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Commons ag committee chair quitting Parliament

The federal House of Commons’ standing committee on agriculture and agri-food will need to pick a new chairperson when Parliament resumes sitting next month.

Merv Tweed, the MP for the southwestern Manitoba riding of Brandon-Souris since 2004, announced Monday he will resign his seat effective Aug. 31 “to pursue opportunities in the private sector.”

Tweed didn’t specify what opportunities were involved, but an article Monday by Winnipeg Free Press reporter Mary Agnes Welch said Tweed will become president of OmniTRAX Canada, which owns the Hudson Bay Railway and its end destination, the Manitoba port of Churchill on Hudson Bay.

Tweed, a businessman from Medora, Man., had served as chair of the Commons ag committee since June 2011 and previously chaired the Commons transport committee (2006-11).

Standing Commons committees’ chairs are chosen by each committee’s members from the government MPs among them, while the vice-chairs are picked from among the opposition MPs. The Commons does not resume sitting until Sept. 16.

Other Conservative MPs who sat on the standing ag committee up to its last meeting in June include Saskatchewan’s Randy Hoback, Alberta’s LaVar Payne, Brian Storseth and Blake Richards, Ontario’s Pierre Lemieux and British Columbia’s Bob Zimmer.

Tweed, 58, said in a release Monday his decision to quit the Commons “was not made lightly.

“Politics has been a major part of my life for many years and I will certainly miss its responsibilities and challenges,” he said.

Tweed entered politics as a councilor for the Rural Municipality of Brenda and served as deputy reeve, then moved to the provincial level in 1995 as the MLA for the southwestern riding of Turtle Mountain.

Tweed served in 1999 as provincial minister of industry, trade and tourism, and quit the Manitoba legislature in 2004 to run federally.

At the federal level, Tweed served in the opposition ranks as critic for Western Economic Diversification (2004-06) before the Conservatives formed government.

In 2011, he also served as a member of the Commons legislative committee on Bill C-18, which deregulated the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk.

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