Ontario’s new Local Food Act (2013) came into effect this year. Its stated goals are to “foster successful and resilient local food economies and systems in Ontario, help increase awareness of local food in Ontario, and develop new markets for local food”1. Article 4(1) of the Act requires that the Minister of Agriculture establish goals or targets to aspire to in the following areas:
- Improving food literacy in respect of local food.
- Encouraging increased use of local food by public sector organizations.
- Increasing access to local food.
In addition to setting aspirational targets for public sector organizations, the Minister can also request information of public sector organizations if it fulfills one of four needs laid out in Article 5(1), one of which is an annual report on the progress of public sector institutions towards achieving established local food procurement targets. Article 2 of the Act defines ‘public sector organizations’ to include provincial agencies, municipalities, universities and colleges, school boards, hospitals and long term care homes, and other publicly governed organizations.
While targets are indeed ‘aspirational’ at this point in time, the Local Food Act may indicate the direction of future provincial efforts to support local Ontario food. Public sector organizations will benefit from setting baselines, working with suppliers, and making early progress before more stringent legislation is introduced. Until then, progressive organizations can receive public recognition for their efforts through the Minister’s annual report.
Of course, public sector organizations must still adhere to the Broader Public Sector (BPS) Procurement Directive. The Directive is a legal rule book for spending tax dollars, and must be adhered to by all BPS institutions receiving in excess of $10 million in government funding. The purpose of the Directive is to:
- Ensure that publicly funded goods and services, including construction, consulting services and information technology, are acquired by BPS organizations through a process that is open, fair and transparent;
- Outline responsibilities of BPS organizations throughout each stage of the procurement process; and
- Ensure that procurement processes are managed consistently throughout the BPS
More information on the BPS Procurement Directive can be found in the Ontario Ministry of Finance’s Implementation Guidebook.
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- http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/localfood.htm [↩]