Federal Tories’ former associate ag critic takes lead chair

John Barlow, shown here in 2015, is the federal Conservatives’ new lead shadow cabinet minister for agriculture and agri-food. (Johnbarlowmp.ca)

Andrew Scheer’s federal Conservatives will have a familiar face in the agriculture critic’s chair when the House of Commons reconvenes next month.

Scheer on Friday named John Barlow, the MP for the southwestern Alberta riding of Foothills, as the lead opposition critic for agriculture and agri-food. Barlow replaces Quebec MP Luc Berthold, who takes up the infrastructure and communities file.

First elected in the Macleod riding in a 2014 byelection as a replacement for Ted Menzies, who had quit the previous year, Barlow returned as the MP for Foothills in 2015 and again in October’s election, topping Liberal challenger Cheryl Moller by over 50,000 votes.

Born in Regina, Barlow worked as a newspaper editor in southern Alberta before entering politics. He previously served as assistant critic for workforce development (2015-16), interprovincial trade critic (2016-17), and behind Berthold as associate ag critic (2017-18), before Scheer promoted him to employment, workforce development and labour critic in September last year.

Backstopping Barlow on the agriculture and agri-food file, Scheer on Friday named Richard Lehoux, the new MP for the Quebec riding of Beauce, as associate critic for agriculture and agri-food.

Lehoux, a dairy producer before entering federal politics, served as mayor (1998-2017) of Saint-Elzear, about 60 km south of Quebec City, as reeve (2000-17) for the regional county municipality (MRC) of Nouvelle-Beauce and as president (2014-17) of the Federation Quebecoise des municipalites (FQM).

Lehoux in last month’s election faced People’s Party leader and ex-Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier, the Beauce riding’s MP for 13 years, and topped him by a spread of over 6,000 votes.

Among other critic portfolios of interest to farmers in Scheer’s new shadow cabinet, Saskatchewan MP Randy Hoback returns as international trade critic; Quebec MP Bernard Genereux will handle the rural economic development file; B.C. MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay, environment; Ontario MP Colin Carrie, Canada-U.S. relations; B.C. MP Todd Doherty, transport; and Ontario MP Erin O’Toole, foreign affairs.

NDP critic returns

Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats also announced their MPs’ new critic files on Thursday, keeping Alistair MacGregor, MP for the B.C. riding of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, as the NDP critic for agriculture and agri-food.

MacGregor, a small farm owner and former constituency staffer for local NDP MP Jean Crowder, was first elected to the Commons in 2015 and was named the NDP’s ag critic in January last year.

Singh on Thursday also named MacGregor as the party’s lead critic for rural economic development and as deputy justice critic behind fellow Vancouver Island MP Randall Garrison.

MacGregor had previously served as the party’s lead critic for justice (2017) and for seniors (2015-17).

Among other critic files of interest to farmers in Singh’s shadow cabinet, Winnipeg MP Daniel Blaikie will handle international trade and western economic diversification; northern Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, transport; Victoria MP Laurel Collins, environment; and St. John’s MP Jack Harris, foreign affairs. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

alistair macgregor
It was a close call, but one of the country’s longest-running Canadian Foodgrains Bank growing projects has successfully seeded its 24th crop. “We did not secure this 70 acres until May 6, which is very late,” Doug Maas, a member of the Central Alberta Growing Project committee, said in an email. “Our committee was looking at the possibility of no project this year.” Hundreds of growing projects across the country (including about 30 in Alberta) support the work of the Foodgrains Bank, a partnership of churches and church agencies working together to end global hunger. In a growing project, farmers provide the equipment and labour to seed, grow, and harvest crops on rented or donated land (with companies typically donating the seed and most of the inputs or supporting the project in other ways, such as paying premium prices for the crop). Funds raised are matched on a 4:1 basis by the federal government. Since 2000, the Central Alberta Growing Project has raised $1,172,000 from crop proceeds and cash donations. The group behind the project has been looking forward to its 25th anniversary in 2020, but those plans were nearly derailed by the challenge of finding land this year. But the prospect of having to take a sabbatical was averted when a Lacombe County farmer said they could use a recently purchased parcel near Bentley. “We are so grateful that the landowner made this 70 acres available to us,” said Maas, adding the producer “also seeded it for us.” Finding land for a growing pro­ject is often the biggest challenge for local organizers, but three Alberta projects didn’t have to deal with that issue this year. For the third successive year, Viterra is providing land at three of its Alberta terminals — in Lethbridge, Trochu, and Stettler — as well as at two Saskatchewan terminals. For the first time in the three-year partnership, a Hutterite colony has taken up Viterra’s offer of land. The Raymore Hutterite Colony was to seed 60 acres of peas. The other locations are being farmed by a combination of growing projects and individuals. The Central Alberta Growing Project is still looking for donations to cover input costs for this year’s 70 acres of CPS wheat. To make a contribution, call Maas at 403-782-1860.

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