Williams Orchards stocks fruit daily at the Pelham St. fruit stand, Sept. 13, 2012 in Pelham, ON.
Credits: MARYANNE FIRTH/WELLAND TRIBUNE/QMI AGENCY
"If every one of our families were to spend $10 more every week on Ontario foods, that would have a $2.4 billion impact on the economy and create 10,000 jobs," McGuinty said, while at the International Plowing Match in Roseville, near Waterloo.
"So we've got a new bill that we will shortly be introducing, the Local Food Act."
McGuinty promised to consult with the public, industry and opposition parties before introducing the bill, and said supporting Ontario farmers wouldn't have to mean more spending for the cash-strapped province.
"We're buying the food anyway right now, for example, in our public institutions," he said. "It's just a matter of ensuring that we're using our purchasing power to support local agriculture."
Opposition parties expressed cautious support for the proposal, but suggested McGuinty was merely throwing a bone to a rural community deeply unhappy with his government.
The Liberals lost several ridings to anti-wind farm sentiment in the 2011 election and have since pulled the plug on a lucrative revenue-sharing deal with racetracks, angering the horse racing industry.
"I worry the current government has forgotten about rural and small-town Ontario," Tory Leader Tim Hudak said.
"You can't have a healthy, thriving province of Ontario that is leading Canada again without small-town Ontario firing in all cylinders."
The proposed Liberal bill looks a lot like something the New Democrats introduced two years ago, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said. "I would hope that if all three parties are committed to farming communities like we all say we are, then we should be able to get something happening on this," Horwath said.
She said she hoped the Liberal bill would include firm targets on the amount of Ontario grown food ministries should buy, and encouragement for large grocery chains to showcase local produce.