Throne Speech Creates Opportunity for Addressing Food Issues in Ontario

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Author: Ravenna

Posted: February 27, 2013

Categories: Food in the News / GoodFoodBites / News from Sustain Ontario / Ontario Food Policy / Policy News

By Ravi Singh and Ravenna Nuaimy-Barker

Ontario Coat of Arms

This week’s Throne Speech laid out an agenda with significant potential to support Ontario in moving towards healthy food and farming systems. In the address, which outlined the government’s agenda for the upcoming session, the speech stressed:

  • inclusion, dialogue and listening
  • cutting costs,
  • economic growth,
  • creating jobs,
  • building a strong and innovative health care system, including health promotion,
  • improving infrastructure and transportation efficiency
  • and improving social assistance

The goals articulated in this agenda create important opportunities for moving forward priorities shared by many Sustain Ontario members including: passing a Local Food Act, making financing more available to innovative food and farm businesses, adopting a cross-governmental and multi-stakeholder Food and Nutrition Strategy, and improving the accessibility of healthy food to vulnerable Ontarians. Advancing these priorities will help to create a healthier, more prosperous, more inclusive province.

 Economy and Jobs

The speech underlined the government’s commitment to economic growth and employment creation.  The Local Food Act and Food and Nutrition Strategy both propose policies and programs which would promote and support the health of all Ontarians through diverse, healthy, equitable, economically viable and environmentally sound local and regional food systems. Such policies and programs would support Ontario’s domestic agriculture and processing industries and also encourage job growth and economic development within the province.

For example, supporting the development of community based food access programs, ensuring that local foods can get to market, and encouraging Ontario households to spend as little as $10 per week on local food, would result in an additional $2.4 billion and as many as 10,000 new jobs being added to the local economy.[i]

Policies supporting farmers to grow food for local markets would also support the creation of new food jobs and market opportunities throughout the province. Such policies could include supporting regional food hubs, establishing funding streams to enable community based food access programs such as food banks, markets, and community kitchens, and local procurement policies for institutions.

In the address, the government signaled that it is committed to improving opportunities for employment creation and growth, and that food and farming can be part of that. For instance, the speech  stated that the new government “will look to stimulate productivity across all sectors, from automotive and agriculture…from small businesses to start ups and social entrepreneurs…” Wynne also committed the government to “work with financial institutions and government agencies to ensure that small and medium sized enterprises have access to the capital that they need to expand…” This recommendation is in line with one of the recommendations included in Sustain Ontario’s Drafting notes for the Local Food Act:  “enable innovative financing for the food and farming sectors. An example for implementation may include the development of new financing approaches for beginning and re-strategizing farmers and food businesses”.

As food and farming is already Ontario’s largest employer, with significant potential for improvement, we see the economic development and employment creation directions laid out in this speech as creating potential to advance the healthy food and farming agenda. While the throne speech does not specifically mention the Local Food Act as part of the jobs and economy strategy, we hope that given the Premier’s platform commitments to reintroduce the Act and role as Minister of Agriculture and Food, the Act will comprise an important part of the strategy.


The speech also established the health and well being of Ontarians as a top priority for the government. As the speech says, “The happiness and health of Ontario residents must be enshrined, and so your government will also continue to build the strongest and most innovative health care system in the world…” It goes on to underline the government’s recognition that health promotion has a crucial part to play in efforts to combat obesity.

The Local Food Act and the draft Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy both emphasize that food and farming can be a major part of the solutions that this government is looking for. Both include actionable ideas that can help Ontarians access and choose healthy food, which is a crucial part of obesity prevention and health promotion.

Vulnerable Populations

The government has signaled through this throne speech that making Ontario’s social service systems work better is a priority. Again, the priorities outlined in the Local Food Act Recommendations and in the Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy offer many solutions, both for making sure that those receiving social assistance can access healthy food, and for creating jobs and a more inclusive economy, for example linking social assistance rates to the nutritious food basket, supporting community based food programs, and increasing access to local food in public institutions.

The Premier’s decision to take on the portfolio of Minister of Agriculture and Food signals that fostering a thriving local food sector will be a priority for her government. Moreover, the time she’s served as Minister of Education, Minister of Transportation, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is also perhaps a unique opportunity whereby a Premier will understand the intersection of various food-related issues and the need to take a holistic approach in moving forward.

We are hopeful that this government will maintain the priorities outlined in this Throne Speech, and will look to food and farming as part of the necessary building blocks in creating a healthier and more prosperous Ontario. Passing a Local Food Act, advancing a Food and Nutrition Strategy, and ensuring that vulnerable populations can access healthy food, are all steps in this process.

[i] Ogryzlo, L. 2012. “$10 Challenge, Billion Dollar Impact.” The Ontario Table. Available online: