Respecting Rural Ontario by Partnering With It for Success
Yasir Naqvi, Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidate, announces a comprehensive strategy to ensure economic growth and prosperity across rural Ontario.
For too long, #Ontario‘s smaller towns and communities have been left behind. I hear you, and I know you deserve better.— Yasir Naqvi 🇨🇦 (@Yasir_Naqvi) August 13, 2023
That's why I have a 3-point plan restore the promise of rural Ontario. pic.twitter.com/3DK56vUNG9
Released - August 13, 2023
The rich and diverse communities of rural Ontario face unique challenges. Yet for far too long, rural Ontario has been taken for granted by Queen’s Park, diminishing its vast economic and agricultural potential. Doug Ford’s recently uncovered corrupt give away of prime farmland in Ontario’s Greenbelt to his buddies is but another example of him breaking faith with rural Ontario. Rural Ontarians deserve better.
It’s time for a government at Queen’s Park that recognizes the real opportunity rural Ontario presents. As Leader and Premier, I will actually listen to and work with rural Ontarians to make the changes they need to unlock the economic opportunity of our small towns and rural communities. Ontario needs a Premier and government that will bring rural Ontarians back to the table, to get things done the right way.
A Yasir Naqvi-led Ontario government will work in partnership with rural communities to develop and execute a rural strategy that makes sense, focused on health, agriculture and the local economy. To do so, we will:
- Ensure that every Rural community can access family and emergency health care close to home, whenever it’s needed. Having access to health care professionals shouldn’t be a luxury in this province. That’s why this solution builds on my plan to fast-track the accreditation of Internationally Trained Professionals. By providing incentives for doctors and nurses who choose to practice in underserved rural communities, we’re helping keep rural emergency departments open and reduce wait times. We will also expand the use of Nurse-Practitioner led clinics to underserved communities, and will work with municipalities to immediately enhance life saving ambulance services.
- Attract newcomers and all Canadians to rural Ontario through improved connectivity and economic opportunities. We will showcase why rural Ontario is the place to raise your family by increasing accessibility through improvements to major roads and bridges connecting population centers. We will improve digital connectivity by removing barriers to rural small businesses, facilitating remote work when needed, and significantly investing in broadband and cellular connectivity.
- Create the “Ontario Farmbelt'' to protect and preserve farmland for future generations and encourage population to build up, not sprawl out. We will introduce legislation creating an “Ontario Farmbelt” and allow our rural municipal partners to permanently add their Class 1, 2, and 3 farmland to this new protected area. We will work with family farmers and agricultural leaders to enhance the stability of family farms and support succession planning. We will also invest in the agri-food sector in Ontario, to protect well-paying jobs and grow the local economy.
Driving growth and success in rural Ontario starts with partnership. A Yasir Naqvi-led Ontario Liberal Party will partner with rural Ontario leaders to ensure these communities thrive.
Respecting Rural Ontario by Partnering With It for Success
Rural Ontario should be a major source of growth that drives Ontario’s economy forward. Blessed with fertile soil, plentiful fresh water, a diversified economic base, a hardworking population of nearly 2.5 million Ontarians, and some of the most impressive natural beauty in the world, rural communities are poised for success.
Yet too often rural Ontario is treated as an afterthought in the policy making process at Queen’s Park. When thought of at all, it is usually in the context of a top-down, one-size fits all approach, which doesn’t make sense - a small city of 50,000 people within a two-hour drive of a big city will have very different needs than a small town of 5,000 people that is the largest community in its area.
Rural Ontario faces unique challenges, including:
- A shortage of medical professionals, including a lack of family doctors and nurses;
- Increasingly frequent temporary ER closures;
- Uneven access to both physical and digital services, such as a lack of sufficient roads and bridges and uneven high-speed internet, in far too many small towns and rural areas;
- While all of Ontario’s population is aging, in rural Ontario 24% of the population is over 65, compared to the provincial average of 19%1; and,
- The need to preserve farmland and to strengthen family farms, while building a globally competitive, value-added agri-food sector.
A Yasir Naqvi-led Ontario Liberal government will challenge the status quo and make economic growth and prosperity in Rural Ontario a priority.
Collaborating with rural Ontarians is at the core of this strategy to create the necessary policies and investment conditions for the economy and communities of rural Ontario to grow. With better leadership at Queen’s Park that is willing to partner with, instead of dictate to, rural communities, we will restore the promise of rural Ontario. To do so, we will:
- Ensure that every Rural community can access family and emergency health care close to home when it is needed most.
Building on my plan to fast-track the accreditation of Internationally Trained Professionals, we will provide incentives for doctors and nurses interested in practicing in underserved communities in rural Ontario, whether in family practice or at a hospital. This will help keep rural emergency departments open and reduce wait times. The incentives will be dependent on a multi-year commitment by newcomers to remain in small communities. The success of the program will depend in large part on forging a new partnership with rural municipalities who will lead local efforts to roll out the welcome mat for these much sought after professionals.
We will expand the use of Nurse-Practitioner led clinics, with a focus on establishing them in underserved communities to provide another point of access for comprehensive family health care. The focus will be on building out multi-disciplinary teams to provide care that is appropriate for the community.
We will partner with rural municipalities to enhance life saving ambulance services to ensure rural Ontarians in an emergency can count on help when they need it most.
- Grow the population and economy of rural Ontario through improved physical and digital connectivity.
We will invest in improving the connectivity of communities across rural Ontario to make them a more attractive place to live, raise a family, and grow a business. We will focus on increasing accessibility in rural Ontario by improving the roads & bridges connecting communities. Along with expert advice, our approach will be informed by rural Ontarians, so that decisions are made in a way that prioritizes the local economy and increases access to services.
We will also invest in improved digital connectivity across the province by removing barriers to businesses located in smaller, rural communities and enabling more people to work remotely. Targeted investments in broadband and cellular connectivity will build on existing programs.
We will look to learn lessons from the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, a Federal program that is designed to increase the number of economic immigrants moving to Rural and Northern communities, by creating a path to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers. The pilot is scheduled to run through February 2024.
As will be detailed further in my housing plan, for first-time home buyers, we will work with municipalities to develop an opt-in incentive program to waive land-transfer taxes for home purchases in both mid-size cities and smaller rural communities.
- Create the “Ontario Farmbelt” to preserve our precious farmland for future generations and encourage communities to build up, not sprawl out.
Ontario is losing 319 acres of farmland per day2. Only 5% of land in Ontario is suitable for agriculture3, and it is more important than ever that we protect it.
While we must make room for a growing population, we can not do this by paving over some of the most fertile soil in the world. Irreplaceable farms are being lost in Ontario because the Ford government is taking a short-sighted approach by actually encouraging development onto farmland. This is literally the very land that feeds Ontario families and the world.
At a time of unprecedented climate change this approach is foolhardy. We will legislate an “Ontario Farmbelt” and allow our rural municipal partners to permanently add their Class 1, 2, and 3 farmland to this new protected area.
In addition to creating the Farmbelt, a Yasir Naqvi-led government will work with family farmers and agricultural stakeholders to enhance the stability of family farms and support succession planning.
We will also work with rural municipalities to enhance land-use planning capacity, so that we can intensify existing communities in a sustainable way, so that we do not need to pave over farms for subdivisions.
A Yasir Naqvi-led government will also support the continued growth of the agri-food sector in Ontario, which already provides 1 in 10 jobs in the province and contributes almost $50B to our GDP each year1. Working with key stakeholders, we will look to make strategic investments in supporting the sector with a focus on attracting value-added jobs in food processing, investing in physical, digital, and energy infrastructure to support growth, and to continue to build on the success of existing supply management programs.
1. Rural Ontario Institute, Rural Ontario Facts - Income Factsheet, November 2022. Accessed August 4, 2023.
2. Canadian Press, Ontario abandons proposal to sever farmland lots in response to farmer opposition. Accessed August 10, 2023.
3. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Guidelines on Permitted Uses in Ontario’s Prime Agricultural Areas. Accessed August 10, 2023.
4. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Grow Ontario: a provincial agri-food strategy. Accessed August 10, 2023.