Ag gets new minister in cabinet shuffle

The appointment last week of Marie-Claude Bibeau as federal agriculture minister likely sent many farmers and farm leaders to Google.

After nearly a full term of Prince Edward Island MP Lawrence MacAulay in charge of the agricultural file, they now have a new minister with little agriculture background to bring up to speed.

MacAulay was moved to Veterans Affairs after Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned.

Bibeau had been minister of international development but is now the first female to serve in the agriculture portfolio and the first Quebec MP to have the role in decades.

She represents Compton-Stanstead, a southern region that has dairy farms.

Before politics, Bibeau worked for the former Canadian International Development Agency and then opened her own small business. She was first elected in the 2015 election.

Jim Cornelius, executive director of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, dealt with Bibeau in her previous portfolio.

“We’ve had lots of conversations with Marie-Claude Bibeau as minister of international development,” he said. “She has been out to meet with some of our supporters. We have found her and her office to be very open and engaging with stakeholder groups.”

While her knowledge of large-scale, export-oriented western grain farming may be limited, Cornelius said he expects it won’t take Bibeau long to learn.

She has had experience in rural and local development and she isn’t coming from downtown Toronto, he observed.

Bibeau has been out to see one of the CFB projects in Eastern Canada but hadn’t made it to the West before her portfolio change.

Numerous farm organizations issued statements welcoming Bibeau and recognizing MacAulay for his work.

Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Mary Robinson said the organization was sad to see MacAulay leave, as he had become a strong ally.

“We hope to work closely with minister Bibeau to ensure that federal government policies are aligned with farmer priorities,” Robinson said.

Grain Growers of Canada echoed those sentiments.

“Grain farmers appreciate the positive relationship we’ve had with minister MacAulay over the past three years,” said chair Jeff Nielsen. “The minister’s open door policy for the agriculture industry meant that we could collaborate for real change on behalf of farmers.”

MacAulay played a role in the passing of new transportation legislation.

The Alberta Wheat Commission noted he also played a critical role in the efforts to keep cash-ticket deferrals.

“Minister MacAulay put farmers’ needs first when the cash-ticket deferral mechanism was on shaky ground,” said commission chair Gary Stanford.

MacAulay’s term will also be remembered for the negotiation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the new free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico.

Alberta Barley chair Dave Bishop said MacAulay’s work to further open the Chinese market was critical for competitiveness of Canadian barley.

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