Manitoba farmer promises to highlight ag issues in Ottawa

Twenty years after he first tried and failed to win a Manitoba House of Commons seat, former farmer and farm leader Larry Maguire finally made it to Ottawa last week.

He was sworn in as the new MP for Brandon-Souris, quickly asked a government-friendly question in his first question period and was assigned a seat on the influential public safety and national security committee.

“That is a very important committee to me, coming from a riding on the border,” Maguire said.

However, he said agricultural issues remain key in his southwestern Manitoba riding, and he will work on those issues in Ottawa.

A priority will be supporting legislation to implement the Canada-European Union trade agreement when it comes before Parliament.

“The trade deal with Europe is very important for western Manitoba,” he said.

Beef and pork industries are a billion dollar part of the economy.

“Trade opportunities are key.”

Maguire said he will also strongly support the government’s omnibus agricultural bill, C-18, which is expected to be called for debate this winter.

Among its key provisions is strengthening protection for seed variety developers. Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said it is designed to attract more private sector investment into agricultural research and variety development.

Maguire said Manitoba growers need improved varieties of wheat, oats and sunflowers.

“New varieties are what have kept farmers in business over the years,” he said.

“I know that personally.”

Maguire, 64, farmed for decades in southwestern Manitoba, served as president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association for four years in the 1980s and while an opponent of the Canadian Wheat Board marketing monopoly, was elected to the CWB advisory committee for two terms over seven years in the 1980s and 1990s.

He was a founding member of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

His first run at federal politics came in 1993 during the election that saw the governing Progressive Conservatives reduced to just two seats: one in Quebec and one in New Brunswick. Maguire was trying to hold a seat that was considered a safe PC bastion.

Six years later, he was elected to the provincial legislature and served as an MLA for 13 years and four terms before resigning last year to make another try for a federal seat.

He held the traditionally Conservative seat in a late 2013 byelection but by fewer than 400 votes.

“We will work hard to strengthen our position there (before the scheduled October 2015 election),” he said.

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