The Stratford Gazette
November 10, 2011
Jeff Heuchert – Staff Reporter
Randy Pettapiece will head to Queen’s Park in just over a week for the start of the 40th Ontario Legislature with a new title to go along with that of rookie parliamentarian.
The Progressive Conservative MPP for Perth-Wellington, who pulled off one of the bigger upsets in last month’s provincial election in defeating Liberal incumbent John Wilkinson, was recently appointed official opposition deputy critic for agriculture.
Speaking with the Gazette Monday, Pettapiece said he was honoured to have been chosen by party leader Tim Hudak to serve in the position, one that will find him working closely with neighbouring Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman, who was reappointed the PC’s critic for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
“Ernie and I will be working as a team. We’ll be getting together soon … talking about what we want to achieve.”
Near the top of the to-do list, according to Pettapiece, is to continue pressuring the Liberals for a moratorium on new industrial wind farms until a complete health study is completed, and to return local planning powers back to municipalities.
“It’s a big concern across this riding,” he noted.
And in light of the recently uncovered documents by the CBC that suggest the previous government collected hundreds of health complaints while downplaying the problem, Pettapiece believes the issue is far from over.
“Those (reports) have to be investigated; let’s see if it’s a health issue on these farms or if it isn’t, but we have to investigate them.”
Another priority, said Pettapiece, is getting more farmers onside with the province’s new Risk Management program. Introduced in the Liberals’ March budget, the support program helps insulate producers of a wide range of commodities against market volatility.
Pettapiece said there is still some confusion amongst farmers whether they should sign up for the program. He noted grain producers are also currently experiencing favourable prices and have therefore been less inclined to participate as a result.
“I think they need to understand how the program works and maybe people will be a little more comfortable with buying into it.”
Pettapiece was joined by family and friends in Toronto at a swearing-in ceremony on Nov. 4. He said he is anxious to begin his first term in parliament, which is set to begin on Nov. 21,
As for Premier McGuinty’s throne speech, which will lay out the government’s economic plan for the next term, Pettapiece, noting his background in municipal politics – he served as councillor for Elma Ward on North Perth council – said he hopes to see a commitment to spending dollars on infrastructure.
“I’m going to make sure the government carries through with its past commitments for funding,” he added.
Pettapiece said he would also like to see the gas tax program expanded so that smaller municipalities without transit systems can still qualify for funding.
Pointing to the recent announcement that FRAM would be shutting down its plant in Stratford, Pettapiece said the province has to do more to create a welcoming and sustainable environment for industry so that manufacturing jobs aren’t lost.
“We’ve got to start making it more industry friendly in Ontario … because we’re going to be in worse shape than a few years ago.”
Pettapiece is also waiting cautiously for the South West Local Health Integration Network to decide whether to move forward with the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance plan to reduce the hours of the emergency room at St. Marys Memorial Hospital – something the first-time MPP doesn’t want to see happen.
To make himself available to his constituents, Pettapiece has opened an office in the space formerly occupied by John Wilkinson on Lorne Avenue in Stratford. He is also looking at renting space for short periods of time in communities in the north end of the riding.