality products. That's something each one of us, all members regardless of party, should be very proud of and support the producer sector in our economy and in our riding, most importantly in our riding.

Let me speak for a moment to the importance in my riding of Durham East. I look around, and I was trying to think about it to make a few comments tonight. I've been limited in the amount of time I can contribute, but the first name that came to mind when I was thinking through was that the first person who really contributed to my involvement in public life was a gentleman by the name of Garnet Rickard. He has since passed away; well respected, Order of Canada, one of the leaders in the agricultural sector in our economy, well recognized and respected.

The tradition of farming is carried on by the family, the Rickard family and his wife Annabel, who succeeded him. She's sort of the mother of the whole industry, if you will, and there are Don and Gail Rickard and they're still carrying on in the farm business, and Jim and Ramona Rickard, all of whom are committed and their family. I've met and know those people personally people. They're in the apple business and the cash crop business, and their families are absolutely committed to agriculture.

What does it mean to be committed to agriculture? The minister mentioned it and Mr Danford mentioned it as well; it really starts with the whole aspect of farm stewardship. This bill addresses some recognition of noise and other nuisance kind of bylaws, but the farming industry itself has taken the role of steward, and I consider it -- it's been explained to me by many farmers and many families -- that the land is the factory. Would it make any sense for them to contaminate the factory, the land, the soil, the air, the water they so depend on for the value and the contribution?

There's only 3% of the total number of inhabitants actually owning and operating farms, 3% of all the people employed, but every farm that I drive by feeds 120 families. So think about it: When you drive by, there has to be some understanding and respect for their contribution not only to the economy, which we talk about, but they feed us. They are the bread basket of this province.

I know the producer groups individually have their issues, as does the federation, but they work together, and whether it's the milk marketing board or the other boards, they have supply-demand issues that they try to deal with and I think they are doing a marvellous job.

I have to remind people in my riding, as kind of urban and rural -- the urban people come to me as they move into the countryside and they have some concerns about operations that may be at night, harvesting or a corn dryer or whatever kind of operation, and I try to tell them, "Milk doesn't come from Beckers; it comes from a cow." They have to be reminded. They have to be reminded. It sounds overly simplistic, but I'm going to refer back to my riding, because my riding of Durham East, which is east of Oshawa, includes Port Perry, north Oshawa, the municipality of Clarington --

Mr Len Wood: Your people are going to love you for that. All the urban people are suing him.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. The member for Cochrane North, you are out of your seat.


Mr O'Toole: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I'm starting to have to yell over the noise. I know they're somewhat agitated, but I'd expect they would support the agricultural community, and I'm waiting and anxious to hear their comments.

I was very pleased to be with the minister on June 26, when he introduced this legislation. In fact, with me there was Brenda Elliott, Doug Rollins and Harry Danford, of course, the PA to the minister, myself and Ted Arnott, the member for Wellington. It was in his riding, at a dairy farm in Wellington, where the minister made this important announcement. The public were excited, but also the agricultural community was excited. Everyone seems to agree.

I consulted with people in my riding during the process of looking at the Farm Practices Protection Act and the issues specific in this legislation. I talked to farmers like Dave Frew, who is very well known, with his father, Don, a highly respected operator in my riding. They run a very large operation, almost 2,000 acres, and they have a large pork producer operation and a corn and cash crop operation. I asked him what kinds of things, and he said: "You know, it's kind of the smell and the noise issues. The city folk are moving out. We need to have some protection for our investment." They put the money in the ground before they get one cent back. Even the weather can turn on a farmer, and really we have to support them.

I look around again, and I want to go back to my riding. Going through my riding lists, I recognized first that probably one of the more important commodities is apples. Kirk Kemp is at the apple growers' association, and he's a very well-respected operator in my riding of Durham East. Ted Watson, of Ted Watson Farms, is very well respected; one of the first pick-your-own operations in the area. Wilmot Orchards, which was Charles Stevens; Charles has a mixed fruit-growing operation. Twin Brand Orchards with the Gibson family is well known, well respected.

But on the leading edge, the entrepreneurial edge, I've gotten to know Sandy and Fred Archibald. Just recently they opened up a winery section. Talk about diversification and investing in the future. There is a very innovative, creative couple, a young family making huge investments in jobs and contribution to the gross domestic product. They're starting a wine operation just north of Bowmanville. I wish them success.

Irwin Smith is also just south of Port Perry in my riding of Durham East. Irwin and his family, a long-practising, long-tradition family, three or four generations, have opened Ocala wines. They're producing hybrid grapes. Can you imagine? This isn't the Niagara region I'm talking about. It talks about the imagination and creativity and diversification of our farm operations today. I commend those people who make the investment of time and person for the betterment of themselves, of course, at great risk, but more importantly for the betterment of all of Ontario.

I'd be remiss not to mention the Price's market in Bowmanville. My children all worked there in the gardens. It's a garden-farm marketing operation which has grown profoundly over the years, offering fresh Ontario produce to the visitors and the tourists driving along on Highway 2 through Bowmanville. They're well known. In fact, many people have their first corn from Price's Market. Not to somehow market the different groups here, but Pingle's Farm Market as well in Courtice is very well respected.

I could go on and on, but I've mentioned a number of the more important contributors. It isn't just the farm producer groups, it's the whole attachment, it's the whole industry. I'm trying to think. There are three or four farm implements dealers that not only employ mechanics and sales people but provide a service to the agricultural community. They employ people, they create wealth, they create jobs. It's important. This government has to work with that farm implement dealers group as well.

When I think of my riding, Durham East, it's so diverse. For example, Tyrone Mills is one of the oldest still-operating mills. They have a completely water-powered apple cider crushing kind of operation. It's a must-visit. I commend the Schaffers for investing their time and resources into making a full, live demonstration, a real working product of how a farm and farm operations have survived over the years and indeed, as I said about the wine producing, have prospered.

There's another fellow I dealt with quite regularly when the Farm Practices Protection Act was being reviewed. I sent Mr Ulrich Ruegger a copy. Mr Ruegger came to me and said that he doesn't believe in any pesticides, he doesn't believe in any kind of artificial things in farm operations. There's room for those kinds of producers. In fact, one of the things the minister said which I agree with, and all the producer groups concerned, is that we must have the highest quality product when we're talking about the export market. I know it's well recognized, and the export market is some $5 billion and growing annually. In fact, it's one of the faster-growing sectors in our economy.

A couple of other local operators come to mind. I deal with a lot of constituents in the agricultural sector. Arnot Wotten, who is well known as a drover in the area but also a producer of cattle, often calls me and says, "Now, what's the government doing about this Farm Practices Protection Act?" I've shared the bill with him. It's quite a small bill. It's very, very important, quite readable.

To make a few concluding remarks, the preamble here, which I've shared with Ulrich Ruegger, Arnot Wotten and many people in my riding, says, "It is desirable to conserve, protect and encourage the development and improvement of agricultural lands for the production of food...." I think everyone here would agree with that, so I expect this bill to have unanimous support.

Our minister has worked so hard to work with the farm community to make sure it addresses the issues of the day. It talks about the intensive operation situation in cattle and chicken operations. It addresses the effectiveness of producing high-quality foods. In the definition section on page 1, it talks about "agricultural operation." It means "an agricultural, aquacultural, horticultural or silvicultural operation that is carried on in the expectation of gain or reward." That broadens the definition of the agricultural operation to be inclusive of those persons who may have a small sawmill operation, a maple syrup operation, diversifying their operation to be competitive in the world economy.

Then it goes on to define more clearly, as the minister said, the definition of "disturbance," what constitutes these nuisance bylaws, the municipal bylaws. I was a municipal councillor in Clarington and indeed on regional council in Durham region. As growth encroaches on agricultural land, these nuisance issues of noise, odour and smell do emerge. What is the long-practising farm operation to do with the gradual migration of city folk who are less tolerant of those things? They need protection. Our minister has listened, and the definition of "disturbance" has now been expanded. It means issues of "odour, dust, flies, light, smoke, noise and vibration" that could constitute a nuisance.

"Agricultural operation," again, the definition section makes it very clear, and I think persons who are moving to the rural sector for the high quality of life have to recognize that the food basket not only of this province but of the country and indeed perhaps the world is the agricultural sector. Everything we drink and eat has to be grown somewhere, and our population in Ontario is one of the highest producing sectors in the whole economy.

The bill goes on to define a few other aspects of what is not liable, and it defines very clearly what is liable. There is no compromise when it comes to this farm stewardship issue. The environment and any of those other issues around that are not exposed to risk in this bill, and it is very clearly outlined in here.

In my final, concluding remarks, I have to say I'm anxious to hear how the opposition responds to this bill. I thank the minister again for allowing me to have time to speak on it and to recognize formally in this House many of the people I work hard, as the minister and other members do, to represent here at Queen's Park. Indeed their concerns are heard. Indeed this minister has recognized many of those concerns.

My final remark has to be a little more light-hearted. I go back to an important story to me. I go back to Garnet Rickard, who serves as a great model for me. He was just a wise farmer, a man wise from working on the earth and producing the food he ate. He said to me, "There's not too much that falls beyond the span of an apple tree." If you think about it, if each of us stays close to the source of our very existence, agriculture is self-sustaining, where the land itself and the water and the soil are the factory. They have the highest respect for that, and it goes on to produce food for us, our family and indeed the province. To me, I always look at the definition of a farmer as a person who's outstanding in their field.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I'd just like to make a few comments on what the minister and others from the governing party have said.

I realize that many changes have to come to protect agriculture and the farm operations and to help municipalities in their municipal and official plans. I know all this from my municipal days, that if we're going to survive here in Ontario, we have to add value to what we grow. But I can't understand some of the doubletalk that I've heard here tonight from a government that would let the agricultural budget deteriorate by 43% and pretend to care so much about agriculture.

In my days, I've had many farmers in my constituency office. They had so much money to put into a project and the bank would give them so much, and they'd just need a little bit to bridge that gap and they're away and adding value to what they grow. I think the government is overlooking something to let the agricultural budget not have a little pot of money to assist in those projects.

I know we all want to protect our agricultural land, and we have to, if we're going to live here. I know you've got the best asset in the farmers because they're good farmers. A good agricultural person will do everything he can to protect that land, because much of that has been handed down from generation to generation. There are many in Ontario and beyond looking to buy prime agricultural land not only because they think that's the future for Ontario but they're looking at the export market, which is going to be a very valuable asset to the people of Ontario.

Mr Wildman: I was really impressed with the tour of Durham East that was given to us by the member who just spoke. I'm sure that all of his farm constituents whom he named will be happy to receive the Hansard when he sends it out.

I listened carefully, as carefully as the member for London South, to the remarks of the minister. I am a little bit concerned that while we have before us a piece of legislation that purports to respond to the concerns of the farm community, and which I think does to a large extent, the minister, who as member for the united counties and South Grenville on this side of the House railed against the fact that the proportion of the total provincial budget of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food was declining, has presided over the most drastic decline in history of the budget in relation to the total budget of the province; and how a minister who also has as part of his responsibilities rural affairs and who says he is concerned about representing the rural communities, could sit by and see this government destroy a number of rural constituencies in this Legislature by amalgamations, and then move further to amalgamate large school boards so that we have in his own area the so-called alphabet soup board, the Lanark, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Prescott-Russell and whatever board that is so large that everybody thinks it is impossible to --

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. The time has expired.

Mr Wildman: This is a man who purports to represent rural Ontario, when he lets his government run roughshod over the concerns of --

The Deputy Speaker: The time has expired.

Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I appreciate the opportunity to make a few comments in support of the minister who introduced Bill 146.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Don't be too hard on him, Jack.

Mr Carroll: No, I'll take it easy. I'm not so sure what Bill 146 has to do with education. I must have been reading a different version of the bill, I guess, than the member.

Mr Wildman: You try and compartmentalize everything.

Mr Carroll: Anyway, the minister spoke about my riding of Chatham-Kent and he spoke about our new ethanol plant. I was glad to hear him make reference to that. It's a wonderful new industry, creating new jobs in the agrifood industry.

You know, Bill 146 does a few things for us. It respects the rights of both the urban and the agricultural interests. It protects the environment, but it lays out for us in fairly plain terms how important it is that we promote agriculture and agrifood growth in Ontario. There is nowhere in all of the industries available to us where we have more potential for good things and for growth than we do in agrifood and the agricultural industry.

I look at my small area of Chatham-Kent. Mind you, while it may be small, it is also probably the finest agricultural area in Ontario. But in addition to our ethanol plant and the new industries surrounding ethanol, we also have revitalized the sugar beet industry that disappeared years ago because Ontario was not competitive in the sugar beet industry. We've seen that revived under the auspices of our government.

We also have the beginnings of a wonderful hemp industry. There's a lot of great qualities that the hemp product has. The minister's been very supportive of that industry. We see it starting down in our area.

All in all, Bill 146 recognizes how important agriculture and the agrifood industry is to our province. Our minister has done a great job of promoting the benefits of the agrifood and agriculture industry and we're very pleased with Bill 146.

Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I'll make some brief comments; I'm going to comment at length about this bill shortly. To the member for Durham East, who said he didn't have enough time, I remind you that you're the government that changed the rules and shortened debating time by 30 minutes for yourself and for us in the opposition.

I want to comment to the minister on what he mentioned about environmental standards. We agree that the past bill, future bills and indeed this one should protect environmental standards. We don't want the broader public to think anything else, other than the fact that we want to protect our environment, through this and any other piece of legislation. We also need to allow the farmers to go about their business of creating jobs, wealth and food for our province, and indeed we will always strive for that.

Minister, you said you wanted this bill to be law by the end of the year. We will assist you in the passage of this bill.

The Deputy Speaker: Minister, you have two minutes.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: I want to thank all my colleagues who participated, my colleagues from Cornwall, Algoma, Chatham-Kent and Essex-Kent.

I always find it interesting when the member for Algoma, who has been around here for a long time, seems to forget that for five years, while his government had the opportunity of running this province, they put us in debt by $50 billion of additional debt -- $50 billion. Besides that, they closed down two of our agricultural colleges -- two out of five. Do you remember that? How do you dare accuse us after what you did to this province? You come back and find fault with what we're doing? I do not understand that in any way, shape or form.

I've been very close to the agricultural community and I make it a point to travel. I went down to the Niagara area on Friday last, where the grape and wine festival is beginning. You know the doom and gloom that you preached and the Liberals provincially preached whenever the free trade deal was coming. Travel to Niagara these days and see what's going on there. A very positive grape and wine industry.

Mr Crozier: Come down to Essex county and try some of our wine too.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: The member from Essex there, we supported the ethanol industry with dollars. Your leader, when you were the government, spoke against the ethanol industry.

Mr Hoy: You cut the funding.

The Deputy Speaker: Order, order.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: How do you have the audacity of finding fault with a government that is supporting what you couldn't support and is very positive for agriculture? We have $5.3 billion of annual exports -- better than you could ever claim -- and the exports from Ontario's agrifood are rising. I'm very proud of that.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): I beg to inform the House that in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to assent to a certain bill in her chambers.

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): The following is the title of the bill to which Her Honour did assent:

Bill 156, An Act to amend certain statutes with respect to the Regional Municipality of Sudbury / Projet de loi 156, Loi modifiant certaines lois en ce qui concerne la municipalité régionale de Sudbury.




The Deputy Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Cleary: It is a pleasure to rise and make a few comments on Bill 146 --

The Deputy Speaker: Before you start, do you plan to split the time?

Mr Cleary Yes. It is a pleasure to rise and make a few comments on Bill 146, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production. I'd like to split my time with my colleague from Essex-Kent.

The Deputy Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.

Mr Cleary: As all members know, the goal of the bill is to extend the powers and jurisdictions of the existing Farm Practices Protection Board, and in expanding the powers, the government wants to rename the board to include the word "normal," making the new name the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board. My reaction and the reaction I've heard from many farmers, including several I spoke to at the plowing match last week, is that the overall premise of the bill is a positive step for agriculture and food production in Ontario.

The bill should serve to protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits and restrictive bylaws while also ensuring that farm practices and the results of operating a farm are kept within reasonable limits. This is important because each year about 600 complaints are lodged against farm operations due to dust, noise and smell.

We have to remember that only a few short years ago things were much different in the agricultural community. Every farm had a farm family, and we weren't stuck with the corn dryers, feedlots and all that goes with farming now where one farmer on a concession road is probably operating the whole farm. Why are farmers doing this? To provide safe, economical, high-quality food for the people of Ontario and to export and to add value and create jobs.

For years those complaints about farm practices have turned to the Farm Practices Protection Board to rule on the appropriateness or even environmental and safety concerns arising from farm operations. Under Bill 146 the board will still do that, but in addition to ruling on noise, dust and smells, the board will also have the authority to rule on other farm outcomes -- smoke, flies, vibrations and lights.

Focusing on the decision to include lights, meaning lights from late-night harvesting or commodity transportation trucks or even greenhouses, shows what this bill is trying to do. Bill 146 has also attempted to update the reality of farming in today's Ontario. For example, since some farmers are using greenhouses, the usage should now be reflected as a normal farm practice.

Further, as different and more innovative farm techniques and processes are introduced, this bill should leave room for the farm practices board to make evaluations on those new practices in terms of the impact on the environment and the community at large. There are lots of times that environmental issues that should be dealt with by the Ministry of Environment fall at the doorstep of agriculture. It seems every year we have new crops being grown, so we have to be prepared for those results of innovation.

There are definitely some positive aspects to this bill: Allowing farmers to do their job to the best of their ability while still protecting neighbours and municipalities is a good thing. But there are several concerns with the bill. First and foremost, some farmers have said they don't think the minister has consulted enough with them on the contents of this bill, that the bill was pretty much launched in June without their knowing what was going to be in it. They feel that the meetings held last winter in only eight selected communities were not sufficient to gather their concerns. Some farmers have expressed concern that the minister may not have consulted enough on what actually constitutes a normal farm operation. I know many of the large farm groups have done their best to come up with a bill that should be satisfactory, but some individual farmers still say they would like to have a chance to comment.

On the other side of the fence, I have also heard from rural residents who don't run farms, and they have said that the legislation does not address their concerns. People like Diane Lalonde, Francis Hogan, Anita Frayne and Lawrence Hogan of the organization called PROTECT have contacted me with their concerns about farm operations.

There are also concerns that the wee change the minister is making to the name of the board, just adding the word "normal," will result in little unnecessary expense, things like printing new letterhead and business cards.

Now, perhaps more than ever, because the face of the province, municipal responsibilities and municipal boundaries are all drastically changing, it is essential that the people of Ontario have the opportunity to comment on what the government is doing. I say this because I know first hand that not all the people of Ontario are happy; it doesn't matter what you do. To comment specifically on agriculture, all farmers are not happy with the direction and the policies the agriculture ministry has implemented over the past two years.

Let me be frank. The current minister has done a lot of damage to rural Ontario: slashed the budget by 43%; closed field offices in Alexandria, Cayuga, Waterloo, Plantagenet, Embrun, Matheson, to name a few; eliminated services in the field; closed the Brighton veterinary college and wiped out other lab services and research programs; reduced support for agricultural colleges; cancelled the dairy audit program, reduced the municipal outlet drainage program, cut Foodland Ontario promotions, cancelled the Niagara tender fruit lands program, and that is only a partial list of cuts.

Let me be clear: Although the bill before us right now, Bill 146, may be a good thing for farmers, and I think it is, this is not to say that all farm legislation from this administration has been helpful to farmers. Since taking office just over two years ago, this minister has slashed the ag budget by 43%, and these are figures out of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. The minister has also cut many programs that were very helpful to farmers, which has had a damaging impact on rural Ontario.

As we move forward on this piece of legislation, I suggest that we move with caution and we ensure that it will actually benefit all of rural Ontario, farmers and non-farmers alike, and I'm sure there are lots in the agricultural community who will assist you and look forward to working with you.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?


Mr Hoy: I'm pleased to be able to speak on Bill 146 tonight, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production. Speaker, you would know that there have been rule changes and that this allows the government to ram through legislation like Bill 136. Today was the first day of public hearings, and I am on the committee that should be listening to the people tonight who would appear before that committee to speak on Bill 136. But this government, in its zeal to get legislation through quickly, can now introduce two bills per day, so I had to make a decision on where I should be this evening. As agriculture critic for our party, I decided that I must be here to speak to Bill 146.

This bill was a commitment that was made in the Harris revolution document. Indeed, the revolution document said they would do something with regard to farm practices protection.

Here we are going into the third year of the government's mandate and we are only at second reading of what was promised during the election. The Harris government has been quick on legislation to close hospitals, has been quick on legislation to create chaos in our classrooms, and throughout the education system has been quick to amalgamate, but they are very slow in regard to bringing forth something they actually promised in their Common Sense Revolution document, going into the third year of their mandate.

The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has indeed been slow. We had a resolution not so long ago from the member for Huron encouraging the minister to work with farmers and farm organizations. His own member brought forth a resolution urging the minister to speak and talk with farm organizations. Tomorrow there's yet another resolution from the member for Halton North urging the government to recognize the importance of safe and cost-effective biotechnology and to support well-research science. So you see, the government has been moving slowly, in particular the minister, on agricultural programs.

The minister has been slow to act. His back bench, when he was moving quickly and making cuts to agriculture, said, "Slow down." He completely slowed down.

He was slow on ethanol. The original plan of this government was to cut ethanol funding, and then he was slow on information as to what would happen with that money.

He was slow in regard to the farm tax rebate: $175 million has been taken away from rural communities, and yet they do not know how that money will be replaced. The government talks about a fund of money, but rural municipalities tell me they don't think it's enough money. They think they will be in competition with large cities for those moneys, and the minister has not even made it clear how much of the $175 million lost in the farm tax rebate will be flowing back.

There were many people who attended the plowing match expecting the minister to announce his rural job strategy. He announced in the budget of May that there was a strategy that would provide for jobs for rural Ontarians, and he's slow to deliver on the money, and as I've said, he was slow in bringing forth Bill 146.

But now that it's here, some months ago at my home I was watching a popular television show called This Business of Farming. It's hosted by Ross Daly. I've appeared on the show myself. The minister talked about the need for this bill, the need for change, the changing dynamic of agriculture, the changing dynamic of rural Ontario, and the minister said he was going to consult with the opposition. To date, he hasn't done that. I don't know if he's talked to the third party, the NDP, but he simply has not talked to our caucus and consulted about this bill.

This government likes to pretend that it consults, always open to consultation, and on TV it probably appeared to be a very wise move. People probably believed the minister, that he was going to consult with the opposition, but I tell you, Speaker, he did not. It was a façade.

There is no doubt that agriculture has changed. Agriculture has always been in a state of change. We have museums that show the change in the evolution of agriculture here in Ontario. Some of these museums are quite local, and some of them provide information and are highlighted for the whole of the province.

Yes, agriculture has been changing. It has been changing over the 25 years I've farmed. I can remember yields that now would almost appear to be a failure, so yes, agriculture has changed.

I find it interesting that in the fall of 1984 the current minister voted against right-to-farm legislation. It was a private member's bill in the name of Mr Jack Riddell and the bill contained a section allowing the minister guidelines on normal farm practices. This section was to provide a mechanism to determine what was normal and what was abnormal. In 1984 Jack Riddell recognized the need for legislation such as this, but the current minister, Mr Villeneuve, was opposed to this, to giving the minister supreme powers to dictate how farmers should operate their business. Mr Villeneuve said, "Section 3 of the bill concerns me. It gives the minister absolute power over all of agriculture, which should not occur."

Interestingly enough, the minister now believes this provision should be added under his legislation. He likes it in his legislation, but not in anyone else's; not one with the foresight in 1984 to bring about what was then called right-to-farm legislation.

Section 10 of this bill allows the minister to unilaterally define the nature of farm operations that qualify under the earlier general definition of normal farm practices, including additional crops and activities, and limits expansions or clarification of activities described within the definitions. The existing legislation does not have this ability of the minister to specifically define agricultural practices, but Noble Villeneuve now feels he must give himself the kinds of powers he opposed when he was in opposition.

From the compendium notes to the bill: "The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs may issue directives in relation to agricultural operations or normal farm practices, or may adopt in whole or in part any directives, guidelines or policy statements prescribed under other pieces of legislation or by other ministries. Any decision made by the farm practices protection board must be consistent with the prescribed directives and statements. This provision should ensure that other government priorities and policies are maintained and respected."

You see that the minister is going to have his hand, through section 10, on the policy-making in agriculture, something that in 1984 he was opposed to.

I'm not one to very often, in fact very, very rarely, quote Brian Mulroney, but Brian Mulroney did say one thing that I think is apropos, and actually I've quoted this particular line on many occasions. It is the only line from Brian Mulroney I do quote, and that is that, "Only a donkey would not change his mind." So I'm pleased the minister has had a change of heart and sees the full wisdom of farm practices protection. Farmers have been asking for stronger protection, and changes within this industry such as those I've mentioned call for a new act.

Farms are increasing in size. Producers are specializing in their choice of what commodity they want to specialize in. Greenhouses is one of those areas. It's an expanding agriculture component here in Ontario. I know the minister has visited the greenhouses in southern Ontario. I too have visited those sites. I think he'll agree it's marvellous to see tomato plants, the vines, growing some 25- and 30-feet long, coming forth from a small site on the floor, a cement floor.


I'm reminded of a story when some European friends dropped into my farm. they came by and visited the farm. Our farm was a cash crop operation and they said: "Where are your chickens? Where are your hogs? Where are your cows?" I said, "Well, agriculture here in Ontario has changed dramatically, perhaps over the last 50 years more so than any other time." I drove them four or five miles down the road and showed them a turkey farm and they were amazed at the size of the whole complex.

That wasn't so many years ago, but actually that turkey farm now would be considered very small. Five hundred-acre holdings at one time were considered to be large farms, but now we have many producers working thousands and thousands of acres and they have invested huge sums of money.

The investment in agriculture is indeed large and the risk is high. We know that market fluctuations exist and can make or break farm operations. We know the weather can wreak havoc on a farm. Just a few minutes of hail can take a beautiful farm and bring it almost to ruin, and on some occasions, particularly in the fruit industry, they don't come back from that; the particular trees will die. We need such strong safety nets to help farmers out through these risks they face.

Most farmers are good stewards of the land. After all, the land, the water and the air are important to their livelihood. Most farmers are indeed good stewards of the land and most farmers respect their neighbours, whether they be farm or non-farm. They respect that they live across the road, down the concession, and they respect that they are living in rural Ontario.

An example of this might be that some time ago farmers began to store more and more grains on their farms. As a matter of fact, it was encouraged. It was part of a marketing plan to store more and more of one's grains on the farms and, after that, farmers decided to dry more and more grains on their farms. With the technology that existed then, there were those who said that these grain dryers in particular were very loud, so farmers worked hard to satisfy their neighbours, farm and non-farm, by putting up barriers to block the sound. Then, as technology changed, they bought centrifugal fans and other types of drying systems that reduced noise.

Farmers have always tried to appease their neighbours. They've always tried to do what is best for the whole community and, I might add, this was done at some cost. Shifting from one type of grain drying or any other type of facility like it to another always costs money.

But in any society or within any one group within that society there may be a few who disregard those around them and the rights of those around them, and that is why we as legislators must bring forth law, regulation and guidelines, and for many situations, not just with agriculture but other situations. Examples could be those who choose to drive too fast on our highways, and we have laws for that; those who pass school buses when the lights are flashing, and we have laws for that.

Mr Crozier: We need stiffer laws.

Mr Hoy: We need stiffer laws for that and I've given the government some ideas on how to do that.

We need to develop a new Farming and Food Production Protection Act to meet the needs of an industry that is ever changing and one that I expect will continue to change, to meet the needs of new technologies and to meet the needs of the new demographics in rural Ontario.

The number of new farm operators in my immediate area, those new to the business in the last few years, is very small. I can recall a gentleman being in a building where there was a large crowd, and he looked around and after a bit he came to me and he said, "There are only two new young farmers in this whole crowd of agricultural entrepreneurs." There were only two. Further to that he said, "There are only two who don't have an off-farm job." There were only two. My point is that there are few new young farmers coming into agriculture, and at least in my vicinity that holds true.

We have an aging population within our farm community, and yearly there are farmers in Ontario who seek out a retirement. In the fact that we don't have new farmers coming along, it is other farmers that are buying out their operations or renting them. Thus, farms are getting bigger and bigger.

As those retiring farmers decide to stay on the farm a few years but eventually many of them move into a more urban setting, they actually seem to be trading places with the urban people. The urban people will come out and buy the retired farmer's home. The expanding farm had no need for that home; they had a home. They were just simply buying more farm operations. So now we have a situation with an aging farm population and many more urban people moving into rural ridings.

Of course, municipalities have told me that with the downloading the government is anticipating and the lack of clear definition of how the trade in downloading will occur monetarily, they believe they are going to have to go into a mode where they will provide more severances in the rural community, and now we will have, I expect, more urban and small urban communities shifting their populations into the rural area.

I was at a meeting where there was a group of wardens. They were concerned about the government's actions on downloading and property taxes. They said their tax rates could increase by 60% to 70%. You can see the pressure on local councils to look for revenues to offset tax increases of 60% and 70%. There were some wardens who said the tax increases may only be 40% or 35%. But can you imagine 60% and 70% and the pressure on municipalities and their councils to raise moneys to provide the services within their community?

We need to address legitimate complaints regarding farm practices, but we also must allow for normal farm practices to take place. We need to develop a dispute-resolution process to deal with those legitimate complaints and with those that are frivolous. There are occasions when personalities intervene into situations and it's difficult to resolve what is occurring. So we need a dispute resolution for both legitimate complaints and complaints that might be deemed to be frivolous.

This act has been expanded to include and bring about some help to the farm community in the issuance of complaints. It has been expanded to include odour, noise, dust, light, smoke and vibration. It is a required change and it is a welcome change.

I want to speak briefly about nutrient management plans. They are not part of the act, but as far as agriculture goes, they are something we need to discuss further and expand on. When I was at the International Plowing Match just recently, I stopped by the OMAFRA display and picked up a nutrient management book.


Mr Crozier: Did you have to pay for it?

Mr Hoy: The member for Essex South asked, did I have to pay for it. This particular book I did not have to pay for. I assume the reason is because it's put out by both the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. I don't know, but it's possible that the minister can't attach a user fee to something that the federal government is also involved in. I'm not certain of that, but to me that would make some sense.

In any regard, I picked up this book, which was given out freely to anyone who wanted it, and I bumped into the cash register right beside it. The farmers were telling me they could not believe that the OMAFRA site, for the first time in history at the International Plowing Match, had a cash register sitting on the desk for those who wanted to get information on agricultural issues. I guess that would be a user fee. To me, that's a user fee, and a user fee is something that the Premier of Ontario called a tax. The government wants to collect, initially, $1 million in user fees from the farm community.

For the people in northern Ontario who don't have the capability to access the Internet, their only other alternative is to get publications like the one I hold in my hand. So they are penalized; they have to pay for it. They can't use the Internet because they don't have the capability. Many areas have party lines and it's not feasible, it's not there, so they rely on this exclusively.

When I had the opportunity to look at this book, and I'm not going to read it all, there is some valuable information in it in regard to nutrient management. I just want to quote: "Nutrients retained on your farm reduce both the risk of damage to the environment and the cost of what might otherwise have been spent on fertilizers." It sounds like good information. I think the minister and the ministry should embark on a plan to enhance nutrient management; to have persons made more aware of the opportunities that exist; to provide advice, and certainly I would hope at no cost, to the farmers of Ontario to assist them. Let's not have a cash register sitting at OMAFRA. I think we must return to this issue of nutrient management at some point in time.

The new act will address changing farms, technology, demographics, and we need this act because we have a change in local governance.

Mr Wildman: Who brought that on?

Mr Hoy: The member asked who brought that on. The Mike Harris government brought that on.

The rural and urban mix is what many people refer to as amalgamation. Here in Ontario, and particularly within my riding of Essex-Kent, the county of Kent has been amalgamated into one municipality. A commissioner was brought in and said, "This is what will happen to what was formerly known as Chatham and the county of Kent." It's interesting to note that the commissioner gave the people two options as to what they could choose, and only one municipality in 22 picked the option that the commissioner was offering in Kent county.

What we had was a governance that at one time could be described as rural and another governance that one could describe as urban, and now we have a governance that is a combination of both. My riding, across both Essex and Kent counties, is about 90 miles long and it doesn't have a population of more than 4,500 people centred in any one village or town. Clearly there are parts of my riding in Kent county that have populations of less than 4,500 people, and it diminishes from there as we get into the farther reaches of the rural community, but now they are put together with a larger municipality.

Rural people are worried and concerned about this amalgamation. They fear that the urban population, which quite clearly has the voting power and has more people who are bending their ear, will bring about a problem in regard to frivolous complaints to Bill 146. Also, they are fearful that over time even those small towns and villages will have the opportunity, potentially, to elect members of council. They're worried that those who live out in the farther reaches of the rural community will not have an opportunity to sit on local council because of the concentration of voters, even within a ward system. There's a concern in rural Ontario about what is commonly known as the rural-urban mix and amalgamation.

Bill 146 is not as extensive as an OFA model that was provided to the minister. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, in its wisdom, showed the minister a model for Bill 146. In regard to definitions, the OFA provided an expanded view, in most cases, of what the minister has put within Bill 146.

For example, the OFA mentions bird-bangers. I remember that not so long ago there was a debate, and a rather heated debate, about the use of bird-bangers. They are required to keep birds from migrating into fruit crops in particular and are designed to scare them away. The history of this is interesting in that while the urban people or those who came from an urban setting into a rural community found these to be disruptive, the farming community tried to assist. The farmers would change the direction of these noisemakers or, as technology changed and capabilities changed, they had these loud noises going off in rotation. So the farm community has always responded to complaints by others, and the OFA mentioned these particular devices.

The OFA model provides an extensive definition of "farmer," something I think the minister could have taken more notice of. Past history has had us believe that the definition of "farmer" could be tied to one's gross income, but in this case I'm not certain that gross income provides for a clear definition of "farmer" within an act that will be imparted to a quasi-judicial board. I think it might be wise for the minister to have a second look at the definition of "farmer."


Within its bill, the OFA definition of "normal farm practices" included the wording "land zoned for agriculture." I know that when people are talking about certain disruptions or perceived disruptions in the agricultural community, the immediate response is, "It's zoned agricultural; therefore, these activities can indeed take place," notwithstanding that the activity must be a normal farm practice, but I think by stating that the land was zoned agricultural provides a certain comfort level to all parties. I've had urban persons say: "Of course, he or she can do that on that piece of land. It's zoned agricultural." They understand that. Of course, the agricultural community understands that all too well.

The major difference in the makeup of the board between the minister's bill and the OFA model is centred around membership. The federation of agriculture would like and suggests that six members be selected by the minister from a list of names nominated by farm organizations in the province. There are other differences between the two models, but this is the most striking. The OFA did not say that they had to come from within their organization. They said nominated persons should come from within farm organizations, and I think that makes good sense. It would be an excellent idea to have persons who understand the issues nominated from the farm community and put forth by farm organizations. That doesn't preclude the fact that the minister could make other appointments from maybe a broader spectrum; perhaps from within the range of municipalities, someone with experience at the municipal level, as a suggestion.

Thus the difference in the number of board members may not be all that significant, but how they are selected could be very important. The differences between the two bills on numbers of persons on the board would also affect the suggestion of quorum that the OFA had put forth. But I think those differences of quorum etc can be worked out. I think the significant situation here is who will be on that board.

The Farm Practices Protection Board will decide what is normal. That's their first obligation. They will decide what is normal farm practice and we will need informed persons to know what is normal and what is abnormal. Clearly we cannot have anyone on that board who is confused as to what is normal.

Once we've decided what is a normal farm practice, we have the issue of compliance. We need to have strong compliance once a decision is made by this board. I want to talk about a situation that occurred in my riding. We had an individual who deemed in his mind that it would be proper to burn manure. He burned manure. This created an odour that I have to say I've never been around. It was awful, apparently. This situation occurred and the prevailing winds took this smoke, first of all, and the odour towards his neighbours. They suffered from sore throat, sore eyes. It was taken to the board and was deemed not to be a normal farm practice; that's what the board said. Herein lies a greater problem.

The Ministry of Environment has been investigating and trying to cease this burning of manure for almost two years. We have a situation where the board has said, "This is not normal," and the people who were complainants had a valid case, and we don't have any enforcement. Maybe part of that is because in my region the Ministry of Environment has been slashed. I know the people I talked to in regard to this case are gone; they're not there any more. The municipality got involved, their lawyer got involved. The MOE was involved, but to date nothing has happened.

This isn't the only case within my riding. It might be the most graphic in terms of the nuisance and it may be one that is not likely to occur again in Ontario. But in other situations in my riding when people call the Ministry of Environment to look into cases, they either don't do it at all or they're very slow and the occurrence of the nuisance has ceased. The ministry arrives too late and what was occurring has now passed.

If we're going to have a situation where rural and urban residents can live in harmony, and in most cases they do, and we have a board that says, "This is not normal," then we have to have compliance and enforcement. The board can dismiss a case if it is normal farm practice. The board can order farmers to cease a practice if it is not normal. The board can order the farmer to modify the situation. I think this is a good component of what the board may order. It may be that the farmer or farm in question really didn't realize that they were causing such a great nuisance. It may be that the farm did not understand that this was wrong. With new technologies comes a new definition of what is normal. It could be that the farmer did not understand that what he was doing was causing someone else some grief. So I think it's good that the board can ask the farmer to modify.

Bill 146 states, "No municipal bylaw applies to restrict a normal farm practice carried on as part of an agricultural operation." This is something that the broader community has been grappling with for some time. Municipal bylaw changes are occurring throughout Ontario in regard to situations that exist. The bill says, "No municipal bylaw applies to restrict a normal farm practice carried on as part of an agricultural operation." Municipalities have had requests for such bylaws, so now we have something in place that can adjudicate and have experts provide information on what is normal. I think that because of the rural-urban mix in the amalgamations that are going on, this board is going to be very busy as municipalities try to seek out from the government, from this board, what is normal.

I know in Kent county there are 49 working groups looking at all manner of things, including bylaws. I think the request for information on what is normal is going to be coming towards the government at a rapid pace and in large degree -- quantities of requests.


Notice of hearing: It states within the bill that one who is not a party to the hearing may be given notice. Those living in a municipality may not have a direct interest in what is occurring in the far southwest corner, but to the whole of the municipality, now that we've made it one municipality -- not 21, but one -- will want to know what is occurring in a particular ward that would affect the whole of the municipality.

There was a situation at one time where councillors at the local level dealt with a great many things and that was rather localized. Surely they had bylaws to look after and respect the environment and whatever other manner of legislation the Ontario government had. There's an effort here to make everyone aware that a hearing is being held.

What we have here is a situation where there may be a complaint in the southwest corner of a municipality, just to use an example, and there is going to be a bylaw change that affects the whole of the municipality, and it may be unique to one area. It may never have the opportunity for occurrence elsewhere.

The government and the ministers talked about an awareness campaign. We know that hasn't started yet. This is designed to notify those in the rural communities of what rural life may be, I think, through what I've read from the minister, who is looking for partners in this exercise, and I expect that those partners will be willing to take part.

Perhaps more important is the government's role to tell the people what the laws are and what the situations are that exist within Ontario. Perhaps it is the government's role to provide those informations. After all, it is their act. It is their board. It is their right to allow appeals to the board. As we talk about appeals, let me say that in a great many pieces of legislation this government has brought forth, there is no right of appeal. I am pleased to see that in this act there is an allowance for appeals. That is very good.

I want to spend a moment talking about the agricultural cuts that have occurred here in Ontario. We've had cuts to agriculture of $75 million. In the last budget the minister said he had added $5 million back in, and that's correct, so instead of having a cut of $81 million, we're looking at $75 million or $76 million. But then he went on to say, later in the day and in days to come, that he wanted to have user fees of at least $1 million, and that was just the beginning.

I remind the members that the Premier of this province said a user fee is simply a tax. Mike Harris said that a user fee is simply a tax. Now there are user fees for such things as information for beginning, part-time farmers. I was talking about the fact that there seemed to be no new farmers. Here the government is saying, "Well, if you're interested in this and you want to assist us in creating jobs for the province and you want to assist us in increasing those exports and you want to increase the tax base within your local community and you want information on being a beginning farmer, by Jove you can have it but it's going to cost you."

Farmers want to be able to manage those risks that I mentioned before. They want to be able to manage commodity markets, the times of year to sell, and all other matters that pertain to any business. If the government truly wants the agricultural community to thrive, and to help them increase exports and create jobs, why on earth would they charge farmers for a guide to farm money matters? They decided, "We're going to charge you now." Agricultural software is now being charged for and it is at a higher price -- not only for publications that are to help farmers in one's mind, how to do one's business, but there are also charges for such things that come under what would be deemed as a safety feature. The government is going to charge for a video on silo safety. They're everywhere with charges now. It doesn't matter if you're trying to increase your knowledge of agriculture. It doesn't matter if you want to protect yourself against injury, maybe even death. The government says, "We're going to charge you for it."

I think that many members in this House would be surprised to know that the largest crop in Ontario is actually forage. Others might have picked corn, soybeans, wheat, maybe others would have picked tomatoes, others might have picked something else, but that is the largest crop in Ontario. The soil and crop publications the government used to provide at no cost are now being charged for. They're charging throughout for the publications that they used to put forth --

At the plowing match people were coming to me, because I was there every day, and they said, "Can you believe this cash register at the desk of the OMAFRA building?" They were going around, imitating that commercial we used to see on TV, going "ker-ching, ker-ching," and they knew that the minister must have been smiling, because I would presume the cash register was ringing or he would have gotten rid of it. It was an amazing thing to see that there.


Mr Hoy: We must have hit a nerve, because all of a sudden the members have woken up. I'm glad to see they're awake. I'm glad to see they're listening. It's almost like they've had a cold drink of water on a sore tooth or something over there.

I also want to talk about what is happening in rural Ontario as it pertains to highways. This government has downloaded on to municipalities and rural Ontario in the main what was known as provincial highways to the tune of $225 million. I was really struck when the minister got up and said they don't have any provincial significance. What a slap in the face of rural Ontario to tell them that the roads they drive daily are not of provincial significance. Can you imagine?

The minister, on that side of the House, said that. He probably didn't give it enough thought, that the produce the Minister of Agriculture is so proud of -- and I am as well -- moves across these roads every day to the 400-series highways and is brought here to Toronto and other sites in Ontario for processing, distribution, sales, and they are finally consumed by the people of Ontario. He says they are not of provincial significance.

The rural people I talk to are very concerned. As a matter of fact, they came to me and said, "Pat, when do you think that these roads will turn to gravel roads and will no longer have the nice hard top that is on them?" They're concerned about that. They are very concerned about the $225 million that is missing, they're worried about the $175 million from the farm tax rebate and they're worried about the $667 million of municipal support grants that are also missing. This is rural Ontario. I have those same concerns as a constituent in my riding.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Questions or comments?

Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I want to acknowledge with thanks the member for Essex-Kent for his comments with respect to this bill. I think he has provided some enlightenment for a lot of people who live in the cities, like myself, who are unfamiliar with what is considered normal farm practices. We acknowledge the importance of production by farmers in our communities because, even though we may not be involved in farming activities, we certainly all enjoy eating the products of their labours.

I'm not really too familiar with the production of agricultural crops, the production of eggs, cream and milk and many of the other things that are referred to in this bill. But we know that some of the things that are considered, by definition in this bill, as normal farm practices are going to be adjudicated by what is referred to as a Normal Farm Practices Protection Board. That is where I have some concern about what this government's agenda is. We've seen time and time again that this is a government that's moving too far, too fast, oftentimes in the wrong direction.

Where is this board going to get the resources to make some of these adjudications? That's what my concern is. I want to make sure they have the resources to make those adjudications. The member says that the board is going to be busy; they're going to need that and we want to ensure that farmers aren't going to be subject to user fees in order to do this.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: I want to thank my colleagues from Cornwall and Essex-Kent for their contributions. They leave me a little puzzled because they were in favour, but I wonder if they really are in favour. They have been known to flip and flop a bit in the past. I found it interesting that both my colleagues were at the OMAFRA booth at the plowing match and that they took note of the excellent literature that was there. I walked by a tent at the plowing match and it had Liberal T-shirts for sale. That's basically all they had.

Mr Hoy: They were not for sale.

Mr Crozier: They were not for sale.

Mr Hoy: You have it all wrong.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: "They were not for sale." There's the old Liberal giveaway again and again. The farm tax rebate: I found it interesting that the honourable member commented on that, because for all of the years of the Liberal reign I think the farm tax rebate got more farmers against the Liberal Party than any other. We now know where we're going with the farm tax rebate. The farm land and buildings are taxed at 25%, the rural residence and one acre at 100%, and the government of Ontario will be reinvesting in those municipalities.

Again, he spoke of ethanol. I want to remind him that when Lyn McLeod was the Minister of Energy, I wrote to her and asked her to support the ethanol industry and Lyn McLeod said, "No, it's not economical." I still have that correspondence.

Consultation: We consulted with 850 farmers and you were certainly welcome to make your presentation if you so desired.

Mr Crozier: It's a pleasure for me to respond to the comments from my colleagues from Cornwall and from Essex-Kent. I think they did a fine job in pointing out some of the things where this government isn't necessarily the friend of agriculture. But they pointed out that we support this bill and I am pleased that they did. If we weren't under these draconian rules we have now, I would have had the opportunity to get up for 30 minutes this evening and extol the virtues of Essex county.

In that vein, I only have about a minute and 20 seconds. In Essex county we have over 6,000 jobs that are created through agriculture and we're proud of it: $40 million in wages. I know you'd be interested to know the economic contribution made in Essex county alone, which happens to be greater than the three Atlantic provinces: field crops, $92.7 million in Essex county; processing vegetables, $18.7 million; fresh vegetables $16.6 million --

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Are you supporting me on this? Are you supporting the bill?

Mr Crozier: If you would have listened to me about 15 seconds ago, I said I'm proud we are -- fresh vegetables, $16.6 million; fruit, $7.8 million; greenhouse crops, $85 million. We have the fastest-growing, largest greenhouse area in North America. We're proud of it and it's right there in Essex county. We know what agriculture contributes to this province. We'd appreciate it if you'd just give us those highways back so we can get our products out to the rest of Ontario.

Mr Len Wood: I wanted to have an opportunity to ask a question of the Minister of Agriculture as to the reasons why he wanted to bring forward this bill so quickly and get it into law, or get it into second reading, before the dumping and downloading that is taking place.

I know the member commented on this briefly, but it's something we might hear more about. Why would they want to eliminate a lot of rural politicians at the municipal level and get this bill through? There would be less voice out in those areas while they are having to pay the extra cost of everything that Mike Harris is dumping and downloading on to the people in rural and urban Ontario.

I've learned a lot from this discussion that's going on today. Originally being the son of a farmer in Perth county, I know a little bit about farming. There are concerns out there in the farming community as the urban areas move into those areas. I still have a sister and some cousins who are involved in farming. But there is a concern out there that the Mike Harris government is moving too fast, moving in the wrong direction and they're hurting a lot of people in Ontario.

The concern is when you take away the rural voice through restructuring and dumping and downloading. Chatham-Kent is a good example, where they've eliminated all the rural voices that used to be in that particular county. All the other counties are going to end up with the same thing. I'm sure that Perth county is concerned that the rural voice is being lost there as well. I have relatives and friends in those areas who have been speaking to me about their concerns, which are being talked about here today. I'm looking forward to further debate from other people.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Essex-Kent has two minutes to respond.


Mr Hoy: I appreciate the comments of the members over the last few moments. I want to remind the minister that we supported ethanol. The federal government provided many dollars towards ethanol. They have an ethanol plan for all of Canada. One should remember that.

We also, as a government, provided money to young farmers at one time to give them a boost, to give them help. You know it's a capital-intensive business. As a matter of fact, I've heard you say that it costs a lot to get into farming and maintain a farm. You're right, and it is big business.

I just want to spend one more moment to try and have members opposite understand what the rural community is feeling as far as downloading goes. I mentioned some other concerns: highways, municipal support grants, farm tax rebate. Policing is another one.

The Solicitor General at one time called estimates put forth for Kent county of $220 per household as extreme. He said: "That's extreme. It's not going to happen. That's way out of sight." Indeed it is a lot of money, but at the end of the day, when it came forward, it was more than even that; it was more than $220 per household. The original estimates are now $272.51 per household.

I think the government needs to recognize more fully the role that rural Ontario plays and the capabilities they have to maintain the structures that are around them.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Wildman: I'd like to first ask for unanimous consent to defer the leadoff for our caucus on this bill.

The Acting Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? It is agreed.

Mr Wildman: I appreciate the cooperation of my colleagues in the House. I'm pleased to be able to participate in this debate, as I have in previous debates about farm practices. I remember going back to when my good friend Ron McNeil represented Elgin county in this House and he brought forward legislation to protect farm practices in this province. I want to indicate clearly that our caucus is in support of this legislation. We will be raising a number of concerns, but that doesn't mean we are in any way denigrating the efforts of the minister to respond to the requests of the agricultural community to indeed protect their normal business practices in a way that will make it possible for them to continue to flourish in the province and to provide the products that are so important to the economy of this province and to all of us as consumers.

We have to look at this bill in the context of what the government is doing in rural Ontario. I am very concerned about the overall approach of the -- I'm a little disturbed by the clock there. Are you just changing the clock? We've deferred the leadoff.

The Acting Speaker: Yes.

Mr Wildman: I'm concerned about what the government is doing in rural Ontario and the suggestion that this bill, which is entitled An Act to protect Farming and Food Production, ignores the attack that this government has levelled on rural Ontario and the effects this is having on rural residents, whether they be farmers or other business people who provide services and products to farmers in small-town Ontario.

This indeed is quite a surprise to me, actually. As someone who has served in this House for a good many years and has observed governments of all political stripes, I'm surprised that this government, which purports to represent the farm community, would in fact have such a concerted attack on rural Ontario. There is no indication in this legislation that this government is determined to protect family farms at all, particularly in the context of the other things this government is doing.

I think the effort to protect normal farm practices, while laudable, is far outweighed by the other efforts that this government is taking to attack farmers and other rural residents. We've heard mention of the changes to the farm tax rebate. The minister is quite correct when he says that farmers now will pay 25% of the property taxation on their farm land.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: And the buildings.

Mr Wildman: And the buildings, and they will pay 100% on the residential property around that. But what this means of course is that while the provincial government has paid the $170 million to $175 million in the past, this now is being downloaded to the rural municipalities; $175 million is suddenly going to be the responsibility of the rural municipality, and mark my words, the taxes on that rural residence and the land immediately around it are going to go sky-high as a result of this and the other downloading that the provincial government is loading on the rural municipalities in this province.

At the same time, the government is amalgamating and restructuring municipalities and school boards and hospitals and other services in rural Ontario. Suddenly we are going to see a situation where rural residents are going to have far fewer municipal and provincial representatives who will speak for them and instead we're going to see situations like we now have in Chatham-Kent, where this government has imposed amalgamation on the communities, has moved from 21 municipalities to one municipality that inevitably is going to be dominated by the rural centre. I think my friend from Essex talked about that. How is it that a bill that is simply going to protect, as it should, normal farm practices is also going to protect those farm businesses from the inevitable domination of non-farm people in these larger municipalities on their rural governments?

The same is happening with school boards. Suddenly we have enormous school boards that are inevitably going to be dominated by the urban parts of those communities, and the rural people are going to lose their voice over the education of their kids. How on earth can the minister, who's not just responsible for the agricultural and food industries but also for rural affairs, sit by and allow this kind of attack on rural Ontario? I don't understand it.

What other kinds of things do we have happening? We have the enormous downloading of services. Some people have talked about the transfer of rural highways to rural municipalities. We've also seen, as has been mentioned, the requirement now for rural municipalities to pay for Ontario Provincial Police services. Some of them have paid for it in the past, but now all of them are going to have to pay. I heard one of the members talk about $220 per household as something onerous in his municipality. Let me tell you, in my part of Ontario it's a lot higher than that. The average is between $400 and $450 a household in rural northern Ontario. In one municipality, the township of Day and Bright Additional, the bill estimate from the OPP is $750 per household. The total bill from the OPP is more than the total municipal budget, excluding education, was in 1996. That's what this government is doing to the rural residents of this province.

They can say they are responding to the requests of the farm organizations like the Ontario Federation of Agriculture or the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario through this bill, and they are, but at the same time they're sticking their hands in the pockets of those people and they're taking a lot of money away from rural Ontario and restructuring the province in such a way that the rural voice will not be properly heard in the municipal governments across the rural parts of our province. I think this is most unfortunate.

This government is marginalizing the rural and farm voice in this province. There's a telling quote in the July 15, 1997, issue of Farm and Country magazine, where it says:

"Villeneuve hopes the act will go to second reading when the Legislature resumes sitting and wants the legislation passed before restructuring of rural municipalities begins in 1998.

"`In many instances, the rural voice will be diminished to some degree in our rural municipalities so this is a way to bring balance to the system,' Villeneuve says."

Right there we have an admission by this minister who is responsible for rural Ontario that his government is diminishing the rural voice in the municipalities of rural Ontario. How can the minister justify that? How can a government that claims to represent rural Ontario have a minister who has that responsibility get up and be quoted in a major farm magazine saying, "The rural voice is going to be diminished and that's why we need this kind of legislation"? How can you justify that?


Basically, the minister is admitting that the Harris government, because of its sweeping changes -- cuts in services and programs without any thought about what the long-term effects will be on the people they claim to represent -- is hurting the people who live in rural Ontario, so he brings forward this legislation in response to the request of the farm organizations.

I ask my friend from Chatham-Kent, what effect is this legislation going to have in protecting the rural voice in Chatham-Kent once that amalgamation is forced through by this government? Frankly, I don't think it's going to give any protection. If 21 or 22 rural municipalities are amalgamated into one municipality, I don't think there's any guarantee that the farmers' interests are going to be protected one iota, even if we pass this bill. I don't think so and frankly I don't think the people in those rural municipalities think so either. When the dust settles from the government decision to amalgamate Chatham-Kent, we'll see how many small communities still have a voice in the municipal government. I don't think very many will at all.

We've also had the arguments in this House and the objections of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture over the cut in the number of rural constituencies represented here in this House. This minister stood by, despite his record in opposition of saying these constituencies must be protected.

We have a provincial government whose actions have had a profound effect on the lives of the people of Ontario, particularly in rural Ontario, through cuts in health care and education and increases in taxation. We have a government that has taken away the right of representation of a huge segment of Ontario. The people who live and work in rural Ontario, on the farms and in the other small businesses in rural and small-town Ontario, are being hit by this government's demand that bigger is better.

The legislation expands the list of disturbances reflected by the nature of local complaints family farms have been subjected to over the last 10 years. It's important to recognize that there haven't been a lot of hearings in the last two years. One of the reasons for that is that under the old legislation, the ministry staff and the board were able to settle a lot of problems before they actually went to hearings. Along with the work of the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has been able to deal with 700 to 800 complaints a year about farm practices. They haven't had to go to too many hearings, and I think this will probably be the case under the new legislation as well.

But what is happening in these ministries is alarming. We've seen enormous cuts of about 50% to both the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Ministry of Natural Resources staff. It's going to be very difficult for these ministries to enforce the decisions under this new piece of legislation. Their budgets have been cut substantially. Their local offices have been closed. The people who used to serve farm families and their communities in these ministries are no longer there because of this government's cuts.

The bill includes an expanded definition of an agricultural operation. The minister mentioned a number of the new operations. I welcome that, and I understand the list can be added to by regulation. These additions reflect the current types of farm operations in Ontario. Bt as I said earlier, I don't think it really deals with the issue of protecting the family farm because of the other cuts and downloading that this government is carrying on in rural Ontario.

This government has systematically deprived Ontario's rural communities and family farms of the support and resources they have come to expect from the provincial government in terms of protecting their environment, their businesses and their way of life, and it's completely irresponsible for this government to carry on this way. The government is not considering the great harm they're causing these communities. There are very broad definitions in the bill, and when you have that, combined with the cuts in staff and program cuts in the various ministries, along with the municipal download, this government has weakened its support of rural communities and family farms right across this province.

Some rural community groups and family farms have argued that the change in the definition of a "normal farm practice" to include "acceptable" might give large corporate farms the same kind of protection as the family farm. I'd like the minister to respond to that concern. I hope he's listening, because I am a little concerned about that. Will this include the practices of corporate factory farms as normal farm practices on the list? I hope he is not contemplating -- I don't think he is -- the industrialization of agriculture. I hope his desire to protect the economy and the environment of rural, non-farm residents, as well as family farms, will be emphasized in the way the regulations are set under this bill.

The Harris government has cut environmental services, programs and inspections and cancelled the Clean Up Rural Beaches program, the CURB program, which guaranteed that rural residents and family farms, who work hard to be good stewards of their land, will have their environment and water supplies unharmed and their health protected. I don't understand how this government can justify the killing of the CURB program. We know the effect of rural farm runoff in some lakes and rivers in the province. Farmers have expressed concern about it. Those lakes and rivers often empty out into Lake Huron, and the effect that may have on the Great Lakes is very important. I hope particularly that in protecting the family farm and the environment, we're not going to allow for the expansion of factory farming in this province.

Both the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Christian Farm Federation of Ontario have said that Bill 146 is not an alternative to, nor could it ever replace, solid provincial agricultural land use legislation. I think this is a cue for the minister and his government to sit down and listen to the farmers in the province, who are concerned about protecting rural farm land, who wish to keep family farms in family hands for future generations. We've got to have good rural land use planning in this province. I don't understand why this government would not have continued the Niagara tender fruit lands program that was instituted by our government, which was cancelled by this government. I think it's time for the minister and the government to start listening to the farmers in this province, who say we have to address the pressures that are leading to so much development on the good farm land we have in the province, particularly the effect this is having on the future of farming across Ontario.

Although this particular bill is helpful to family farms that have subdivisions springing up around their operations and may be the constant target of complaints, I think we have to look at it in the context of what is happening in rural Ontario and what this government is doing.


The proposed bill is similar to legislation in other provinces and the United States. It will protect farmers from vexatious and nuisance complaints which create great tensions between rural neighbours. But there are a number of things that Bill 146 will not do. It will not provide the kinds of supports farmers and rural residents have in other jurisdictions that also have right-to-farm legislation -- supports like a solid land use policy for agricultural land and rights to representation at the local and provincial levels so that the rural voice is not diminished, as the minister says it will be.

The bill does not protect farmers and rural residents from problems caused by the Harris government's changes to environmental and health legislation, the cutbacks in inspection staff, program cuts or weakened provincial land use guidelines. It does not protect rural residents from increased property taxes which will result from the downloading that this government is doing across the province and that is particularly affecting rural Ontario. It does not guarantee that farmers' property taxes on their homes will not be increased as a result of that download. It does not give back the protection taken away by the actions of this government, and without solid land use legislation the family farm is threatened in this province.

The Acting Speaker: Comments or questions?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: I want to thank my colleague from Algoma, who has been extremely supportive of previous bills to protect farming and food production. I'm not sure where he is tonight. He didn't quite say whether he was --

Mr Wildman: I said I supported it.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: He's a supporter. Well, he took a while to get on track. He was talking about some of the major changes that were promised by his government. Tax reform was promised by the previous NDP government, but the delivery of that promise never did occur. This government is delivering. This government is picking up $2.5 billion of education costs from the tax bill.

Yes, there is a transfer of responsibilities, where those responsibilities really should be: close to the people who receive those services.

Yes, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs -- the "Rural Affairs" portion was tacked on by the previous government, but no funding. The funding was being cut back. There will be funding through the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for community reinvestment programs to those communities where, as the honourable member mentioned, the rural voice has possibly been diminished. That's only normal when you amalgamate, because farms are large acreages.

Mr Wildman: Why are you doing that then?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Because we were left with an $11.2-billion annual deficit. That's a very good reason. There was $50 billion more in debts when you left from the time you came in. Those are the reasons we have to do this. It is tough medicine; however, it's a situation that had to be corrected. The people of Ontario told Mike Harris and his newly elected government, "You had better keep your promises." We're in the process of doing that.

Tax reform: The farm tax rebate is being set on a permanent basis. A community reinvestment fund will look after those municipalities.

Mr Crozier: There are two significant points I'd like to make. The minister just said the farm tax rebate is being put on --

Hon Mr Villeneuve: You're not talking about what I said; it's about what Wildman said.

Mr Crozier: Is it all right with you, Speaker? I really don't listen to the minister. Is it all right with you? Thank you.

The minister says the farm tax rebate is being put on a permanent basis. The provincial government used to pay that $170 million. Certainly they've put it in legislation that it's permanent. What the rural municipalities don't know is where they are going to make up now that $170 million that they're going to have to pay. It's awfully nice of the minister to put one hand out like this, but you've always got to watch the other hand, because it's in your back pocket.

Second, my colleague from Essex-Kent made a point earlier that in the downloading of highways that are considered no longer to be provincially significant, most rural farm businesses are now not going to be able to access a provincial highway. They're going to have to pay for that. I guess the produce that comes off the farms isn't provincially significant.

It's interesting to note, as a matter of fact, that this applies to industry. The largest industry in Essex county outside of the city of Windsor, is the H.J. Heinz Co. Because of downloading, even an industry the size of the H.J. Heinz Co won't be on a provincial highway. Someone -- not me -- might suggest that the H.J. Heinz Co, which processes agricultural products, isn't significant, therefore we can put them onto a county road. I don't like that kind of downloading.

The Acting Speaker: Order. I was asked, and I might have told you, even if I wasn't, that it's been tradition that comments and questions be addressed to the person that has finished speaking.

Mr Crozier: On a point of order, Speaker: With reference to your tradition, almost all afternoon, government members were talking about whether speeches were made to a particular bill or not. Well, tradition also is that there's a fair amount of latitude.

The Acting Speaker: Order. That is not a point of order.

Mr Lessard: I want to acknowledge with thanks the comments that were made by my colleague with respect to how supportive he is of farming and the farm community and how he has expressed the concerns of many people who are involved in that industry. He talked about the impact of downloading of provincial responsibilities on our rural municipalities, and the impact that may have on taxes in those communities, how that may lead to increased taxes, and how that may be impacted as well by the transferring of responsibilities for rural roadways, provincial highways on to municipalities as well.

He also made comments about how rural voices are not going to be heard. That's very significant because we know that because of the amalgamation of municipalities and the expansion of urban municipalities out into the counties, the forcing of the cities on to counties, it's going to be more important than ever for rural voices to be heard.

The minister has indicated that he wants this legislation passed before the restructuring of rural municipalities begins in 1998. The member has indicated why he's concerned with that happening, because that's going to have a negative impact on taxation and the diminishing of those rural voices. He's also mentioned the impact of some of the cuts to the Ministry of Environment and Energy and how that's going to diminish their impact on being able to enforce some of these regulations as well.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I'd like to respond to the member for Algoma, although I will say that I listened to much of his speech and he spoke very little with respect to Bill 146.

Mr Len Wood: He was right on target.

Mr Tilson: Well, he expressed some concerns about agriculture, and I suppose it's fair to do that, although we're here to talk about Bill 146. Comments were made by several of the members with respect to the farm tax rebate. This is something farmers have been asking for for years, to solve this issue of this bureaucracy. It went through your government, member for Algoma. I know it was dealt with by your cabinet, I know it was dealt with by the Liberal cabinet, and they never solved that issue. People can grumble about how this is being passed and how it's going to be dealt with by certain municipalities, but this is what the farmers have asked for, so I must congratulate the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for bringing forward this solution to something that has been asked for by farmers for years.

Bill 146, of course, is a commitment that being made by the Conservative government. It was promised during the last election and the minister is fulfilling that promise to deliver a stronger and more effective Farm Practices Protection Act to ensure that farmers have the freedom to farm responsibly, to boost the economy and create jobs while being environmentally responsible.

This isn't the first time this type of legislation has occurred. I think it was first passed in 1988. It's been some time since this legislation has been reviewed. I congratulate the minister for bringing that.


Mr Wildman:Ronnie McNeil brought in the right-to-farm bill.

Mr Tilson: Well, The original Farm Practices Protection Act was passed in 1988. I congratulate the minister for bringing it forward.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Algoma has two minutes to respond.

Mr Wildman: I'd like to thank my colleagues from Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry and East Grenville -- that's just one of them -- Essex South, Windsor-Riverside and Dufferin-Peel for participating and commenting on my remarks. I did say at the outset that we support this legislation, and as the minister acknowledged, going back to Ronnie McNeil's intervention. I supported these kinds of bills throughout my time in this place.

I fully understand the need for them. I live in a rural area; I grew up in a rural area. My neighbour who has a dairy farm from time to time carries out practices that affect the ambience of my home. I fully understand that. We're good neighbours, we get along well and he helps me out from time to time. I understand the need for him to be able to get his work done and to do it well and to be able to produce the milk that is so important for all of us in our economy and for human health.

I put it in the context, though, of the restructuring this government is imposing on rural Ontario. The minister himself said, "There's going to be a diminishing of the rural voice in the province." That's one of the reasons he put forward the need for this legislation. I don't think it's necessary for us to have a diminishing of the rural voice; it's unfortunate that's happening.

I talked about the problems of downloading; the imposition of the cost of rural highways and the OPP on rural communities and what this is going to mean; the imposition of the $170 million farm tax rebate cost to the municipalities. The fact is that farmers and other rural residents are going to see the taxes on their rural residences go sky high because of what this government is doing.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): It's a pleasure to speak today about Bill 146. Bill 146 is one of the most important bills with respect to my riding of Huron county. I'd first like to take a minute and thank the minister for his commitment to rural Ontario. He, above any of the ministers, has been in my riding two or three times already touring rural farm areas, touring my riding, to ensure that the things he puts into place, and that affect my riding, are well considered. I'd like to thank him first for that commitment to my county and to rural Ontario.

I'd also like to say that rural Ontario has many different attributes to it than we see in urban Ontario. We need to have an ability to let agriculture grow in our ridings. Agriculture is the leading employer in my riding. In fact my Ontario Federation of Agriculture has gone so far as to do a study that talks about all the spinoffs and all the factors that are affected by agriculture in my riding. Believe me, without agriculture in Huron county, we would be in very desperate situations.

As a result of that, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has recognized that Huron county needs to be heard. In fact, when they were going out on their consultations -- I heard the parliamentary assistant talk earlier about all the places they went to and he didn't mention Huron county -- I want to say that after they were all done, Huron county raised enough of a little fuss that the member for Lambton came in and consulted with our people too. So I have to say to Marcel Beaubien that he did a wonderful job and we certainly appreciate that.

That was as a result of Henry Boot, who is the president of my Ontario Federation of Agriculture, feeling that we had a lot to contribute to the discussions. I think they did. We had a large number of people there and we talked about a lot of issues, so we got a chance to talk about a number of different things that were happening in the riding.

Since this bill has been introduced I have to say that in my riding there has been a lot of discussion. I would be very remiss in not talking about that today. We have had a number of groups talk about where agriculture is going to go in Huron county and where it will possibly evolve to. We all know that in the future we are going to be working very hard to increase our export business, to be able to create spinoffs, to have value added products within our area so that we can create more employment. But at the same time, we have other businesses and assets and important areas within the county also. We have tourism, for example, which is very important to our community and brings in revenue.

With that, we have had some very interesting discussions on the future of agriculture, the future of Huron county, the future of tourism. I'd like to say that one of the most important issues, because we're on Lake Huron, is what should happen with respect to the lake, the environment and agriculture combined. There's no question that this is a balance. We have to have a balance in Huron county, as we do in all of our large agricultural centres. I have discussed, with both members of the opposition and the third party, issues about this actual event that's happening in my riding. I think it's important today to say that all of us in this House have to look for a balance. We have to find a way to let agriculture grow, blossom, create jobs, stimulate our economies, because it's the leading job-getter in my riding, second in Ontario.

Mr Wildman: Unless you protect the lake, agriculture is threatened.

Mrs Johns: But we also have to ensure that we protect the lake, as my honourable colleague across the room says. I want to say quite clearly and distinctly today that this bill does not give the agricultural community the right to pollute. I think we have been very careful here to say that this bill cannot override the Environmental Protection Act. It cannot override the Pesticides Act, the Health Protection and Promotion Act or the Ontario Water Resources Act. All of those are very important bills that protect our environment and lead us to have a healthy rural economy.

I've spoken to many farmers, both in livestock operations and in cash crops, and they have said that they want to be stewards of their land; they believe that is their most important asset. Most of their money is tied up in the land they have and they own, and they will do everything to protect that land.

I want to reinforce, for people watching today who are thinking about all the conflicting stories that they're hearing and thinking about "How will this affect me?" that the agricultural community does not wish to pollute. What they wish to do is to carry on what we call a normal farm practice. A normal farm practice allows them to do the work that we consider farming within our communities, but at the same time, to be protectors of the environment.

I know that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, along with many different boards and commissions, has come together to talk about how we can best move to protect the environment and allow farming to work hand in hand, if you will. I think they have come up with some very good ideas. In my community many of the different municipalities have come up with manure bylaws which make farmers think about what they should do with manure, how they should look at that and how they should be concerned about how that will be disposed of.

This is a very important issue in farming that has been there since time immemorial, and we have to consider that carefully. I think we will see the agricultural community become more concerned about the manure bylaws in their communities. I think we'll see them work harder to make sure they are being stewards of their land so their land is protected and is there for future generations.

My children are eighth-generation Huron county people. It's important to recognize that they want to stay in Huron county and they want to work to have a great community and at the same time have job growth, have an ability to look forward into the future, be able to have jobs, be able to have farms, be able to have the things we believe are the reasons people should move to rural Ontario.

We have to recognize today that this bill is important, that the government is, first of all, delivering on a promise they said they would, but also allowing the agricultural community to operate without fear of nuisance lawsuits or unnecessarily restrictive bylaws. But at the same time, the agricultural community has to recognize that this bill does not give them the right to pollute; it gives them the right to operate their farms as good stewards of their land. I know that with the help of the OFA and all of the farm organizations, we're going to be able to accomplish this. I hope every member here will be very cognizant of that balance we have to have within our communities so that rural Ontario survives and flourishes.

I'm very proud of this bill. I'm very proud of the agricultural community for taking the active interest they did in it, especially in Huron county. They all came out to talk about this bill. They've written to me, they've called me, they've talked to me. In my area this has been the bill that has had the most consultation of any bill we have had so far. I'm very proud of Huron county for being involved in it.

I once again would like to thank OMAFRA for all the work they've done on this. This is a wonderful start for us in the agricultural community.

The Acting Speaker: It's 9:30. This House stands adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 2132.