Oxford candidates in the June 2 provincial election are set to take the stage in Embro on Wednesday for a debate on agricultural issues facing the farm-heavy region.
Oxford County Federation of Agriculture, which represents farmers and agri-businesses, is hosting the in-person debate from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Embro Zorra Community Centre, northwest of Woodstock. The debate will also be livestreamed on Facebook.
“It’s a debate geared toward agriculture, and anyone is able to come,” said Dirk Boogerd, president of the organization, adding questions from the audience have to submitted in written form and will be asked by the moderator.
It's anticipated the questions at the event called Policy and Pie will cover such key topics as the loss of farmland to development, urban boundary lines, infrastructure investments, commodity restrictions and property taxes for farmers.
Along with the county seat in Woodstock, Oxford County is known as Canada’s dairy capital. It's home to more than 300 milk producers and is a key contributor to the province’s agricultural sector, with more than 87 per cent of the county's land used for crops.
“We have the ability to grow different crops, and we have some of the best soil here in Oxford County as well, so is very important that our party leaders, and parties in general, are aware of all the issues and concerns, as well as opportunities that are here in Oxford County,” said Boogerd, who will chair the debate.
The candidates who confirmed their attendance as of Tuesday are Liberal candidate Mary Holmes, NDP candidate Lindsay Wilson, Ontario Party candidate Karl Toews and Progressive Conservative candidate Ernie Hardeman. Hardeman has been the longest-serving MPP in Oxford, holding the position since 1995.
After the debate, candidates and participants will have the chance to mingle and enjoy refreshments, including six types of pie catered by Janice’s Fine Country Catering.
The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
What: Policy and Pie, a candidates agriculture debate hosted by the Oxford County Federation of Agriculture
When: Wednesday, 7-9 p.m.
Where: Embro Zorra Community Centre main hall, 355644 35th Line Embro, or livestream at www.facebook.com/oxfordagriculture.
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press