“Your Marching Orders, Minister MacAulay”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has issued his marching orders for his new cabinet.

As part of his commitment to “open and transparent” government, the ministerial mandate letters are being shared publicly for the first time.

All 30 letters were posted on the Prime Minister’s Office website on Friday, including a letter to Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

From an ag perspective, there don’t appear to be any major surprises, although more details will be required as the ministers work to implement their mandates.

Here are some of the expectations the new PM has for his ag minister (some more vague than others):

  • The Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (source: pm.gc.ca)

    The Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (source: pm.gc.ca)

    Invest in an Agri-Food Value Added Investment Fund to attract investment and create good jobs in food processing. This will provide technical and marketing assistance to help food processors develop new value-added products that reflect changing tastes and market opportunities.

  • Develop a food policy that promotes healthy living and safe food by putting more healthy, high-quality food, produced by Canadian ranchers and farmers, on the tables of families across the country.
  • Invest in agricultural research to support discovery science and innovation in the sector. To better allocate research funding, you should establish a transparent process that involves food producers.
  • Promote Canadian agricultural interests during future trade negotiations.
  • Work with producers and provincial governments to assess whether the suite of farm income safety nets meets the needs of Canadian farmers when they are faced with serious challenges beyond their control, including implementing a new multi-year agricultural policy framework to replace Growing Forward 2, which will expire in 2018.
  • Work with provinces, territories, and other willing partners, to help the sector adjust to climate change and better address water and soil conservation and development issues.
  • Canadian farmers must be able to get their product to market and so you will support the Minister of Transport in undertaking a full review of the Canadian grain transportation system in the context of responding to the Canadian Transportation Act review.
  • Support the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to ensure that we make significant investments in transportation infrastructure, including short-line rail spurs and inland and port loading terminals to improve efficiency, remove bottlenecks and increase system capacity.
  • Support the Ministers of Natural Resources and the Environment and Climate Change in making investments that will make our resource sectors world leaders in the use and development of clean and sustainable technology and processes.

Related: Who is Lawrence MacAulay? An Introduction to the New Ag Minister

Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland’s mandate letter also includes several priorities that will impact Canadian agriculture:

  • Develop strategies to implement the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and consult on Canada’s potential participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This will include working with relevant ministers and provinces and territories to support adjustment in sectors including agriculture, the auto sector, and compensation for incremental cost increases to public drug plans arising from CETA.
  • Implement and expand Canada’s Free Trade Agreements globally. This should include implementation of agreements with Israel, Chile and Ukraine.
  • Promote Canadian agricultural interests during future trade negotiations.
  • Working with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, you will engage with provincial, territorial and municipal governments to ensure our strategies, to the greatest extent possible, are aligned to strengthen the overall Canadian brand and reduce complexity and administrative burden for foreign investors and Canadian companies engaged in international trade.
  • Support the Minister of Foreign Affairs to strengthen our relationship with our North American partners, advance bilateral and trilateral initiatives to reduce impediments to trade between our countries and to strengthen North America’s global competitiveness.

Western Canadian grain farmers wondering about whether grain transportation is on the government’s radar should note this expectation in the letter to Minister of Transport Marc Garneau:

  • Lead, with the support of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food and in the context of responding to the review of the Canada Transportation Act, a full review of the Canadian grain transportation system.

Health Minister Jane Philpott was tasked with “improving food labels to give more information on added sugars and artificial dyes in processed foods,” but there were no specific mentions of GMO labeling or changes to pesticide regulations.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s letter asks her to “develop a plan to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” as well as ensure environmental assessment decisions are “based on science, facts, and evidence, and serve the public’s interest.” She’s also asked to renew the government’s commitment to protecting the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River Basin and the Lake Winnipeg Basin.

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