Bibeau stays on in federal ag portfolio

Marie-Claude Bibeau has been re-appointed federal agriculture minister.

The Quebec MP served in the post since March 1 and was re-elected in last month’s general election.

She returns to deal with continuing market access concerns in China and other countries, the review of business risk management programs and the current strike hampering grain movement at CN.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the cabinet Nov. 20 and while some ministers will remain in the portfolios they had, including Transport Minister Marc Garneau, some high-profile ministers have moved.

Chrystia Freeland had been foreign affairs minister but is now charged with building relationships across Canada as minister in charge of intergovernmental affairs and deputy prime minister.

Francois-Phillipe Champagne takes over at foreign affairs.

Catherine McKenna moves from environment to infrastructure and communities, and Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson takes over at environment.

Freeland and Wilkinson both have connections in provinces where the Liberals did not elect any members of Parliament, in Alberta and Saskatchewan, respectively, although pundits cautioned not to read too much into that. Freeland represents an Ontario riding, while Wilkinson was re-elected in North Vancouver.

International Trade Minister Jim Carr from Manitoba, who was diagnosed with cancer just as the campaign ended, was not named to cabinet, but is a special representative to Western Canada, reporting to cabinet.

Dan Vandal, also from Winnipeg, is a cabinet newcomer in northern affairs.

Nova Scotia MP Bernadette Jordan, who had been rural development minister, moves to fisheries.

Minister of labour Filomena Tassi was also sworn-in and is being called upon by industry to immediately deal with a strike at CN Rail and requests to recall Parliament early if necessary.

Tassi’s office is expected to take a leading role in handling the issue of 3,200 striking conductors, train and yard workers at Canadian National Railway, which is expected to affect bulk freight traffic and the movement of western Canadian grain.

Ministers were non-committal on forcing employees back to work. Tassi told reporters following her swearing-in that she had spoken with both parties and her priority is to ensure they are working hard to come to an agreement.

Garneau said, “We feel there is a solution at hand” and a “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Bibeau is also facing continued calls for business risk management and advanced payment programs to be redeveloped. Grain Growers of Canada are continuing to ask the federal government to have coverage of margin losses below 85 per cent be included along with the removal of the reference margin limit.

Francois-Philippe Champagne is the new minister of foreign affairs and will take over the leading role dealing with China, the two detained Canadians, extradition issues for Sabrina Meng of Huawei and the canola file as it relates to international relations.

B.C. MP Jonathan Wilkinson, the new environment and climate change minister was considered a natural choice to take over the position from Catherine McKenna because of his previous work in the sector. Wilkinson has roots in Saskatchewan, as he worked for former NDP Premier Roy Romanow. Producers’ concerns over carbon taxes related to grain drying, fertilizer and grain transportation and other related issues will also fall on Wilkinson’s shoulders.

Bibeau’s appointment was met with a flurry of press releases from industry groups congratulating her.

“We are looking forward to continuing our relationship with Minister Bibeau and the Cabinet as a whole over the coming months and years,” said GGC Chair Jeff Nielsen in a release. “We are ready to carry on the important work of ensuring a competitive environment where Canadian agriculture can survive and thrive.”

“On behalf of pork producers across Canada, I would like to congratulate Minister Bibeau on her appointment as Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada” read a statement from Rick Bergmann, chair of the Canadian Pork Council. “Over the past 9 months, producers have appreciated her availability to hear concerns and work on solutions. The collaboration shown by staff under her leadership has been very much appreciated by the pork sector.”

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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