Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Plight of the Ontario Farmer in Perspective

After yet another long weekend of making the three hour journey to the S.W.O. - only to struggle to get the first cut of hay off the field and tear the combine engine apart in preparation for the late july wheat harvest - it takes Neil Young to put it all in perspective.

With only 12% of farm operators across Canada below the age of 35 and the average age of farm operators at 49, the Canadian farmer is a bit of a dying breed.

Especially affected has been the Ontario farmer. Never mentioned, Ontario has the largest farm economy in the Country (overshadowing the Prairies by a wide margin), yet its value continues to be completely ignored. Faced with exorbitant land prices brought about by rampant urban sprawl, multinational corporate investment and succession issues, the family farmer has seriously become a rarity. Despite these trends, the complaints of Prairie farmers have been pushed front and centre in the national media. All the while, the Ontario industry has silently been facing similar income declines and farm bankruptcies.

From 1986 to 1996, farm input prices rose 25.2% while farm product prices only increased by 16.7%. In comparison, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures how much consumers, including farmers, pay for food, increased 28% during this ten-year span.

Does Ontario get special treatment to deal with this crisis? No. Rich Alberta sure as hell does. Which begs the question... who really is being alienated in Confederation anyways? The last time an agriculture minister hailed from Ontario was in the early days of the Trudeau government - and other than ol' Eugene, I can't tell you the last time the S.W.O. (with a population of 1 million) has had a minister in cabinet.

Perhaps Alberta and friends should take a look around before subjecting us all to yet another round of their tiring pissing and moaning. Alberta economic clout and oil money drive the health, energy and agricultural agendas, still they pout about the 'eastern establishment' bogeyman. As far as I'm concerned, it's rural Ontario, Manitoba, the Maritimes and the North that's getting the shaft. Maybe it's our 'culture of defeatism' that raises the ire of the West.

Besides, what the hell are the Conservatives and their thinly veiled Western-centric decentralist agenda going to do for anyone anyways? If slashing taxes, gutting social services, initiating endless reforms and shitting on the cities are the solutions to every problem, we here in the land of post-Mike Harris Ontario should be all currently at the Rosewater Supper Club sampling the Caspian caviar.

Maybe it's time to take the Ontario Independence League to the next level (with some definite tweaking of its principles, of course!).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

An office with no DICK! Its 11am July 2nd and I can't find Dick! I know he went to a concert with the queen last night...but is he still with Her Majesty?

Dick come to work!

10:56 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Well, you got your Minister of Agriculture from Ontario. We'll see how far it gets the industry.

I don't think the real problem is Alberta v Ontario, or anything like that. The problem is the active neglect shown by the government toward the ag industry until something catastrophic happens (BSE, Avian flu). Nothing catastrophic has happened in the Ontario industry - instead, what you're identifying is slow, steady decline of the family farm, and corporate farms vacumning up the remnants. But Ontario isn't alone in that. I think the same decline in Alberta's ag industry has been masked by the damage more obviously done by BSE.

I have to ask, because I'm so darned curious - which of my posts were you intending to link to when you linked to my blog with the phrase "culture of defeatism"? There are permalinks on each post, if you're looking to illustrate a point with one in particular.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Dick said...

Sorry about that - was trying to link to your gaffe-o-metre and Harper's various poignant comments regarding us easterners. Was having difficulties linking to your archives.

Just to note, Mad Cow has had just as much of an impact here as in Alberta. Believe it or not, Ontario has more cattle (and Cattle census farms) than Alberta and the border is just as closed in Ontario. Beef cattle are as worthless here as anywhere in the West. Furthermore, Ontario industry staples pork and grain prices have plummeted over the past few years - and provincial subsidies are scant compared with Alberta. I'm not just railing about a slow decline, I'm talking about a full-scale sudden collapse of an entire industry - just like what's happening in Alberta. My peeve is that absolutely no attention whatsoever has been paid on the national or even regional scene.

As for Mitchell as ag minister? 1. He's a banker, 2. He's from Muskoka (which has about as much of an ag industry as the Yukon) and 3. He's a Martin Bag Man. If anything, it goes to show how important agriculture is to this government if they're willing to throw this guy into the portfolio.

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:40 AM  

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