This is the Local Food Election!

Guest Post: Phil Mount,
Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table member

Organize your own all-candidates meeting on Food
With the fall of the minority government and a provincial election in full swing, there is a brief window of time before election day —June 12, 2014— to get candidates to state their positions on the record.

One positive way to engage candidates, communities and the media is to provide a forum where constituents can ask burning, relevant questions, the responses to which provide voters with practical information but also a broader sense of the candidates’ philosophies, vision and style. And there is no better frame for this forum than food —which brings together a set of issues as diverse as urban expansion, minimum wage, supply management, bee health, farmland and water protection, institutional procurement, public health, renewable energy, rural development, trade deals, real estate prices, taxation policy, the Greenbelt… the list goes on!

The previous government invested a lot of political capital in advancing the ‘local food’ file, including targeting a pool of provincial money specifically at local food initiatives through the Local Food Fund. There was also lots of media hype (both positive and negative) surrounding the passage of the Local Food Act late last year, with all parties scrambling to show how they were the most supportive of Ontario’s local food scene, farmers, food access programs, etc.

But as Sustain Ontario’s latest assessment makes clear, only pieces of the Act have been ‘proclaimed’ —and therefore legally binding.

The sections [of the Local Food Act] that have not yet been proclaimed are:
  • the creation of a tax credit for farmers who donate to community food programs and food banks
  • setting goals or targets to aspire to with respect to
– public procurement of local food
– increasing access to local food
I think this would come as a surprise to many who are active in the food access and local food scene —let alone the broader public. But in a way, this delay presents an opportunity: now it’s possible to get a clear sense of where your candidates stand on the many provisions of this Act, and some of the pieces that were left out.
It’s time to take the measure of our candidates for public office, time to understand where their philosophies, policies and governance style would take the  province — and no better way to do that than to get them to lay out their vision for the future of our food system.

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