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P.E.I. farms and fisheries ministries merge

Coin-toss winner McIsaac becomes new agriculture and fisheries minister

Alan McIsaac, shown here last month visiting Charlottetown's St. Jean Elementary School in his role as minister of education and early childhood development, now leads a reorganized ministry of agriculture and fisheries. (Brian Simpson photo courtesy Government of P.E.I.)

A reorganization of Prince Edward Island’s government departments will see agriculture split from forestry and instead paired with fisheries.

Having returned to office in the May 4 election, Premier Wade MacLauchlan on Wednesday announced his new cabinet, appointing former education and transportation minister Alan McIsaac as minister of agriculture and fisheries.

As the agriculture and fisheries portfolios merge, the forests, fish and wildlife division from the former ag and forestry ministry will be transferred to a new department of “communities, land and environment.”

The communities, land and environment department will also be responsible for municipal affairs and land use policy, including carrying out recommendations from the 2010 Thompson report on land use and local governance, plus the development of a new Water Act.

Rural development, until now part of the department of fisheries, aquaculture and rural development, will move to a new department of economic development and tourism.

“Food accounts for a major share of our economy and holds enormous economic potential and promise in the years ahead,” the government said Wednesday in a release. “This potential can best be developed through an integrated approach which links our farmers, fishers, processors, and bioscience industries into a single powerful value chain.”

The new ag and fisheries department, the province said, “will work to grow P.E.I.’s food sector through product development and innovation, marketing and branding, and access to capital for industry members.”

MacLauchlan said the new departments and cabinet assignments “reflect our view of the synergies that exist between tourism and economic development, among our key primary industries, and by addressing a continuum of service in areas such as senior care and mental health and addictions.”

“Equality of votes”

McIsaac, the MLA for Vernon River-Stratford since 2007, comes to the ag and fisheries portfolio with a significant farm policy resume. A dairy farmer before entering politics, he previously chaired the province’s milk marketing board and was an executive member with the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture and Holstein Canada.

McIsaac — who lives at Mermaid, across the Hillsborough River from Charlottetown — has also previously chaired the legislature’s standing committee on agriculture, environment, energy and forestry.

The new ag minister’s return to the legislature this month was far from decisive, as polling results on election night put him just two votes ahead of Tory candidate Mary Ellen McInnis. A judicial recount revealed the result was in fact a tie.

Under the province’s Elections Act, in situations where a judge has performed the recount and “an equality of votes is found to exist between candidates,” the returning officer then must “toss a coin to determine the winning candidate.”

McIsaac won the coin toss, which was carried out Tuesday.

The provincial opposition Tories haven’t yet named their shadow cabinet. Their incumbent agriculture and forestry critic, Souris-Elmira MLA Colin LaVie, remains available after winning his riding in the May 4 vote. –– Network


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