Who does Premier Mike Harris think he's kidding? Not Ontario farmers,
that's for sure. Take welfare recipients and put them into back-breaking farm labor jobs to earn their keep?
Expect them to last? Replace hard-working Mexican migrants with them? Farmfare? Come on! The farmfare
suggestion was floated recently by Tory MPP Toni Skarica as a way to kick- start the province's stalled
workfare policy. Only a minuscule percentage of welfare recipients currently work for their money. Harris
pounced on the farmfare bandwagon, suggesting welfare recipients could replace migrant labor on Ontario
farms. He expressed regret farmers are forced to import help when there are idle, able-bodied people sitting
at home here. The farmfare concept was quickly dismissed by Grit Leader Dalton McGuinty as more manure
than common sense. He called the proposal a "smokescreen" to camouflage the fact workfare is a flop.
Farmers agree with Dalton. The suggestion has drawn derision from labor intensive Eastern Ontario produce
growers such as Calvin Dentz of Iroquois and Alex Just of Alexandria, both of whom rely on off-shore workers
to get their fruit and vegetables picked and packed for market. Both bluntly stated welfare recipients couldn't
stand the grind. "I'd give up. I'd put out a for sale sign," said Dentz when asked about replacing his nine
tomato and apple pickers from Mexico which Ontario welfare recipients. Added Just: "If I wanted to go
bankrupt... that's the only way I'd take welfare recipients instead of Mexicans." He currently employs 17
Mexicans who work hard to support families back home where there is no welfare. We're on side with Dalton
and the farmers on this one. Picking and packing is serious, time-sensitive business with no room for
slackers. Trying to keep supply up to demand is hard enough without coping with a workforce that doesn't
want to be there in the first place and doesn't mind showing it.