Federal Tories look east for ag critic

Luc Berthold, shown here in April 2011 during his stint as mayor of Thetford Mines, Que., is the new lead Opposition critic for agriculture and agri-food. (Ville.ThetfordMines.qc.ca)

The federal Conservatives have tapped one of their rookie Quebec MPs as the new agriculture critic for Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Andrew Scheer, elected in May as the Tories’ new leader, on Wednesday announced his first shadow cabinet with Luc Berthold, the MP for Megantic-L’Erable, as agriculture and agri-food critic and John Barlow, MP for the southwestern Alberta riding of Foothills, as associate ag critic.

When the House of Commons resumes sitting Sept. 18, Berthold replaces southwestern Saskatchewan MP David Anderson as agriculture critic.

Neither Anderson nor Gerry Ritz — a fellow Saskatchewan MP and the Tories’ last agriculture minister in Stephen Harper’s government — were named to Scheer’s shadow cabinet Wednesday. Chris Warkentin, the ag critic before Anderson, remains in his post as deputy opposition House leader and question period co-ordinator.

Berthold, a leadership coach and trainer since 2013, came into federal politics in the October 2015 election, winning the seat held since 2006 by Christian Paradis, a Tory cabinet minister — including a stint as minister of state for agriculture — who opted not to run again.

Berthold, whose riding includes the communities of Thetford Mines and Lac Megantic, served as an assistant critic for infrastructure and communities and, from last October until now, as an assistant critic for transport and rail safety.

Before entering politics Berthold worked as a reporter for Thetford Mines radio station CKLD (now Passion 105.5) and as an editor for the community’s Courrier Frontenac newspaper before becoming a press attache for provincial Liberal MNA Nathalie Normandeau.

After the Quebec Liberals regained government in 2003, Berthold gradually levelled up to interim communications director for the party. He also entered local politics in 2006 when he was elected mayor of Thetford Mines, a post from which he stepped down in 2013.

Barlow, the new associate ag critic, grew up in the Regina area and also worked as a journalist and editor, at Alberta newspapers including the High River Times and the Okotoks Western Wheel.

Barlow later became senior editor for the southern Alberta region for Great West Newspapers (a joint venture between Jamison Newspapers and Glacier Media, owner of this website) before entering federal politics in June 2014, winning a byelection to replace retiring Tory MP Ted Menzies in what was then the Macleod riding.

Barlow held the riding, now renamed Foothills, for the Tories in 2015 and served from last October until now as the party’s critic for interprovincial trade. He also served as vice-chair for the Commons standing committee on natural resources.

Describing the overall critics’ cabinet as “united, energized and diverse,” Scheer said Wednesday the party will “arrive in Ottawa in the fall with one clear message to Canadians: that we are ready to form the next government of Canada.”

Among other portfolios of interest to farmers, Ontario MP Dean Allison will be Scheer’s critic for international trade; Saskatchewan MP Kelly Block, for transport; Abbotsford MP Ed Fast, environment and climate change; and British Columbia MP Dan Albas, for small business. — AGCanada.com Network

john barlow
Sydney | Reuters -- Australia's competition watchdog will launch a broad investigation into the country's dairy industry, the country's deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said on Thursday. The investigation comes after Australia's largest dairy processor Murray Goulburn and New Zealand's Fonterra Co-operative Group in April reduced their farm gate prices, or what they pay farmers for their milk, by nearly 20 per cent. This new price is below the break-even costs for a number of farmers, leaving many of them financially struggling. The Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched an investigation into the timing and notice of the cuts, but Joyce said the ACCC will launch a broader investigation. "An in-depth and independent inquiry is a thorough and fair way to uncover inefficiencies and inequities that our farmers face -- and identify a way forward," said Joyce, who is also acts as the country's agriculture minister. "The ACCC inquiry, to begin in November, will investigate sharing of risk along the supply chain, supply agreements and contracts, competition, bargaining and trading practices in the industry and the effect of world and retail prices on profitability." The ACCC is expected to report its findings in the second half of 2017, and in the meantime global milk prices are expected to have rebounded. Whole milk powder prices last week soared 18.9 per cent and are now 42 per cent higher than lows hit in February. Murray Goulburn, rival Bega Cheese Ltd. and New Zealand niche processor a2 Milk Co. all met market expectations on Wednesday despite a turbulent year marked by falling prices and sluggish demand. -- Colin Packham is a commodities correspondent for Reuters in Sydney, Australia.

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