The Progressive Conservatives want to make Ontario's trucks and buses a little greener by bringing in a requirement that two per cent of the diesel sold in the province be biodiesel.
Tory Leader Tim Hudak and MPP Ernie Hardeman unveiled the proposal as part of a policy paper on the province's agriculture industry and rural communities Thursday. They pitched the biodiesel mandate as a way to help farmers by giving them a new market for their grain.
"It's good for the environment, it reduces emissions out of the tailpipe, it will help create jobs in our province and also support the agriculture industry," Mr. Hudak said.
Some biodiesel companies have struggled recently and, earlier this year, the federal government announced it would wind down its subsidy program for them. The Tory proposal, if implemented, could create a larger provincial market for the fuel.
As part of the PC agriculture plan, the party also pledged to cut red tape for farmers by a third, such as by eliminating some permits and merging others; create a second food terminal in addition to the one in Toronto in order to connect restaurants and grocery stores with locally-grown produce; end the Liberal plan to integrate the horse-racing sector with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and give a portion of the federal gas tax to rural municipalities to pay for infrastructure repairs.
The Tories accused the Liberals of not doing enough to help farmers and other rural residents.
"We heard from people who are frustrated by the increasing red tape, people who were frustrated that the government doesn't consider the impact of their decisions on rural Ontario," Mr. Hardeman said. "And we heard from people who are frustrated at regulations that seem to be written in Toronto by people who have no knowledge of farming or rural Ontario."
The Liberals have drawn fire from countryside residents for building wind turbines near their land, and from the horse racing industry for ending a revenue-sharing agreement that used money from slot machines to fund racetracks.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, aware of her party's vulnerability in the area, appointed herself agriculture minister last month. In a joint statement with Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal, she said that the government is moving on some of the Tory ideas, such as by streamlining regulations.
"The new Ontario government is committed to working together to secure a prosperous future for our rural and agricultural communities. We are pleased the PCs agree with this important priority," the statement read. "We look forward to working with the PCs to increase consultation with rural communities and the agri-food sector regarding green energy and job creation."