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L-R:  Mike Schreiner, Green Party leader; John Vanthoff, NDP ag critic; Shawn Brenn, chair, OFVGA; Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson.
L-R: Mike Schreiner, Green Party leader; John Vanthoff, NDP ag critic; Shawn Brenn, chair, OFVGA; Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson.

At its core, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) has always been a lobby organization. Our job is to work on behalf of growers on issues that are common to most if not all of the commodity sectors that we represent – issues such as labour, safety nets, crop protection, environment and more.


Fall is always a particularly busy time of year for advocacy as both the provincial and federal governments return for their fall sittings, and this year was no different. As we have for the last few years, OFVGA board members and senior staff spent a day at Queen’s Park in late November for our annual advocacy day.


It was the third advocacy day I’ve participated in with OFVGA, and I find it to be an invaluable opportunity to build relationships and help bring the challenges and opportunities of our sector to life for the people we meet with. Nothing helps put a policy into context better than hearing from a grower sharing a real-life example of the impact it has on their farm.


We held 15 meetings throughout the day with elected officials and political staff from various parties. Topics discussed with MPPs were tailored based on their role in government, but a key one we focused on was how government can support the sector in strengthening Ontario’s fruit and vegetable supply and making Ontario the destination of choice for agricultural temporary foreign workers (TFWs).


Our end-of-day reception was extremely well attended, including many MPPs, Ministers, and political staff. Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson, Agriculture critic John Vanthof and Green Party Leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner all addressed the room, and it was refreshing to see members from all parties speak in support of our sector in a non-partisan way. 


And although our one-on-one meetings are important, it’s this chance to interact in a more informal way that is just as valuable in helping build relationships and get to know people.


OFVGA is also active at the federal level through our involvement with Fruit and Vegetable Growers of Canada (FVGC). Also in November, a number of OFVGA representatives took part in the annual Fall Harvest advocacy event in Ottawa led by FVGC in partnership with the Canadian Produce Marketing Association.


During meetings with elected officials, political staff and bureaucrats, topics addressed included regulatory modernization and competitiveness, the Bill C-280 financial protection act for growers now before the Senate, and federal regulations related to plastics. We also participated in a number of events designed to encourage speedy passage of Bill C-234, which would exempt grain drying and heating farm buildings and greenhouses from federal carbon tax, in the Senate.


Government advocacy isn’t just a seasonal activity for OFVGA though. We are in regular contact with Minister Thompson’s office, for example, on a wide range of topics, and we actively engage with other ministries on issues that affect fruit and vegetable growers, whether by correspondence, phone, or virtual and in-person meetings.


Some of our outreach is also proactive in nature. Since late last spring, for example, OFVGA has been meeting with federal and provincial politicians, their staff and bureaucrats to introduce the More than a Migrant Worker initiative. Labour is a hot topic for many ministries, and we want decision-makers to be aware of this positive outreach effort by our industry that tells the other side of the temporary foreign worker file.


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Submitted by Shawn Brenn on 20 December 2023