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Tories’ ex-ag critic named Manitoba ag minister

Ralph Eichler. (File photo by Dave Bedard)

Manitoba’s incoming Progressive Conservative government has tapped one of its former critics on the agriculture and food file as its new minister of agriculture.

Ralph Eichler, the MLA for the Interlake-area constituency of Lakeside since 2003, was sworn in Tuesday along with Premier Brian Pallister and 11 other cabinet ministers at Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights, by Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon.

Eichler, 66, served two stints as ag critic during the Tories’ time in opposition, and in several other critic portfolios, most recently handling the municipal government and Manitoba Hydro files.

Previously a cattle producer, raising purebred Simmentals and a commercial herd, Eichler also served as an administrator for the Interlake School Division for eight years before entering politics.

His resume also includes a stint as owner and operator of Prairie Farm and Ranch Supply, a livestock handling equipment manufacturer and dealership, and of Teulon auction company Ray’s Auction Service, founded by his late father Raymond.

During his time in the livestock equipment business, Eichler served on the board of the Prairie Implement Manufacturers Association and helped launch the marketing of the VanderBuilt Stock Doctor, a medication injection tool for livestock.

As an MLA, Eichler has also served as a director on the State Agriculture Rural Leaders Board, a provincial, state and federal legislators’ group with members from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, which helps develop agriculture policies and exchange best practices.

Eichler won re-election in both 2007 and 2011, and in the April 19 election, he defeated NDP challenger Matt Austman, a Winnipeg communications specialist, by a decisive spread of 4,708 votes.

The Tories’ incumbent ag critic, Midlands MLA Blaine Pedersen, also joins Pallister’s cabinet as minister of infrastructure. Ian Wishart, the MLA for Portage la Prairie and a former president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, is minister of education and training.

Pallister noted in a release Tuesday that his cabinet is reduced in size by a third from its predecessor.

“Our team’s plan for a better Manitoba with lower taxes, better services and a stronger economy was overwhelmingly endorsed by Manitobans,” he said in a release. “We know the job ahead of us will not be easy, but this is the right team to get Manitoba back on track.” — Network

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