From the Editor: August 2017

Needing Friends In High Places
July 06, 2017
Written by
August 2017, Simcoe, Ont. – It’s only fitting for an editorial written on Fathers’ Day to offer timely advice to younger readers: “Hold on tight.”

Canada is a great country in which to raise families and build businesses, agricultural and otherwise. But there are growing challenges on the horizon, and they’re largely political in nature.

Ontario greenhouse growers are facing significant new hurdles to their continued viability, and these hurdles are all courtesy of their provincial government.

New labour legislation has been introduced in the province not long after its ill-timed cap-and-trade carbon tax program. By themselves, each is a crushing weight; combined, they may be too much for some growers to carry.

The province’s carbon tax – and indeed similar taxes across the country – will mean heavy financial costs for growers already struggling with small margins and increased market competition. It will amount to several thousands of dollars per acre. And regions south of the border in which Ontario growers compete have no such carbon levies.

And yet while Alberta and B.C. greenhouse growers will receive a rebate of up to 80 per cent of their carbon taxes, the Ontario government has not yet offered similar assistance to its growers.

Ontario growers will soon be burdened by changes to the province’s labour legislation. Here’s what the province’s two greenhouse associations have to say about it.

The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers: “While greenhouse vegetable growers agree there is a common interest in sharing in a healthy economic well-being, the recent announcement relating to significant increased minimum wages combined with proposed changes to the employment standards, signals the imminent closure of many family-run greenhouse farms.”

The OGVG is calling on government to work with growers “to ensure further greenhouse growth and investment remains in the province.”

Flowers Canada Ontario: “The proposed rapid change to minimum wage is expected to result in profound damage to the Ontario floriculture sector, the loss of numerous family farms, and a reduction to jobs available in the province of Ontario.

“Labour represents the single largest cost for flower farmers in Ontario, accounting for up to 30 per cent of the total costs of production. While flower growers are committed to the well-being of Ontario’s workforce, an increase of $3.60 per hour per worker over an 18-month period will not provide sufficient time for Ontario businesses to prepare and plan for the increased cost of production. Further, farmers will also experience numerous increases in associated expenses such as Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan, Employer Health Tax, and the Workplace Safety Insurance Board.”

The Ontario greenhouse sector has considerable potential to grow: innovative growers with premium products; efficient logistics; and some of the world’s best research being conducted within the province.

Politicians must review government policies to ensure they are helpers – not hurdles – to small business viability.

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