By MPP Toby Barrett

As Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), the subject of hunting season often comes up.  But as an MPP in the Doug Ford government, there’s another hunting season – red tape and high taxes are the quarry.  And it’s now an open season.

This week in Toronto, as Parliamentary Assistant to MNRF, municipal delegations shared with me their concerns at ROMA – the Rural Ontario Municipal Association. 

ROMA truly underscores the importance and influence of rural and small-town Ontario.  And this isn’t lost on Premier Ford. In his speech to attendees, he recognized the significance of rural matters, because, as he said, “Our rural communities are the lifeblood of Ontario – the farmers, factory towns, workers, and small business owners. These hard-working folks put Ontario on the map.”

These hard-working folks are sick of working hard just to make ends meet, of wasteful spending, high taxation, and red tape. 

We’re cutting red tape that duplicates, and is illogical and ill-founded.  We’re working hard to make it easier for sectors like farming, manufacturing, and construction.

We have long known we are over-regulated.  Ontario is the most regulated area in Canada. People are shocked to hear there are actually 380,000 regulations. How can business in Ontario survive hampered by 380,000 regulations in a highly-competitive world? It hobbles business and makes it near-impossible to expand or create jobs.

We’re chopping red tape by over 25 per cent. And that’s only the beginning.  We need to return Ontario to its place as the economic engine of Canada, and empower rural communities to grow and prosper.

Cutting red tape also affects the cost of government and the culture of government. The culture was to tax people to death. That is quickly changing. An example is gasoline.

Rural people worry about gas prices. Driving isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. The Ontario government has listened and is putting money back in people’s pockets. Recent policy has reduced gas prices by five cents a litre.

Rural and small-town folks shared their hatred for the cap-and-trade carbon tax – described as simply the worst tax to be dumped on an overburdened population. So it was scrapped to save an average $260 a year in, for example, home heating costs.

We haven’t stopped with the carbon tax. Fees are being frozen for driving, fishing, and hunting.

We have also acted on natural gas, especially in farming communities. The message was clear, those in the country need natural gas. The previous government limited private sector involvement and tried a $100 million program run from a centralised Toronto bureaucracy. It didn’t work.

We are committed to enabling privately-funded natural gas expansion and making it easier to switch to cheaper natural gas. Expansion will include as many as 78 communities and 33,000 rural households. Natural gas bills will keep going down. That’s more money for families, businesses, and job creators.

Also, at the behest of rural municipalities, we are working to develop a sensible solution to the joint and several insurance liability chill, which can prevent everyday classic Canadian activities, like tobogganing or street hockey. 

Finally, being a government that is always hunting for savings and tracking down unnecessary regulation, please share your ideas.