CAQ taps businessman as Quebec’s new ag minister

Andre Lamontagne among party's returning MNAs

Andre Lamontagne, shown here at left at a press conference in May 2017 with CAQ leader Francois Legault, is Quebec's new agriculture minister. (Video screengrab from AssNat.qc.ca)

Quebec’s new governing party has turned to one of its more experienced MNAs to handle the farm file.

Premier Francois Legault on Thursday named Andre Lamontagne, a businessman and former supermarket owner and the MNA for the southwestern riding of Johnson, as his minister of agriculture, fisheries and food, and as minister responsible for the Centre-du-Quebec region.

Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) jumped from third-party status to defeat Philippe Couillard’s Liberals and form a majority government in the Oct. 1 election.

In a caucus heavy on rookies, Lamontagne has represented Johnson in the Quebec assembly since April 2014, when he scored for the CAQ a riding held mainly by the Parti Quebecois since 1981. He easily won his riding again on Oct. 1, coming in 13,851 votes ahead of Quebec solidaire candidate Sarah Saint-Cyr Lanoie.

Lamontagne, who holds a B.A. in business administration, a master’s degree in education psychology and a helicopter pilot’s license, operated three supermarkets in the 1980s and 1990s and co-owned a chain of travel agencies.

He later ran a management consulting firm and since 2010 has owned a business specializing in buying, refurbishing, resale and leasing of helicopters. After his election as MNA, he served as the CAQ’s critic for the economy, innovation and exports.

The new minister’s relatively limited ag background doesn’t faze Quebec’s influential Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), which noted the Johnson riding is in the midst of the Monteregie and Centre-du-Quebec, regions which combined include over a third of Quebec’s farms and farm businesses.

Thus, UPA president Marcel Groleau said Thursday in a release, Lamontagne is very familiar with the ag portfolio and the organization is eager to meet with him to discuss Quebec agriculture policy.

The UPA noted Thursday it had laid out several priorities during the election campaign, among them the protection of farmland, ensuring access to land for next-generation farmers, property taxation, risk management and Quebec’s minimum wage.

Trade issues remain prominent on the UPA’s radar, the organization said, noting the ongoing tariff fight between the U.S. and China and its effects on ag commodity prices, as well as concessions made in the new U.S./Mexico/Canada trade pact.

The province’s dairy, pork and crop sectors are either already directly affected by those issues or soon will be, the UPA said.

Among other ministries important to farmers, the UPA also noted Legault’s appointments of Marie-Chantal Chasse as environment minister, Pierre Dufour as forestry minister, Francois Bonnardel as transport minister and Andree Laforest as minister for municipal affairs.

Sylvie D’Amours, who before Oct. 1 was the CAQ’s agriculture critic, also returns to the assembly and was named Thursday as minister for indigenous affairs. –– Glacier FarmMedia Network

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