by SUSAN MANN
Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Mark Wales says Premier Kathleen Wynne’s move to also name herself agriculture minister enormously increases the profile of the province’s farming and food industry.
“She said she wants to make it work,” he says. “She’s taken the portfolio and that shows a commitment and I’m willing to give it all the time and effort necessary.”
Wales made the comments after Premier and Agriculture Minister Wynne, along with her 27-member cabinet, were sworn in at Queen’s Park Monday. Wales was invited by the new premier to attend the ceremony and that’s possibly the first time a federation president has received such an invitation.
The cabinet includes some familiar faces along with several new people. Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal is the new minister of rural affairs as Wynne has divided up the agriculture and rural affairs portfolios.
“The premier recognizes that she has to speak to everybody and she’s putting out the olive branch to the opposition to work together,” Wales says, noting the challenge will be having enough opportunities to get the changes rural Ontarians need.
For farmers, Wynne needs to work with them and focus on fixing the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and endangered species legislations and developing a definition of primary agriculture under the Assessment Act. There’s also work to do on green energy and hydro, he says.
Some observers have said Wynne’s move to be agriculture minister is an attempt to get back voters the Liberals lost in the 2011 election. Wales says results will convince voters. “There’s lots of those things that can be fixed and getting them done is what rural voters will judge the premier and party on,” he says.
Other MPPs that hold ministries farmers deal with include:
• St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley – environment
• Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti – natural resources
• Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi – labour
• Ottawa West-Nepean MPP Bob Chiarelli – energy minister
• Mississauga South MPP Charles Sousa – finance minister
• Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray – infrastructure and transportation
• Brampton-Springdale MPP Linda Jeffrey – municipal affairs and housing
• Ottawa-Vanier MPP Madeleine Meilleur – community safety and correctional services (that covers the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
Previous agriculture minister Ted McMeekin moved to community and social services while London North Centre MPP Deb Matthews remains as health minister and is deputy premier.
Wales says one thing he’s waiting to see is who the parliamentary assistants for the premier and agriculture ministry will be. Those people haven’t been named yet. BF