Former federal agriculture minister from Saskatchewan will focus on trade as Great Britain adjusts to life after Brexit
Former Canadian agriculture minister Ralph Goodale is now the country’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom.
Goodale left late last month for his new position, which is equivalent to an ambassador in countries outside the British Commonwealth.
He said in an interview that agriculture and trade will be key parts of his work.
“That was one of the first questions I asked: ‘what are the trade volumes from Saskatchewan into the U.K.?’ ” he said.
“Our biggest single export is Canada number one red spring wheat, then lentils, and then durum and then chickpeas. Then you get to iron and steel products including, believe it or not, caskets, then linseed, animal feed, protein concentrates, farm equipment and machinery, plants and plant parts, and seeds.”
Merchandise trade between Canada and the United Kingdom is worth $30 billion per year while the trade in business services is $15 billion, he said.
Negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal will be a priority.
A temporary agreement is in place that maintains the tariff-free status Canada had with the U.K. when it was in the European Union.
Two immediate things on Goodale’s agenda are the G7 meetings in May and June and climate change meetings later in the year. The U.K. is chairing both of those events.
Goodale said the health challenges of COVID and the economic recovery from it will preoccupy the first meeting.
The climate change meetings should prove interesting because the United States is involved again after a four-year absence.
“I would like a result that works well for the world and works well for Canada and works well for Saskatchewan,” he said.
He said the Canadian high commission is located on Trafalgar Square in the heart of London and many provinces have offices within it or nearby.
Goodale, who always lists Wilcox, Sask., as his hometown, said Regina will remain his family’s base.
He is looking forward to learning a different level of diplomacy after 45 years of front-line politics.
“Getting used to that and understanding where the boundaries are, that’s going to be an interesting learning curve,” he said.
He added the honour and opportunity to represent Canada are special.
“To really make a useful mark in the world for Canada, that’s something that’s a great privilege,” he said.
Goodale was first elected federally in 1974 and then served as a provincial Liberal MLA and leader in the 1980s.
He was again elected federally in Wascana in 1993 and re-elected seven times before his defeat in 2019.
In addition to agriculture, he was minister of natural resources, public works and government services, finance, and public safety and emergency preparedness.