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Serve only French’s ketchup at Queen's Park: MPP

Dalson Chen, Postmedia Network

Taras Natyshak, New Democrat MPP for Essex, holds a bottle of French's ketchup by his fridge. (Postmedia Network)

Taras Natyshak, New Democrat MPP for Essex, holds a bottle of French's ketchup by his fridge. (Postmedia Network)

WINDSOR - 

When there’s ketchup on the table in Ontario’s halls of power, it should be only French’s brand. So believes Taras Natyshak.

The New Democrat MPP for Essex is launching a petition that demands the Legislative Assembly of Ontario direct its hospitality services to serve exclusively French’s ketchup — the brand that “proudly uses tomatoes grown in Leamington, Ont.”

“This is an opportunity for Queen’s Park to demonstrate leadership and support local production and industry through our procurement policy,” Natyshak said.

The petition notes that the ketchup currently being served in the dining room and cafeteria at Queen’s Park is not an Ontario product.

It argues that “promotion of French’s ketchup would greatly support local tomato producers, local workers, and communities across Essex County.”

According to the petition, switching to French’s ketchup would follow the legislature’s history of promoting Ontario offerings such as craft beer, wine, fruits and vegetables. “Supporting the agri-food industry is good economics, good environmental policy, and social practice.”

As of 8:00 p.m. Thursday, Natyshak’s online petition had nearly 300 signatures.

H.J. Heinz Co. was Leamington’s biggest employer before it closed its ketchup-making plant in June 2014, costing the community 740 jobs.

Highbury Canco bought the plant and restarted production shortly after, but with half the employees, and at lower pay.

Last week, a Facebook post by Orillia resident Brian Fernandez went viral, extolling the virtues of French’s ketchup and sympathizing with Leamington over the loss of Heinz jobs.

Leamington Mayor John Paterson said he appreciates the passion for ketchup made with Leamington tomatoes. But he pointed out that the plant still processes tomatoes that end up in bottles with Heinz labels.

“Highbury Canco has a five-year contract with the Heinz company to produce many Heinz products — vinegar, pasta sauce, tomato juice.”

Paterson said the connection between French’s ketchup and Highbury Canco is great for local farmers, but “the 400-plus employees who are at the plant are dependent upon other products as well.”

Nevertheless, Paterson said he’ll sign Natyshak’s petition as it’s worded on the website. “It’s just promoting the ketchup. We’re not boycotting Heinz. Nobody is boycotting Heinz.”