The Ontario Liberals’ minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs is among the election-night casualties as the province’s Progressive Conservatives get set to form a majority government.
As of midnight CT Friday, Doug Ford’s Tories were elected or leading in 76 of 124 ridings, followed by Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats in 40 and Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals in seven.
The provincial Green Party also picked up one seat, as leader Mike Schreiner won the Guelph riding by a margin of almost 15,000 votes against Tory candidate Ray Ferraro.
Jeff Leal, the governing Liberals’ minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs from 2014 until the election was called last month, finished a distant third Thursday night in his riding of Peterborough-Kawartha, over 7,900 votes behind the Tories’ Dave Smith in first place.
The legislative assembly isn’t due to reconvene until Sept. 10 at the earliest and while Ford hasn’t yet named a candidate for agriculture minister, he was quoted last month as saying he would appoint a farmer to handle the portfolio.
The most obvious option is Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett, the Tories’ official opposition agriculture critic from 2005 to 2008 and again since July 2014.
An MPP since 2003, Barrett is a partner in a family farm near Port Dover, on the north shore of Lake Erie about 40 km south of Brantford. On Thursday night he finished 15,280 votes ahead of NDP candidate Danielle Du Sablon.
Barrett, who has a master’s degree from Ontario Agricultural College and a degree in economics from the University of Guelph, also previously taught high school agriculture and environmental science and worked for the Ontario Addiction Research Foundation.
Other options include Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece, the Tories’ critic for horseracing (2013-14, 2017-18) and a former rural affairs (2013-14) and deputy ag critic (2011-13). Pettapiece, a Ridgetown College alumnus, held his seat Thursday against the NDP’s Michael O’Brien by a margin of over 9,300 votes.
The New Democrats’ most obvious choice for official opposition agriculture critic is also returning to the legislature.
John Vanthof, a former dairy farmer from Earlton, about 180 km north of North Bay, has been the NDP’s ag critic since June 2014 and an MPP since 2011. He finished 10,645 votes ahead of Tory challenger Margaret Williams in the Timiskaming-Cochrane riding on Thursday night.
Before entering provincial politics Vanthof served 10 years as president of the Temiskaming Federation of Agriculture, a stint as a director with Dairy Farmers of Ontario and as a board member for the 2009 International Plowing Match.
Other critic options for the NDP on the ag and food file include newcomer Ian Arthur, who took the Kingston and The Islands riding on Thursday night from Liberal incumbent Sophie Kiwala.
Arthur — who was raised on an organic market garden farm and is now chef at Kingston’s Chez Piggy restaurant — described himself on his website as “focused on issues of food security and poverty, and… passionate about building a future for Ontario farmers.”
Wynne’s Liberals will go back to the legislature with no clear agricultural bench strength other than Wynne herself, who after becoming premier served also as minister of agriculture and food (2013-14) before passing the portfolio to Leal.
Wynne held her riding of Don Valley West for the Liberals by a slim 181-vote margin against Tory challenger Jon Kieran, but her future as an MPP is uncertain after she announced her resignation as party leader Thursday night.
Ted McMeekin, ag minister from 2011 to early 2013 under then-premier Dalton McGuinty, was among the incumbent Liberal MPPs to be defeated Thursday night, coming in third in the Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas riding against Sandy Shaw of the New Democrats in first place.
Grain Farmers of Ontario on Thursday night welcomed the government-elect in a release saying the organization “looks forward to seeing Premier Ford swiftly implement his commitments to a business environment not burdened by overregulation and red tape.”
GFO chair Markus Haerle said the group hopes a Ford government will “act swiftly and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on grain farmers by rescinding the neonic seed regulations, which are responsible for increased costs and duplication of regulations.”
Ford’s promise to scrap a provincial cap-and-trade tax “will provide relief to Ontario grain farmers, who are facing potential taxation in the range of $85 million annually, with an estimated $30 million on fuel taxes alone,” Haerle said.
“The removal of this tax on farmers will provide a level playing field for Ontario farmers with other farmers in provinces across Canada who have an exemption for farm fuel.”
GFO, he added, is “very pleased to see Premier Ford’s government supports business risk management programming and we hope to see the $50 million increase to the cap on the (provincial RMP) in place for planting season.” — AGCanada.com Network
CLICK HERE to check out Farmtario’s pre-election profile of the four main Ontario political parties and their agriculture policies.