Prairie farmers may wonder if someone from the Maritimes can represent the interests of western Canadian agriculture, but producers in Prince Edward Island have confidence in Lawrence MacAulay.
“Lawrence likes to mix with the people. He’s an ordinary guy…. He’ll listen to you and he’ll try to do the best to accommodate you or solve your problem,” said Dave Thompson, president of the P.E.I. Grain Elevators Corporation.
“I think Lawrence will do an excellent job.”
MacAulay, who has served as an MP from P.E.I. for 27 years, was sworn in as Canada’s new agriculture minister Nov. 4 in Ottawa.
MacAulay, 69, was a seed potato grower and dairy farmer before entering politics in 1988. He has won nine consecutive elections and is the longest serving MP in the history of P.E.I.
The MacAulay selection was a curious choice for many in the agriculture industry. More people are familiar with P.E.I.’s Wayne Easter, an MP who served as federal agriculture critic for the Liberals.
“I was surprised…. He’s not a young man. It’s a large role to take on. I was surprised but extremely happy to have someone who is a farmer (to) represent farmers,” said United Potato Growers of Canada general manager Kevin MacIsaac from his office in Charlottetown.
MacIsaac said MacAulay is well liked in the province and respected in the agricultural community.
“He’s a guy who takes his job, representing the people, very seriously. He shows up at every meeting, wake, funeral, wedding…. He takes care of his constituents.”
The 4,000 kilometres between P.E.I. and Saskatchewan present a geographic challenge, but the new minister has the right stuff to serve farmers across the country, Thompson said.
“I think he’ll be very strong in the ag sector, as far as standing up for farmers. He stands up for people. He will fight for the individual,” he said. “I think he understands a lot of western issues now … but any organization around, he’ll be willing to listen to them and hear what their story is.”