PEI

Industry groups will miss Lawrence MacAulay in Agriculture

Agriculture groups on P.E.I. are expressing disappointment at the move of Island MP Lawrence MacAulay from the Agriculture and Agri-food Department, but already looking ahead to what the new minister has to offer.

MacAulay moved to Veterans Affairs in Friday cabinet shuffle

Lawrence MacAulay speaks to reporters shortly after being sworn in as the new minister for veterans affairs. (CBC)

Agriculture groups on P.E.I. are expressing disappointment at the move of Island MP Lawrence MacAulay from the Agriculture and Agri-food Department, but are already looking ahead to what the new minister has to offer.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau moved MacAulay to Veterans Affairs on Friday, part of a three-member cabinet shuffle to fill the space left by the resignation of Jody Wilson-Rabould.

"I am extremely proud and honoured to represent the veterans," MacAulay told reporters shortly after he was sworn in.

MacAulay served as secretary of state with the department in the late 1990s.

Quebec MP Marie-Claude Bibeau is taking on the Agriculture and Agri-food portfolio from International Development.

Maryam Monsef, minister for women and gender, adds International Development to her responsibilities.

"We're quite disappointed to hear that he'll be leaving Agriculture," said Brenda Simmons, assistant general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board.

"He was and still is keenly interested in agriculture and was part of having agriculture's role in the economy being recognized more."

Simmons said MacAulay brought an understanding of the scale and variety of farms in the Maritimes. This led to initiatives such as research into new rotation crops suited to the local climate.

Lawrence MacAulay was sworn in as veterans affairs minister on Friday, March 1, 2019. (CBC)

"We certainly enjoyed working with Minister MacAulay," said Robert Godfrey, executive director of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.

"He's a local Islander and a strong advocate for agriculture on Prince Edward Island and a strong minister for agriculture in Canada."

While Simmons and Godfrey both describe MacAulay as a strong agriculture minister, they are also looking forward to what Bibeau will bring to the table. Simmons is hopeful that Bibeau's international trade background will help move forward efforts to market agricultural products into South Korea and Japan.

Neither is concerned about the circumstances that took MacAulay out of Agriculture and to Veterans Affairs. Cabinet shuffles are not unusual in Canada, said Godfrey, and he doesn't see any reason to dwell on why this particular one happened.

'A great honour'

Veterans Affairs has seen more turnover of ministers than most federal departments, with 17 since the government of  Jean Chretien.

While acknowledging there have been a lot of changes since he was with the department in the 1990s, MacAulay said the core mission of the department has not changed, and that is looking after Canada's 600,000 veterans.

"Because the minister changes that doesn't mean that changes take place in the department," he said.

MacAulay said it is an honour to serve in any position in the federal cabinet.

"But to have the chance to be in Veterans Affairs, really, for the second time, is indeed a great honour," he said.

"I look forward to travelling across the country, meeting veterans and doing everything I possibly can to make sure the people who make sure that we live in peace and have democracy are well cared for."

He declined to provide further details on the portfolio — saying he had yet to be briefed. He plans to meet with staff in Charlottetown for his first briefing Monday.

More P.E.I. news

With files from CBC Politics

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