Red tape op-ed

As Ontario's Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, one of the most important parts of my job is hearing from Ontario's agri-food community about the issues that affect their livelihood. Over and over again, I hear from our farm and food business owners about the time and money they spend working to comply with unnecessary, burdensome regulations. Red tape is weighing them down, keeping them from growing their operations and adding jobs.

Our government is listening. We're working to reduce unnecessary regulatory burden on our agri-food sector while maintaining the rules that keep Ontario families safe and healthy.

A research paper from the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy in Toronto shows Ontario has the highest cost of complying with regulations of any province - $33,000 per business per year. This is well above the $25,000 average in most other provinces. We're fixing that.

Through the Making Ontario Open for Business Act and Restoring Ontario's Competitiveness Act, we're removing obstacles to investment, growth and job creation in over a dozen sectors, including agriculture and food processing.

We have already taken a number of steps in that direction. For example, we made changes to the Ontario Wildlife Damage Compensation Program so it works as intended - to support those who lose livestock to predators. We consulted with the sector and made those changes based on the input we received.

We're also working to streamline licensing and certification processes for more than 20 programs my ministry delivers. We're talking with you to find ways to improve these transactions so they are user-friendly and provide seamless service.

We're making changes to regulations that will reduce paperwork, fees and administrative burdens for Ontario's agri-food businesses, so they can spend less time filling out paperwork and more time growing and processing the safest, highest quality food in the world.

To make it easier for dairy processors to do business while maintaining some of our country's highest food safety standards, we are removing several overly prescriptive requirements for ceiling heights, floor drains and equipment capacity. We are also removing licensing requirements for businesses that prepare milk products from pasteurized milk or milk products and sell them directly to consumers, as they are already inspected by public health boards in Ontario.

Finally, we are also addressing the burden caused by the regulatory requirement to hire an outside expert to update a farm's nutrient management strategy every five years, even when there has been no change in the farm's operation during that time.

We've come a long way over the past 12 months, but there's still more work to be done. Our government continues to find ways to reduce regulatory burden and lower the cost of doing business in Ontario. This helps create jobs, grow our economy and improve prosperity for everyone in our province.

I believe our farmers and business owners are the experts when it comes to growing the sector. If red tape is holding back your farm business, I want to hear about it. I look forward to continuing our work together to grow our agri-food sector and make Ontario open for business.

-Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs


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