MP calls for a study on protecting prime agricultural land

Lee Griffi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wilmot-Tavistock Gazette

Kitchener-Conestoga MP Tim Louis has introduced a motion in the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food calling on the committee to undertake a study on the protection of prime agricultural land for long-term agricultural use. 

The study will allow the committee to consult with stakeholders, including farmers, on the future use of agricultural land, which will be reported to the House of Commons for a government response. Louis said he has heard from many constituents concerned about the proposal to expropriate and rezone prime farmland in Wilmot Township for a purpose yet to be disclosed. 

“The federal government is not involved in the decision to turn farmland into industrial land. I share the concerns of constituents, farmers and other stakeholders regarding the loss of prime agricultural land,” he said. 

According to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, 319 acres of prime agricultural land is lost every day in Ontario, despite having some of the most productive farmland in Canada. Only five per cent of Ontario’s landmass is suitable for agriculture, and the riding of Kitchener-Conestoga sits in the heart of Ontario’s agricultural lands. 

“As Waterloo Region grows, it must do so while protecting prime agricultural land,” said Louis, adding that while any action the federal government takes wouldn’t be in time to make a difference in Wilmot, it could elsewhere. 

It is Louis’ hope the committee and his government will approve a study and bring in soil experts, stakeholders, farmers and other organizations. 

“I am proud to table this motion in Agriculture Committee to study how we can better protect agricultural land. The agriculture and agri-food sector is a vital economic driver in Kitchener-Conestoga and rural communities across Canada, providing healthy food for our community and markets around the world. I will continue listening to and advocating for our hardworking farmers and producers.” 

The MP admitted it is a bit early to tell what kind of support he will have at the committee level from other parties, particularly the Bloc Quebecois, which brought up the issue of jurisdiction. 

“The Bloc tends to be more guarded about staying out of provincial business. That’s a bit of a red flag for them. However, they admitted they do want to protect farmland. I understand their concerns and it got me thinking, ‘Okay, what can we do at the federal level?’ ” 

Louis explained one of the most frustrating parts of the Wilmot situation for him was the complete lack of adherence to a regional plan that was put in place to promote growth. 

“To do it in a responsible way. And when the province tears up those plans and you hear about these issues like with the Green Belt, it erodes people’s confidence in what might happen next.”