The Green Party of Canada has added a second agriculture critic to its ranks.
Former NDP MP Jean Rousseau, who lost his seat to Liberal Cabinet Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, has jumped ship and joined the fold of the Green party.
Rousseau, who hails from Quebec, has been named the party’s agriculture critic for Eastern Canada. He will also serve as the party’s forestry critic.
Green party Leader Elizabeth May announced Rousseau’s appointment at a news conference in Ottawa May 2.
“I’m really thrilled that Jean Rousseau, former member of Parliament for Compton-Stanstead, has decided to join the Green party and has, today, accepted a role in my shadow cabinet,” May said.
Manitoba farmer Kate Storey will remain the party’s agriculture critic in Western Canada, May said, adding the party has historically had two agriculture critics. (Sharon Labchuck, who most recently served as Green party leader in Prince Edward Island, is the last to have served as the party’s eastern agriculture critic.)
Rousseau’s leap from the NDP to the Greens comes as the NDP continues to try and find its footing in Ottawa after its devastating loss in last October’s election.
On May 2, the former Quebec MP said his decision to leave the NDP was prompted by the party’s lack of action on environmental files and its inability to defend small-scale, niche agriculture producers.
“The NDP has an interesting agriculture platform, but we always forget the little producers,” Rousseau said in French. “There are significant numbers of small producers in Quebec. Huge amounts. Huge amounts.”
“Agriculture in Quebec is not the same as agriculture in Western Canada or other parts of Canada,” he stressed. “We have a lot of small family farms … who need help, especially around getting new products to market.”
The NDP, he said, had no plan in its platform to help those small niche producers and organic farmers.
A musician and technician by trade, Rousseau does not come from an agriculture background, although he told reporters he spent time in his youth working on a farm.
The agricultural sector, he stressed, is a critical piece of his riding’s economic engine. “Agriculture is extremely important,” he explained, noting 45 percent of his riding is tied to the industry.
Rousseau said his decision to leave the NDP, which he admitted has stirred his former colleagues, was a personal one.
“I have two young children. I want them to eat healthy food and have access to portable water,” Rousseau said. “The Green party is the party of the future.”
Asked whether he plans to run for the Greens in 2019 he replied: “We’ll see, but it’s definitely a possibility.”