MacAulay’s return sends a message to farmers and ranchers

This week’s cabinet shuffle lived up to the hype of being significant, especially for agriculture.

Prior to the shuffle, I wrote about the low chance that (now former) Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau would leave Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, but that was proved to be wrong on Wednesday morning.

The shocker was not only that she was shuffled, but that Lawrence MacAulay is back as the minister of Agriculture and Agri-food for a second opportunity in the post. MacAulay previously held the post from 2015 through spring of 2019.

Naturally, I have a few questions:

  • It was reported widely that cabinet ministers had to declare whether they intended to run in the next federal election to be eligible, so does this mean, at the age of 77, that MacAulay is committed to running again?
  • Based on the heartfelt, sincere goodbye that Bibeau made on social media, did she really want to leave the agriculture ministry?
  • What was the Prime Minister’s reasoning for going back to MacAulay at this time?

This week’s events have shown that Agriculture and Agri-Food is disappointingly low in importance for the government, and quite frankly, Canadians.

Watching the CBC and CTV coverage of the cabinet shuffle on Monday, the lack of acknowledgement that it exists was noticeable. The reports seemed to focus more on what happened to Bibeau’s knee, and why wasn’t MacAulay at the ceremony (a family member’s passing). It ended there.

It sure looks like this position in cabinet has come to be viewed as a diplomatic position, no different than being stationed in London or Tokyo to represent the government of Canada. It is a soft landing for MacAulay to enjoy. as he inches closer to retirement — even if that is years from now. Farmers and ranchers want a champion for the industry, but the political realities have turned the Minister of Agriculture into being more of a government liaison.

I believe it is not MacAulay’s age that is the concern, but the style that has people scratching their heads and asking “why?” He is known to he friendly and easy to visit with, but unlikely to drive change or champion a difficult cause. This is an industry that already struggles to get its needs, desires and realities across to the Prime Minister’s office, but with this change atop, it may become even more difficult.

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