Ministers’ Mandate Letters: What do they Mean for Food and Farming in Ontario?

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Author: Carolyn

Posted: October 6, 2014

Categories: GoodFoodBites / News from Sustain Ontario / Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy / Policy News

On September 25th, the Government of Ontario released the mandate letters for the members of Premier Wynne’s Cabinet.  These letters, which have historically been highly confidential, map out each Minister’s top priorities and often provide explicit direction on how to proceed on certain initiatives.  Not only do they provide a window into the Premier’s approach to governing, but they also offer interesting insights into the government’s priorities for the next four years – both by what is included and not included in the letters.

There are a number of initiatives highlighted in the mandate letters that will have a significant impact on food and farming in Ontario.   Some, like the integrated planning review in southwestern Ontario, have been expected; while others, like the plan to take regulatory action on neonicotinoids, have been more of a surprise.  What is clear is that there will be a number of opportunities to help shape government policy to support Sustain Ontario’s vision of healthy, equitable, ecological and financially viable food systems in Ontario.   Some of the highlights are listed below, but the mandate letters have been posted on the government’s website if you are interested in all of the details.

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Minister Leal)

  • Continuing to support the Premier’s Agri-Food Challenge, which calls on the province’s agri-food industry to double its growth rate and create 120,000 jobs by the year 2020.
  • Supporting the food processing industry and helping farmers enhance their operations, including through the Food Industry Program under the Jobs and Prosperity Fund.
  • Continuing to invest in innovative local food projects that celebrate the diversity of Ontario foods and support local economies.
  • Creating the new Farms Forever Program to help preserve the productive capacity of agricultural land close to major urban centres.
  • Working with stakeholders to develop a Pollinator Health Strategy that includes long-term initiatives to improve the health of bees and other pollinators.
  • Developing an action plan, with industry partners and stakeholders, to meaningfully reduce neonicotinoid use for the 2015 growing season, including measurable targets; and developing a regulatory system that requires a reduction in the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides for the 2016 growing season.
  • Amending the Crop Insurance Act to enable the province to offer insurance for a broader range of agricultural products, such as bees and livestock.
  • Explore opportunities to develop the agricultural sector in the North, prioritizing opportunities on private land.
  • There is no reference to continued implementation of the Local Food Act, 2013 and the goals and targets related to food literacy, access to local food, and the use of local food by public sector organizations.

Ministry of Children and Youth Services (Minister MacCharles)

  • Ensuring that every child and young person in Ontario has access to the right supports and opportunities needed to make positive choices, reach their full potential and seamlessly transition to adulthood.

Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade (Minister Chan)

  • Establishing a ministerial working group on international trade and investment to ensure strong collaboration and information sharing.
  • Expanding the reach of Ontario’s exports by increasing opportunities for Ontario firms to connect with foreign buyers and investors, showcase innovative goods and services, and find new markets.

Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure (Minister Duguid

  • Developing strategies for key-growth sectors, such as agri-food, and work with industry, postsecondary institutions and the not-for-profit sector to develop these strategies.
  • Working in partnership with business and entrepreneurs to build on our existing commitment to create a strong social enterprise market in Ontario.
  • Exploring initiatives to reduce regulatory and administrative burdens, as proposed in the Better Business Climate Act, 2014.
  • Creating a new Natural Gas Access Loan, which will provide up to $200 million over two years to help communities and utilities extend access to natural gas supplies.

Ministry of Education (Minister Sandals)

  • Having students learn from an up-to-date health and physical education curriculum.
  • Providing Grade 7 to 12 students with access to their own online career planning tool and adjusting the current Grade 10 Careers curriculum to help students explore potential careers in a more hands-on way and to increase experiential learning opportunities.
  • Developing a policy that supports the development of community hubs in unused school space, considering the amount, location, value and nature of excess space that could be used for novel purposes.

Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (Minister Murray)

  • Building on the most current science, lead the development of a new long term climate change strategy for Ontario, looking forward to 2050, that contains an action plan to help achieve provincial greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020.
  • Re-introducing a strengthened Great Lakes Protection Act.
  • Negotiating the renewal of the Canada-Ontario Agreement respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem, including the development of a nutrient target by 2016 to address algal blooms in the Great Lakes and bringing forward recommendations to meet that target.

Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (Minister Orazietti)

  • Introducing legislation to enable the implementation of the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010, and actively supporting the non-profit sector through the transition.

Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (Minister Hoskins)

  • Working with the Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care (Long-Term Care and Wellness) to build a culture of health and community wellness, including supports and programs, to help people stay healthy.

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Long-term Care & Wellness (Associate Minister Dameria)

  • Championing a culture of health and wellness in the province to make Ontario the healthiest place in North America to grow up and grow old, and promoting healthier lifestyles for Ontarians through shared responsibility across government.
  • Developing a strategy on community wellness and a culture of health, including ways to provide more culturally appropriate care.
  • Continuing to implement the Healthy Kids Strategy and lead the Healthy Kids Ministers’ Working Group to further efforts in this area.
  • Delivering on the commitment to post calories on menus in food and restaurant chains.

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Minister McMeekin)

  • Supporting the development of sustainable, complete communities by amending the Planning Act and the Development Charges Act to improve land use planning and encourage smarter growth.
  • Leading a review of the scope and effectiveness of the Ontario Municipal Board and recommending reforms that would improve its role within the land use planning system.
  • Leading the co-ordinated review of the Growth Plan and the Greenbelt Plans to support planning and development decisions that will create more complete communities, provide options for healthier living and protect prime agricultural land.
  • Partnering with municipalities to grow the Greenbelt.

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (Minister Mauro)

  • Continuing to work with stakeholders and First Nations to ensure that Crown forest resources are being put to their best use — and in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable fashion.
  • Preparing the Invasive Species Act for re-introduction.
  • Developing a Far North Land Use Strategy to provide policy guidance to joint planning teams in the Far North in developing community-based land-use plans.
  • Addressing the recommendations of the Standing Committee on General Government’s Report on the Review of the Aggregate Resources Act.
  • Conducting a review of Ontario’s broader wetland strategy with the goal of strengthening wetland policies and stopping the net loss of wetlands.

Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (Minister Gravelle)

  • Continuing to drive the implementation of the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario to ensure that priorities for the North align with the objectives of the Growth Plan.
  • Continuing to work with the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation to create jobs, improve productivity, promote diversification in the region’s economy — and stimulate innovation, entrepreneurship and business development investments in the North.

Ministry of Research and Innovation (Minister Moridi)

  • Continuing to encourage a dynamic culture of entrepreneurism — including social entrepreneurship — via the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs.
  • Bringing forward initiatives and encouraging partnerships that increase levels of venture capital and lead to other innovative funding alternatives, such as crowd-funding.

Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy (Minister Matthews)

The mandate letters map out an ambitious agenda for the next four years, and there are a number of initiatives that have the potential to significantly impact the long-term health, sustainability and viability of Ontario’s farm and food systems – from primary production and food manufacturing through to healthy consumption and waste management and diversion.  There will be many chances to shape new policies and approaches, such as the Farms Forever program, the Pollinator Health Strategy, the Health and Wellness Strategy and the new long-term climate change plan.  There will also hopefully be opportunities to help further refine existing initiatives, such as coordinated review of the Greenbelt Plans and the reintroduction of the Great Lakes Protection Act and the continued implementation of the Healthy Kids Strategy.

The beginning of a government’s mandate is an exciting time, full of promise and opportunity.  How can we best work together to ensure that government policy development supports the growth of healthy, equitable, ecological and financially viable food systems? Is there are role for the Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy to provide a policy framework for provincial decision-makers?  How can government better align across ministries to respond to food and farming issues in a coordinated and comprehensive manner?  Answers to these questions can help shape the future of our food system in Ontario.