Producing prosperity in Ontario

Ontario’s agri-food sector can spearhead economic prosperity for the entire province.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) believes the province can do much more for its citizens by simply distributing economic development opportunities across the province. Producing Prosperity in Ontario is our election priority.

We’re asking all provincial election candidates to learn more about the long-term benefits of investing in our agri-food sector and our rural communities, as a way to boost economic growth and prosperity for all Ontarians.

Distributing economic development will boost economic growth, create new jobs, new affordable housing options, ensure food security and contribute to environmental stewardship.

Agriculture is the #1 opportunity for Canada to experience economic growth.

- Barton Report

Distributed economic development

The agri-food sector – from farmers to our diverse food processing industry – is an economic powerhouse for the Ontario economy. To keep this sector profitable and productive, we need strong and vibrant communities, and the infrastructure to support them.

Distributing development investment across the province is the solution to the growing challenges that face rural and urban communities. Ontario can produce greater prosperity for the entire province by distributing economic activity to rural and urban areas.

In rural Ontario, farms, businesses and communities are struggling to stay competitive and sustainable, because:

  • Reliable internet is not widely available
  • Infrastructure isn’t up to par
  • Property taxes are rising
  • Labour is hard to find
  • Schools are closing
  • Opportunities for youth to remain in the community are dwindling

In urban Ontario, our large urban centres are facing increasing pressures, including:

  • Poverty rates are climbing
  • Gridlock and congestion make for long commutes with high carbon emissions
  • Affordable housing is tough to find
  • Infrastructure can’t keep up with population growth, with 400,000 new residents expected in the GTA in the next 10 years

An argument for Distributed Economic Development

"Funding formulas tend to favour urban areas, the higher costs of delivering equivalent services in rural areas are not fully considered nor funded, and a variety of programs, such as public transit, support for universities and funding for major cultural facilities, are only provided in urban areas. The result is a policy system that too often inherently advantages urban areas, and that can contribute to slower economic growth in rural regions."
- Growth Beyond Cities: Place-Based Rural Development Policy in Ontario by David Freshwater

How can distributed economic development drive growth in rural Ontario?

Read more here
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Economic growth

Spreading investment across the province will meet the needs of the agri-food sector and rural communities, and provide solutions to the issues facing urban centres. It’s a win-win.

OFA has identified the key benefits of distributed economic development for all of Ontario

  • Create investment and job growth
  • Build affordable communities
  • Secure a sustainable food production system

Ontario’s rural economies are much different than urban economies. Consideration must be given to the needs of different people in different places across the province.

Create investment and job growth

New investments in Ontario’s rural communities will grow existing businesses, attract new companies and boost opportunities for regional economic development.

Ontario’s agri-food sector is a leading economic engine for the province.


Agriculture contributes $13.7 billion to Ontario’s annual GDP


Ontario’s farm sector generates $1.4 billion in provincial tax revenues


158,000 jobs are generated by the farm sector


$8.1 billion in wages and salaries are supported by Ontario farms

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Natural gas

Rural Ontario needs affordable energy. Natural gas is the single most important investment that will give farms, businesses and rural residents the competitive edge to drive growth. If natural gas was available across the province, Ontario farmers, business owners and rural residents could save more than $1 billion in annual energy costs.

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Rural Ontario needs roads, bridges and proper drainage to support the growth and transportation of our goods and services.

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Reliable internet supports farms and rural communities. Without it, our businesses, residents and schools are at a disadvantage.

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Rural schools are essential to attract and retain local employees by providing quality education and local community hubs for the next generation of Ontarians.

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Build affordable communities

When we improve the prospects and infrastructure in rural Ontario, we open up new opportunities for working and living in smaller and mid-sized communities across the province.

Rural communities will provide new lifestyle and home ownership opportunities.

Strong agriculture sectorNearly 90% of those in the GTA believe Ontario's economy should include a strong agriculture sector
Healthier environmentNearly 50% believe Ontario's agriculture industry contributes to a healthier environment
Create jobs9 out of 10 believe the agri-food sector is capable of creating more jobs in future decades
Top reasonsHere's why Ontarians don't want to live in rural areas:
1. Availablity of good paying jobs
2. Access to health care
3. Lack of amenities
Rural schoolsAn overwhelming number believe the quality of rural schools is inferior to urban Ontario schools
Rural housingThe majority believe there is greater access to affordable housing in rural communities
Urban costs69% believe the cost of living is higher in urban areas

Click here for full survey results of OFA's Opinion Polling on Ontario's Agri-Food Sector

Secure a sustainable local food system

Investing in rural communities will strengthen Ontario’s agri-food sector. By supporting a strong domestic agri-food industry, and investing in infrastructure that promotes activity across the province, all Ontarians will have access to high quality, safe, local food.

Ontario farmers have a long history of practicing sustainable stewardship and protecting our ecosystems. Farmers conserve land and preserve soil, while growing the food we all need. Sound public policy to create economic opportunities must be paired with thoughtful land-use policy that protects our vital resources like water and soil for future generations.

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Add your voice to the Producing Prosperity in Ontario campaign - send your partner request to

  • Ontario chamber of commerce logo
  • Eastern Ontario wardens' caucus logo
  • Western Ontario wardens' caucus logo

Queen's Park February 21 Producing Prosperity in Ontario partner announcement

Supporting information

It's time to invest in Ontario's agri-food sector and rural communities to deliver economic growth and prosperity for all Ontarians

Learn more about the growth potential for rural and northern Ontario from the Rural Ontario Foresight Papers - a collection of six academic papers that were commissioned by the Ontario Rural Institute as part of the Measuring Rural Community Vitality initiative.

Each paper explores a topic impacting our province, including an academic view of the current situation in rural and northern Ontario, and provides a look ahead at the direction stakeholders, government and non-profits can follow to foster vital rural development. These papers also offer an opportunity for rural stakeholders to understand the authors' perspectives and consider the implications for their organization's work or within their own communities. Each paper includes a corresponding northern commentary by the Northern Policy Institute.

Excerpts from the report Growth Beyond Cities: Place-Based Rural Development Policy in Ontario by David Freshwater that supports distributed economic development.

"Efficiency arguments recognize that because resource endowments vary across space, transport costs exist and can be significant, and preferences are heterogeneous, there is a clear spatial distribution of economic activities. Consequently, if some regions are not performing at a high level, investing in raising their performance can provide a higher rate of return to society than simply abandoning these places. Further, equity concerns recognize that different people and places can aspire to different futures, and a spatially blind approach may not suit these diverse aspirations. As a result, imposing undifferentiated policies may treat people equally but not equitably."

"A national or provincial government can supplement its broad general purpose forms of support with spatially targeted assistance that is designed to address the particular needs of specific types of regions."

"For example, in rural regions there is no school choice and access to school may entail a long bus ride to and from home. Similarly, while both urban and rural residents may have access to health care on equivalent financial terms, rural residents will have fewer options in terms of doctors and facilities and will have to travel long distances to an urban area for tertiary care services or access to specialists."

"As the OECD has observed, a small number of large-population urban regions, like the GTA, account for a disproportionate share of economic growth across the OECD, but an even larger share of growth comes from the very large number of small-population regions that account for the vast share of territory and the majority of the population (OECD, 2012). If economic growth can be enhanced in those smaller regions where it is currently weak, this not only leads to clear benefits for the residents of these regions, but also for the provinces and nations in which they are located."