They’re planted at the end of farmers’ laneways and in city front yards. You may have seen the red-and-white Food & Water First lawn signs that have sprouted in the weeks leading up to the June 12th election. The Food & Water First citizens’ movement stretches across southern Ontario and is urging all parties to protect this province’s agricultural lands and source water regions from sprawl, aggregate operations and non-farming development.
Food & Water First is the legacy of the recent Stop the Mega Quarry campaign which unfolded in Dufferin County, northwest of Toronto. That battle featured a $27-billion Boston hedge fund, a Canadian front company – the Highland Companies — and a plan to excavate the largest quarry in the country on a massive swath of rare Class 1 farmland and at the headwaters of five river systems. The long fight was won in the fall of 2012 when Highland abandoned its plans; the 6,500-acres owned by Highland were purchased last summer by Bonnefield Financial, a Canadian investment firm that buys farmland and leases it back to farmers.
However, Ontario’s prime farmland and water remain vulnerable thanks to weak land-use policies and an outdated Aggregate Resources Act. Food & Water First is asking candidates to take the PLEDGE to protect Class 1 farmland and source water regions. These vital resources are critical to Ontario’s $34-billion agri-food sector – the largest in Canada. More than 700-thousand people work in this sector producing local food and valuable food exports. Good things grow in Ontario, but not if the supply of prime farmland continues to shrink.
The Food & Water First campaign has planted lawn signs and distributed more than 30,000 election postcards across the province, enabling voters to ask candidates questions about the issue of farmland and water protection. As well, Food & Water First radio ads are airing in the Kitchener-Waterloo, London and Windsor markets. The campaign doesn’t end after June 12th. The threats of climate change, global food shortages and concerns about freshwater supplies ensure the next government will be under increasing pressure to preserve the land and water that sustain us.
For more information and to take the PLEDGE, visit www.foodandwaterfirst.com