Peace MP named Conservatives’ lead ag critic

Peace region MP Chris Warkentin, shown here in October 2011 at the Canadian Council for Aboroginal Business' Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Conference in Ottawa, has been named as the Conservatives' critic for agriculture and agri-food. (Entrepreneurship2011.indigenous.net)

A contractor turned politician from Alberta’s northwestern Peace region is the new ag critic in Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Chris Warkentin, the Conservatives’ MP for Peace River since 2006 and, as of last month, the MP for Grande Prairie-Mackenzie, was named Friday by interim leader Rona Ambrose as the critic for agriculture and agri-food, with Jacques Gourde, the MP for Levis-Lotbiniere, as deputy ag critic.

Raised on a farm near Debolt, Alta., Warkentin owned and operated a custom homebuilding company before entering politics. In the closing year of Stephen Harper’s government, Warkentin moved up from the backbench in February as parliamentary secretary for public works and government services.

From 2012 until this year, Warkentin also served as chair of the Commons standing committee on Aboriginal affairs and northern development.

During his stint on the government benches, Warkentin was also credited for helping to promote and pass then-Vancouver MP John Weston’s private member’s bill, to criminalize procurement of “precursor” chemicals for the manufacture of illegal drugs such as crystal meth and ecstasy.

Gourde, a Quebec farmer and a Tory MP since 2006, comes to the deputy critic role with experience on the file, having served as parliamentary secretary for agriculture and agri-food (2006-07) under then-ag minister Chuck Strahl, and as a member of the Commons standing committee on agriculture during that time.

As ag critics, Warkentin and Gourde will face veteran Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay as ag minister, and Quebec MPs Ruth Ellen Brosseau and Simon Marcil as the ag critics for the New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois respectively.

Among other critic portfolios of interest to farmers, Ambrose has moved the Conservatives’ long-time agriculture minister, northwestern Saskatchewan MP Gerry Ritz, to the international trade file. Southwestern Ontario MP Dave Van Kesteren will serve as deputy trade critic.

Ambrose has also named Bev Shipley, a southwestern Ontario farmer, an MP since 2006 and a former chair of the Commons ag committee (2013-15), as the party’s rural affairs critic. Rookie northwestern Alberta MP Arnold Viersen will be deputy rural affairs critic.

Kelly Block, a Saskatoon-area MP since 2008, was named Friday as the Conservatives’ critic for transport. Block had previously served as parliamentary secretary for natural resources (2013-15). — AGCanada.com Network

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