The town council of Bradford West Gwillimbury, Ont., has endorsed the right-to-repair movement and passed a resolution asking the federal government to expedite promised public consultations. The town is particularly interested in measures that would give the agricultural community access to timely equipment repairs.

The town, about 60 kilometres north of Toronto, is encircled by farming communities. Agriculture is the biggest economic driver of the town, which is one of Canada's fastest-growing communities.

The town council says the agricultural sector has unique needs related to specialized electronic farm equipment and needs the ability to make repairs in a timely and affordable manner, especially during the growing season.

“Supporting right to repair is a win-win in that it helps reduce waste to protect our planet and to save consumers money,” said Coun. Jonathan Scott, chair of the town’s green initiatives advisory committee. “It ensures consumers are able to reasonably access repair services for electronic devices at a fair price and ends the monopolies technology companies hold on repairing their own products.”

This measure will also help reduce waste by fighting planned obsolescence, where companies make products only intended to last for a period of some years, he said.

Scott told Canada’s National Observer it is worse when farmers are in the middle of planting season and their new farming equipment breaks down and must be shipped away for repair. Sometimes, they wait six weeks just to get a response from the manufacturer, and possibly longer for someone to do repairs that farmers are perfectly able to do on their own. It is frustrating when it is really a simple fix that could have just been done on the farm, he added.

“Farmers and growers are intimately familiar with the particular nuances of this issue when it comes to increasingly high-tech agricultural equipment. As the ‘soup and salad bowl of Canada,’ Bradford West Gwillimbury is home to many farmers and growers, so we know first-hand how important an issue this is and how critical proper consultations with the sector will be,” said Scott.

“A lot of my growers have equipment they can’t fix by themselves or get fixed,” said Jody Mott, executive director of Holland Marsh Growers’ Association, which represents more than 126 farms in the Holland Marsh area. “There is a farmer who actually has a tractor right now that has been broken down. First of all, it took them three weeks to get the person to come and look at it from the company, and now the company is trying to troubleshoot it and the parts will take another six weeks to arrive. Well, we already passed that part of the planting season. He wasn’t allowed to look at it or fix it by himself.”

Mott said years ago, farmers were always able to maintain their own equipment, but today with digital technology, it is getting harder and harder for farmers to fix their equipment.

The town council says the agricultural sector has unique needs related to specialized electronic farm equipment and needs the ability to make repairs in a timely and affordable manner, especially during the growing season. #RightToRepair.

“We need a quick turnaround while keeping the safety of the workers, the farm safety, as the environmental issues at hand are secure and safe,” said Mott.

“The biggest thing is to repair their equipment. Farmers rely on the weather, so when they have a moment, they need to have good, dependable equipment to run, and if it goes down, they only have a small window to bring it back up...” she added.

In Budget 2023, the federal government announced it will work toward implementing right-to-repair regulations to make it easier and cheaper for Canadians to fix, rather than replace, appliances and electronics. The government said consultations will begin this summer.

At the beginning of this month, the Quebec government proposed an amendment to the province’s Consumer Protection Act that aims to prohibit the sale of products with planned obsolescence. If it passes, the legislation will also mandate manufacturers and retailers to provide affordable replacement parts and repair services for the products they sell in the province.

Last month, research published by the University of Waterloo found Canadian e-waste has more than tripled in the last 20 years. In 2020, Canadians generated close to one million tonnes of e-waste — appliances such as cellphones, computers, TVs and home appliances that are old, broken or unwanted. The amount of e-waste per person increased from 8.3 kilograms in 2000 to 25.3 kilos in 2020, and is expected to continue rising in the near future, the report reads.

This story was produced in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights for the Afghan Journalists-in-Residence program funded by the Meta Journalism Project.

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