Ontario Premier Doug Ford has drawn another aggie from his existing cabinet to replace Ernie Hardeman as his agriculture minister.
Ford on Friday announced a major cabinet shuffle, dropping Hardeman, the long-time MPP for Oxford, from the cabinet table and naming Lisa Thompson as minister for agriculture, food and rural affairs.
Thompson, who until Friday was Ford’s minister of government and consumer services, has been MPP for the western Ontario riding of Huron-Bruce since 2011. She previously served as minister of education (2018-19) and in opposition critic portfolios such as international trade (2017-18) and environment (2014-17).
Thompson lives on a family farm near Teeswater, about 100 km northwest of Kitchener, where she and her husband raise purebred Boer goats. She served as general manager for the Ontario Dairy Goat Co-operative before entering provincial politics.
Thompson’s resume also includes a degree in economics and study in the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program at the University of Guelph, plus certification from the George Morris Centre executive development program at U of G’s Ontario Agricultural College. She also previously chaired the Ontario 4-H Foundation and served as vice-chair for Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc.
Thompson “understands the need of rural communities and farmers, and we know she will look for new ways of supporting and helping grow farm businesses and rural economies,” Grain Farmers of Ontario chair Brendan Byrne said in a separate release Friday.
“With COVID disruptions, trade disputes, volatile markets and high levels of business risk for farmers, Ontario agriculture needs a strong voice and advocate who understands farmers and farming businesses,” GFO CEO Crosby Devitt said in the same release.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture on Friday also hailed Thompson’s appointment. As government and consumer services minister, she was a “key partner” in addressing concerns with the provincial Not-for-Profit Corporations Act and its “potential negative impacts on (OFA’s) democratic structure,” the organization said.
Thompson “has a valuable understanding of farm and rural issues and has a direct connection to those communities,” OFA president Peggy Brekveld said in a separate release.
Ford’s shuffled cabinet includes himself and 23 ministers plus five associate ministers.
“As we continue our work to rebuild and support Ontario’s health system, our renewed team is well positioned to deliver on the priorities that matter to Ontarians, including getting more people back to work, making life more affordable, supporting businesses and job creators and building transit infrastructure,” he said Friday.
Hardeman, the MPP for Oxford since 1995, served stints as then-premier Mike Harris’ agriculture minister (1999-2001), the Tories’ opposition agriculture critic (2003-05, 2008-14), and Ford’s ag minister from mid-2018 up until Friday.
Before entering provincial politics, Hardeman owned and operated Hardeman Feed at Salford, Ont., east of London, from 1966 to 1995 and chaired the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) in 1993 and 1994.
“We engaged regularly with Minister Hardeman over the past few years and wholeheartedly appreciate his passion for agriculture and his desire to see our dynamic industry grow, innovate and move forward,” OFA’s Brekveld said Friday.
Other appointments in Friday’s shuffle of interest to farmers include Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP Dave Piccini as environment and conservation minister and Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford as natural resources minister.
Rickford’s portfolio now involves a “merged role” also including northern development, mines and forestry, and he remains minister for Indigenous affairs. “This new northern- and economic-focused ministry will enhance development potential and sustainability in the north,” the government said Friday.
Energy, meanwhile, will become a separate ministry handled by Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte. — Glacier FarmMedia Network