By Connor Lynch
TORONTO — Regulations and red tape have been the order of the day for Ontario’s ag minister. Minister Ernie Hardeman took office about a year ago, when the Provincial Conservatives won a landslide victory and took power.
Hardeman said his government hit the ground running by talking with the ag industry, and the number one issue he kept hearing about was red tape and regulations. His ministry set to work with the aim of cutting regulatory hurdles, but leaving alone regulations that protect food safety.
The Ford government, on the whole, aims to cut down Ontario’s 300,000 regulations by 25 per cent (which would mean getting rid of about 71,500 regulations) by the end of their term. Hardeman stressed that these cuts aren’t going to be even across the board. “There are some ministries that have more redundant regulations than others. Some of us, like in ag, (have more) that are not red tape and that we want to maintain.” It’s been a tall order just identifying regulations under OMAFRA’s purview.
So, how many have they cut so far? In an email, Hardeman’s communications director, Avi Yufest, said the Ministry “is still working on the exact number that are under OMAFRA’s responsibility. . .” but pointed to 11 regulatory changes such as scrapping the carbon tax and moving farm business registrations online.
U.S. President Donald Trump also made cutting regulations a priority. In his first year in office, he quashed 1,500 regulations, including those proposed and on the books.
Hardeman said that one of the ag ministry’s biggest accomplishments was a revamp of the wildlife damage compensation program shortly after he took office, reversing some of the changes made by the previous government. “We changed (it) back almost immediately, made a massive difference.”
The ministry is hoping to eliminate a lot of redundant paperwork for producers by moving to more digital record-keeping, Hardeman said. That way producers applying for government programs don’t need to resend all the same information over and over again.
Priorities for the next three years include completing the Business Risk Management program review in the next eight to 10 months, making mental health services available to farmers and addressing Ontario’s farm labour shortage, which is expected to grow in the coming years.