Monday, October 8, 2007

What about agriculture and immigration, dudes?

Agriculture and immigration, under Article 95 of the British North America Act, are two of the only three heads of constitutional powers that are specifically shared by the federal and provincial governments. (The other is old age pensions.) It's no surprise why they are; yet they are the two issues that consistently crop up in the election campaigns of other provinces -- except for Ontario.

Maybe it's just because we presume there is no provincial immigration department. Or because the vast majority of Ontarians live in cities we are insulated from the realities that farmers face.

So first, immigration. Recently, the federal-provincial immigration agreement was updated; the previous one was written way back in 1958, a time when most Ontarians thought the police were more infallible than the Pope and most of the migrants came from Europe. We're certainly much more diverse nowadays of course, and immigrants are what drive our economy.

But unlike more well-publicized agreements, such as the one that Ottawa has with Québec City, we just don't know what the terms of the Ontario agreement are. It's like a state secret. Can we go over our province's quota in a given year like Québec can if our business needs require? What is our share of settlement money? And are the three leaders willing to get a better deal; and if so will they put it to a vote of the legislature so it can be debated and discussed in hearings or will it remain a state secret under Crown Prerogative?

Of course, silence on this one. The Three Amigos would rather focus on the fight for the suburban, white bread vote -- those voters who have moved into the suburbs precisely because they don't want to interact with people who don't "Speak White." This is very disturbing, from my perspective.

And what about farmers? I live well inside a major city yet close enough that I can walk to farmland if I wanted to. And Ontario's farmers, like their counterparts in the rest of Canada, are struggling. The tender fruit industry is constantly at risk from urban encroachment even with the Greenbelts. Mainland China is deliberately undermining our ice wine industry with counterfeit products -- most of which, I believe, is fully backed by the Butchers of Tienanmen. And the food distribution system favours wealthy corporations, not the family farmer.

What will be done to help the real farmers -- not the Cargills and ADMs of the world?

Again, Pointy Head, Funny Face and Rainy River say nothing.

And, those who say nothing plan to do nothing. Enjoy the country drives while you can folks; soon, it will be all city and no country from Toronto up to Sudbury and North Bay and beyond. And we'll be getting our food -- yup -- from the Butchers of Tienanmen.

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