Ag Minister Ritz, ag critics win re-election

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s agriculture minister will be among the Conservative cabinet members returning to Ottawa in the wake of Monday’s election, and most but not all handlers of the ag portfolio will follow.

Late Monday night, Elections Canada reported the federal Conservatives as elected or leading in 167 of 308 ridings, earning a much-coveted majority government. The New Democratic Party (NDP) vaulted for the first time into official Opposition on major gains in Quebec, and were leading or elected in 102 ridings.

Rounding out the new House of Commons are the decimated Liberals, leading or elected in 34 ridings. Support for the Bloc Quebecois also dove sharply, leaving the party leading or elected in just four ridings.

While neither Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff nor Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe were able to win in their own ridings, federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May won her West Coast riding and the party’s lone seat in the Commons.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz easily held his seat for the Conservatives in the western Saskatchewan riding of Battlefords-Lloydminster with two-thirds of the total vote.

With most polls reporting Monday night, Ritz, the ag minister since 2007, earned a spread of over 11,000 votes over his nearest challenger, the NDP’s Glenn Tait.

Monday night, however, was less kind to Ritz’s caucus colleague Jean-Pierre Blackburn, the federal minister of state for agriculture since 2008, who lost his Quebec riding of Jonquiere-Alma to the NDP’s Claude Patry by a spread of 4,331 votes.

Ritz’s two parliamentary secretaries fared better: Pierre Lemieux, a parliamentary secretary to Ritz since 2008, held his Ontario riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell by a spread of 10,176 votes over Liberal contender Julie Bourgeois.

And southwestern Saskatchewan MP David Anderson, Ritz’s secretary on the Canadian Wheat Board file since 2006, also kept his riding of Cypress Hills-Grasslands with a margin of 14,359 votes over NDP challenger Trevor Peterson.

Opposition benches

Arriving for the first time on the official Opposition benches, the NDP’s now-expanded talent pool will be led by Alex Atamanenko, the MP for British Columbia Southern Interior and the NDP critic on agriculture and the CWB since 2006. He beat challenger Stephen Hill of the Conservatives by a spread of 5,900 votes.

Also returning to the Commons will be Atamanenko’s assistant agriculture critic, Ontario MP Malcolm Allen, who won his Welland riding by a margin of 996 votes over Conservative challenger Leanna Villella.

Longtime Winnipeg Centre MP Pat Martin, the NDP’s assistant critic on the CWB file since 2007, also again held the riding with a margin of 6,755 votes over Conservative challenger Bev Pitura.

Wayne Easter, the Liberals’ agriculture critic since 2006 and a former parliamentary secretary on the ag file, holds his Prince Edward Island riding of Malpeque by a spread of 671 votes over Conservative challenger Tim Ogilvie.

Former agriculture minister Ralph Goodale remains Saskatchewan’s lone Liberal, holding the Regina riding of Wascana by a margin of 1,550 votes over Conservative candidate Ian Shields.

Bloc Quebecois ag critic Andre Bellavance, meanwhile, becomes one of a four-member BQ caucus, holding his Richmond-Arthabaska riding for the Bloc with a spread of 715 votes over NDP challenger Isabelle Maguire.

Ag committee

Nearly all members of the last Commons standing committee on agriculture and agri-food will also return to Ottawa. Committee chairman Larry Miller, a farmer and rancher, held his Ontario riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound with a spread of 19,733 votes over NDP challenger Karen Gventer.

Nova Scotia Liberal MP Mark Eyking, who with the Bloc’s Bellavance was one of two committee vice-chairs, kept his seat with an 860-vote margin over Conservative opponent Cecil Clarke.

Conservative MPs Randy Hoback, Bev Shipley, Brian Storseth and Blake Richards and the Liberals’ Frank Valeriote, all members of the most recent ag committee, also held their ridings. The NDP’s Atamanenko, Liberals’ Easter and Tories’ Lemieux also sat on the most recent ag committee.

Committee member France Bonsant of the Bloc, however, will not return, having lost the Compton-Stanstead riding to NDP challenger Jean Rousseau by a decisive margin of 11,728 votes.

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