“GROUP SAYS TOBACCO BUYOUT PLAN FLAWED; AG. MINISTRY TO AUDIT”
(“Physicians For A SmokeFree Canada” recently issued a statment criticizing last year’s federal tobacco farmers’ buyout plan, saying there are reports that farmers are abusing it. The first article is from The National Post of Feb. 24 about that statement. The second article is a letter to The National Post on March 1 from the Minister of Agriculture in response. The third article is an email received from Mr. Collishaw of the Physicians group in response to an AylmerNews inquiry. )
“(Reprinted from The NP Feb. 24)” When the federal government offered $286-million in buyouts to Ontario’s tobacco growers last year, the vast majority took the payments, designed to usher them out of a fast-shrinking industry. Given an average of $275,000 each, they were supposed to plant another crop, or maybe even try a different line of work entirely, federal ministers said at the time. The Tobacco Transition Program has not worked out that way. In the first season since the government issued those payments, just as much tobacco has been harvested as the year before, and as many as 100 of the farmers who took the buyout still seem involved in producing tobacco. In fact, federal officials have indicated buyout recipients can legally rent their land and machinery — or even hire themselves out as employees to holders of new tobaccogrowing licences. In many cases, sources say, the buyout recipients are farming the same land as always after relatives or acquaintances — some of them with full-time jobs in other places — obtained a licence to grow.
“The real problem here is the government has designed a program with loopholes bigenough to drive trucks through,” said Neil Collishaw, research director with Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada. “The rules … allow people to continue to be involved in tobacco growing, even though they collected a quarter-million dollars of taxpayers’ money to do something else.” One resident of the southwestern Ontario tobacco belt where most of the province’s tobacco is grown said he knows of two farmers who took the buyout last year, had adult children obtain a growing licence and continued to produce tobacco. The man asked not to be named because of local sensitivities around the issue. He said he is aware of another two farmers who sat out last year after taking buyouts, but plan to get back into it this coming season, with sons or daughters obtaining the licences as what some locals are calling “fake farmers.” “It’s just not right to the ordinary person who pays taxes, to see these guys double dipping,” said the tobacco-belt resident. “The government didn’t handle it right. It was a colossal waste of money. They just handed it out like free money, and these guys are laughing all the way to the bank.”
But Fred Neukamm, chairman of the Ontario Fluecured Tobacco Marketing Board, argued the program was not a failure, stating that the majority of those who took the transition payments to avoid “suffocating” under a mountain of debt are now completely free of tobacco farming. But with demand from manufacturers increasing, even more tobacco may be harvested this coming season than last year’s 22 million pounds, and much of it on farms owned by buyout recipients, he said.”
(Response to NP article by Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Foot, in NP March 1.) “This article raises some questions about the Tobacco Transition Program. Readers should know that the previous tobacco quota system put producers in a desperate situation as their quota had become virtually worthless. The Tobacco Transition Program ended the quota system and gave producers the opportunity to exit the industry without facing the very real prospect of losing everything. Those who participated in the program cannot receive a licence to produce tobacco. In 2008 there were 446 tobacco producers — in 2009 Ontario has issued tobacco licences to only 118 producers through the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers’ Marketing Board.
For many producers, tobacco production is the only job they are trained to do and the program does allow them to work for, or rent their land, to a qualified licencee. However, they cannot profit from tobacco sales and any wages or rent they receive must be at fair market value as though they were engaged in any other type of agriculture.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will begin auditing producers in April, to ensure that tobacco licences have not been granted to producers who participated in the program or their spouses and dependent children. Further audits will ensure that program requirements are being met. If the audit process shows that any program recipient violated the terms and conditions of the Tobacco Transition Program, they will be required to repay all of the funding from the program with interest.”
(Reply from Mr. Collishaw to AylmerNews about this response) “Thank you for your query about tobacco agriculture. According to Agriculture Canada, it is perfectly alright for tobacco farmers who took the buyout to continue in tobacco farming. All they have to do is produce some paperwork that proves they are no longer a tobacco farmer-entrepreneur, but an employee. Under these circumstances, people who took the buyout can continue as full-time tobacco farmers on their own land with own equipment.”
–Aylmer water testing, 8 pm until 8 am Thursday (restrict water use!)
-EESS Coffee House
-(Thursday: Blood Donor Clinic at EECC)
WORLD JR MENS CURLING (Craig VanYmeren in Switzerland):
Tuesday – Canada 6 Sweden 5; Canada 11 Denmark 6 (W 5, L 1 = tied for first)
“AYLMER ATOMS FINALS SCHEDULE:”
Game #1 March 11 at 6:45pm in Aylmer (Thursday)
Game #2 March 13 at 3:50pm in Mitchell
Game #3 March 14 at 1:45pm in Aylmer (Sunday)
Game #4 March 20 at 3:50pm in Mitchell [if necesary]
Game #5 March 22 at 6:45pm in Aylmer [if necessary]
Game #6 March 28 at 12:00pm in Mitchell [if necessary]
Best 3 out of 5 or 6 [six point series]
“COMMUNITY LIVING / EARLY LEARNING NOW USING NEW BUILDING IN AYLMER”
(Tom McCallum, Elgin CLC Executive Director reports that the group has been using their new building – the former Atlantic Fish/Chips on John St North – for a few weeks now. The north part is the site of the Early Learning Centre. Supervisor Bev Fellows tells what is going on there)
“There are two sides to the new building. As for the Ontario Early Years Centre, we are a drop in centre for families and caregivers with children from 0-6yrs. We offer a variety of resources and activities to help support parents so that all children can reach their fullest potential. All programs offered at OEYC are free. We are open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30-12:30 for drop in and Tuesdays from 8:30-12:30 for Baby Time. We have several partnerships with other agencies that will use the space in the afternoons for their own programs. ”
-On 26 Feb, 7:32am OPP responded to a single Motor Vehicle Collision on Imperial Road south of College Line, Township of Malahide, Elgin County. POLICE attended the location and observed a lone motor vehicle located in the West ditch facing North East on the driver side. POLICE attended the complainants address and spoke with the male driver. The driver advised that while on his way to work his motor vehicle left the roadway and flipped onto its side. Driver advised that he was going 20 – 30 km/hr as he just turned onto Imperial Road from College Line. Driver advised that he encountered an ice patch and the vehicle spun around entering the ditch backwards. Nno damage done to property just motor vehicle. No charges and no injuries.
“X-AYLMERITE, RHONDA WALCARIUS VOLUNTEERED AT THE OLYMPICS”
(Rhonda Walcarius, formerly of Aylmer, now a research MR technologist in Toronto, provided this info on her experience as a volunteer at the Olympics.)
“I volunteered as an MR technologist at the Polyclinic in the athlete’s village in Whistler. I worked 13 consecutive 8-hour shifts. Most of the scans I performed were musculoskeletal. I scanned athletes, delegates (trainers, coaches, etc.) and the VANOC workforce. I went to see the final of the mens normal hill ski jumping and the womens 7.5km biathlon. Both were amazing. You get a totally different perspective of these events then what you see on television. I also was given the opportunity to be at the dress rehearsal show for the opening of the Olympics. We got to see everything except the torch coming into the stadium, the athletes and who would be carrying the olympic flag. The Vancouver olympic committee did an amazing job organizing all of the events and getting all of the venues ready. I learned just how truly dedicated the athletes are in preparing and performing at the Olympics. I saw how the people of Whistler and Vancouver rose to the occasion and welcomed everyone into their cities. I felt the rush of Canadian pride that was so prevalent at these games. Whistler is one of the most beautiful places I have seen.”