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Lawrence MacAulay sworn in as Canada’s new agriculture minister

The coming days and weeks will show the direction new government takes on agriculture

Canada's new Agriculture and Agri-Foods Minister Lawrence MacAulay (l) is sworn-in during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa November 4, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Ottawa/Manitoba Co-operator – Only hours after being sworn in by Governor General David Johnston and mere minutes after leaving his first cabinet meeting, Canada’s newly minted Minister of Agriculture paused to speak with reporters gathered on Parliament Hill Nov. 3.

“I’m certainly pleased,” said Lawrence MacAulay. “Being a dairy farmer and a seed potato farmer from Prince Edward Island, I have some idea what farming is all about.”

But while MacAulay is new to the agriculture portfolio, he is not new to the House of Commons. He has represented PEI since 1988 and is a former minister of labour, as well as past solicitor general.

“I guess if you need to be senior, I’m senior,” he said.

Repeating an oft heard refrain following cabinet’s swearing in at Rideau Hall, MacAulay said he will need to be briefed by his deputy minister — whom he had only met a few hours earlier — before commenting on particular issues.

His first priority is to meet with his provincial counterparts, as he takes over the portfolio formerly held by Gerry Ritz.

“Over the next few days I’ll combine my briefings with meeting provincial officials and industry across the country — looking forward to it,” he said.

Country-of-origin labelling and grain transportation will no doubt be on the agenda, along with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Questions about the $4.3 billion compensation plan promised to dairy farmers under the newly ousted Conservative government remain.

When asked if the Liberal government will uphold that promise, the new Minister of International Trade said she would need to be briefed on many issues and that her first order of business was to meet with her deputy minister.

“There are some really big issues in the file,” said Chrystia Freeland.

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