She is an Albertan with substantial government experience both as a federal cabinet minister and a senior Alberta government bureaucrat.
He is a Saskatchewan guy with a long career as a senior federal public service.
These two are the one-two punch in running the federal government’s new food safety pyramid — health minister Rona Ambrose and deputy health minister George DaPont.
Last week, the government an-nounced it was moving responsibility for the food safety side of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency from Gerry Ritz’s Agriculture Canada to the health department led by Ambrose.
The move left some in the industry scratching their heads about the implications for them — for inspection and reaction during the next inevitable food safety crisis.
Ambrose, a nine-year MP from Edmonton, has held a number of cabinet portfolios since the Conservatives won power in 2006. Although she has no obvious agricultural credentials, she does understand how government works.
In Alberta, she was a senior official in the intergovernmental and international affairs bureaucracy. At federal Public Works Canada she earned a reputation as a “fixer,” getting movement on some major government military procurement projects that had been languishing.
In health, she has one of the most sprawling and complex departments in the government that requires significant dealings with provinces and health industry lobbies.
Some of these life lessons, power exercises and skills may come in handy as she takes over responsibility for the CFIA.
Opposition MPs already are calling for her to take charge, order an audit called for by fellow Edmontonian Sheila Weatherill after the 2008 listeria outbreak to find out what resources are available and are needed and demand that the CFIA get the resources it requires to do its job.
In some ways, she also is becoming something of a mini-agriculture minister.
Ambrose also has responsibility for the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, another agency that sometimes can get the government and its political minister in trouble.
And if she finds herself a bit confused or overwhelmed by the sharp politics and demands of the food safety system in Canada, she can always walk down the hall to talk to DaPont, her deputy minister.
DaPont made the move to health this summer after a long federal career that included heading up the Coast Guard.
But his greatest use to Ambrose in the days ahead will be his three years at the CFIA, two of them as president.
DaPont led the agency through some significant changes, did a credible job (when political bosses allowed) of explaining what went wrong during the 2012 XL Foods E. coli episode and began the work necessary within the agency to create the regulations needed to bring the Safe Foods for Canadians Act into effect by 2015. He knows his way around the CFIA labyrinth as well as the corridors of power.
In Ottawa circles, a more unknown commodity at this point is new CFIA president Bruce Archibald, a former deputy agriculture minister in Ontario who has not yet faced the public glare to test his mettle on a food safety issue but that will come soon.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present your new food safety team.