OFA is concerned about means of doing business in Ontario

As the Ontario government proceeds with its Open For Business Act, 2010, the Ontario Federation of Agri­culture is anxious to have the opportunity to comment on that bill.

The Open for Business ini­tiative is a review of Ontario regu­lations that hamper busi­ness and unnecessarily increase the cost of doing business. Bill 68 is an omnibus piece of legis­lation proposing to eliminate or change some regulations to make business work better.

In OFA’s submission to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, as it reviews the Open For Business Act, we call on the government to acknowledge the consider­able impact regulations can have on farmers and their busi­nesses. “Farmers represent the largest identifiable group of land owners in the province,” our submission states.

The business of farming involves issues of labour, the environment, animal husband­ry, use of chemicals – a broad spectrum of areas where gov­ern­ment regulations have a direct impact. In fact, we be­lieve farmers “are very likely affected by more regulations than any other sector of the economy.”

We also believe that often, as government develops new reg­u­lations, “little or no thought is given to the potential impact on farmland, accepted farming practices, and our farm businesses.”

That situation often results in farmers and their businesses left to suffer “unintended con­sequences” from government policies – “unintentional but negative impacts on the farm business from an ill-conceived regulation.”

With that in mind, the OFA is particularly sensitive to the government’s Open For Busi­ness initiative. We applaud the government for it and look forward to working with gov­ernment officials to improve the regulatory environment that farmers work within. We hope it will develop into something beneficial to our farm busi­nesses and society in general.

However, OFA also urges caution in getting rid of regu­lations – those we see as being necessary ground rules.

As OFA’s submission to the standing committee states, “The removal of regulations may also create unintended con­sequences – all the impli­cations on our farm businesses must also be considered in removing regulation.”

The act goes well beyond what OFA views as acceptable changes to the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act, giving officials from the Ministry of Natural Re­sources the authority to enter private property without a warrant. We find such authority to be utterly unnecessary and potentially dangerous to our farm businesses and ministry personnel.

OFA feels such powers pro­vide no benefit to society, but represent examples of inappro­priate government powers that the act is intended to eliminate. It would appear that no con­sideration has been given to the potentially serious implication such entry poses to the farm ani­mals, the crops, the farm business and MNR personnel who may have to stare down an angry bull.

We have been told that the inclusion of the warrantless search and incidental pass through provisions simply brings to the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act provisions that already exist in other MNR-administered statutes. We clear­ly and emphatically said that the existence of bad law and bad public policy is no justification for its extension in this bill.

OFA will work hard for farmers to secure good regu­lation and to eliminate those detrimental to the business of farming. In this sense we are pleased to have been asked by the Open for Business Direc­torate to lead the agriculture and regulatory review.

This fall we will be con­vening our colleagues from across the sector to identify several key regulatory issues and the beneficial changes that will improve the farming and food business climate. OFA is proud to take the lead in this initiative.

Regulations can help and harm our businesses. This fall we will be working to secure a better regulatory framework to improve our farm business cli­mate for today and tomorrow.