Mr. Wayne Gates: The agri-food business brings over $30 billion into the Ontario economy each year and fuels in some way upwards of 750,000 jobs. This industry is a major economic driver and a major job producer. Those stats alone show that this industry needs the support of government. Directly, this is driven by the upwards of 15,000 farmers in Ontario who cover more than five million acres of land.
But there’s more to it. A province that can’t feed itself is a province doomed to fail. Really, this isn’t hard to see. It’s a sad story all over the province of Ontario right now. We have families turning to food banks, turning to local charities to try to access food. We’re talking about seniors and children here who don’t have food.
With proper government assistance, we’ll never need to worry about that in Ontario. As many of my colleagues have pointed out, we have a vibrant and innovative agricultural sector in all corners of this province, producing world-class food and products. If we work together, we can get this food to the people of Ontario who need it. We can do that by supporting our farmers.
Let me say this clearly: Agriculture insurance is a fundamental tool we can use to protect our farmers right here in Ontario. This bill we’re debating today will allow for insurance to be offered to more producers in this province. This is an integral step to giving our agriculture sector the backing they need to be able to grow their businesses. With this kind of insurance, we can make sure that our farmers here in Ontario know that if something out of their control occurs, the government will be there to support them.