by Michael Jiggins, Executive Assistant to Steve Clark, MPP, Leeds-Grenville, written November 28, 2013
Stop Treating Local Food Like Cash Cow, MPP Tells Finance Minister
(QUEEN’S PARK) – MPP Steve Clark stood up today for local food producers in Leeds-Grenville whose entrepreneurial efforts are being plowed under by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).
During Question Period this morning, Clark called on Finance Minister Charles Sousa to take action immediately to end MPAC’s practice of slapping local food producers with punitive industrial and commercial property tax designations.
“So much effort is being put into growing the local food initiatives in Leeds-Grenville,” said Clark. “We have some of the best producers anywhere in Ontario and promoting them is an important part of our economic development as a region. But if MPAC continues its ridiculous policy of treating these farm-based operations like big business, it will jeopardize what we’re trying to build here.”
Clark told Sousa that MPAC has already shut down the pancake house at Edgewood Farms in Elizabethtown-Kitley Township by forcing owners David and Terry McGurrin to pay year-round commercial property taxes despite the fact it’s open for just six weeks.
“Shutting them down wasn’t enough. MPAC is hassling them about changing the commercial designation – interrogating Terry about displaying maple syrup and owning a cash register or pancake griddles,” said Clark during Question Period.
The MPP also raised the experience of artisanal cheesemaker Nigel Smith of Bush Garden Farmstead Cheese in Rideau Lakes Township, who faces a major increase in his property taxes because MPAC has designated part of the farm industrial.
“Industrial is the opposite of what happens there,” Clark told Minister Sousa, adding later in his supplementary question, “Nigel Smith spent 3½ years cutting through your red tape to make world-class cheese and MPAC jeopardized his future in one visit.”
While Minister Sousa stated in his response that the issue would be studied as part of an MPAC review, Clark stressed Ontario’s local food producers don’t need more study.
“What they need is a government to understand that you can’t claim to be supporting local food if you allow MPAC’s taxmen to penalize farm owners for producing it,” said Clark. “We don’t need another study, we need the minister to do his job and order MPAC to stop treating local food producers like a cash cow.”
Disappointed with the response, Clark has requested a further debate on the issue, which is scheduled to take place on the afternoon of Tuesday, December 3.
A video of MPP Clark’s question can be viewed on his YouTube site here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWCTDIMosM8&feature=c4-overview&list=UU7z4tkjJhaY7q6Dg2fDG1xA