Opposition to local food part of a race to the bottom

From last week, the Toronto Star’s Paul Moloney:

The City of Toronto probably can’t afford to buy local food for its long-term care homes, shelters and daycare facilities, say some members of the government management committee.

Work on a buy-local policy began under former Mayor David Miller, but supporters of Mayor Rob Ford made it clear they don’t like it if it costs more.

“I think we should go out there and get the biggest bang for our buck,” said Councillor Doug Ford. “Yes, everyone wants to support Ontario-based food growers, but sometimes it’s just not realistic.”

via Toronto’s ‘buy local’ food policy under attack – thestar.com.

Later in the article, Councillor Paul Ainslie justifies the opinion by noting that he noticed quite a price difference between locally-produced and California-grown strawberries.

The city’s new strategy of going for the cheapest possible option above all else already burned them once, when the discount survey software they used for the Core Service Review frustrated a ton of people. This race to the bottom ignores that sometimes the city can make strategic investments that actually benefit the people in and around Toronto.

The buy-local policy, approved in an unrecorded vote by the previous council, set a target of 50% local food that was later found to be unworkable and unattainable. However, the consultant hired to look at the plan does lay out new targets, which would cap out at 25% local food purchasing, at cost of $125,000 per year to the city. You can read the report at the city’s website.

That cost is small potatoes given the city’s overall budget, and the economic benefits of buying local are bound to outweigh that figure. This doest feel like it should be a contentious issue. Instead, this opposition feels like the work of politicians who continue to believe that “public investment” is synonymous with “wasteful spending.”

A final decision will be made at this month’s council meeting.

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