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CFA chief quits post for Liberals

The president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture has resigned his post to run for the federal Liberals in Manitoba.

Bob Friesen, a former turkey and hog farmer from Wawanesa, Man., about 50 km southeast of Brandon, has been the CFA’s president for nine years.

Friesen, well known as an advocate for Canadian farmers and on the world stage during World Trade Organization talks on agriculture, announced his candidacy at a federal Liberal Party caucus meeting Wednesday in Winnipeg with party leader Stephane Dion.

“Like many people in Canada’s farming community, I’ve been very disappointed by the Conservative government’s agricultural policies,” Friesen said in a Liberal Party release.

“I’m convinced that the Liberal Party is the best choice for farmers and that is why I am proud to carry the Liberal banner in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia in the next election.”

Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia includes Winnipeg’s western Charleswood, St. James and Assiniboia districts, as well as the neighbouring Rural Municipality of Headingley, a mixed rural-suburban municipality that was annexed by Winnipeg in 1972 but seceded from the city in 1993.

The riding is now held by Conservative MP Steven Fletcher, the caucus’ parliamentary secretary for health.

The riding, previously held by the Liberals’ John Harvard from 1988 to 2004, is not considered a safe Conservative seat. Fletcher, however, has beaten two previous Liberal “star” candidates in the riding: former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray in 2004 and former Manitoba Tory MLA John Loewen in 2006.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press website on Wednesday, Friesen has sold his farm and plans to buy a home in the riding.

“Bob Friesen has devoted his life to rural Canada and our farming communities,” Dion said in announcing Friesen’s candidacy.

“Throughout his career, Mr. Friesen has been a strong voice for agricultural producers. I am confident he will represent the Liberal Party with the same passion and determination for the people of Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia as their member of Parliament in Ottawa.”

In the interim

Friesen’s leadership duties at the CFA fall to its first and second vice-presidents: respectively, Laurent Pellerin, the former president of Quebec’s Union des producteurs agricoles, and Ron Bonnett, past-president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

Pellerin and Bonnett will lead the federation on an interim basis until elections for its president and vice-presidents are held at the CFA’s annual general meeting in February next year.

Friesen had served as the CFA’s president since 1999, taking a brief hiatus when he was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in 2005. He had previously served as a director and as a second vice-president with the general farm organization.

“For nearly a decade, Bob Friesen has tirelessly served the diverse interests of CFA members and all Canadian farmers — bringing their concerns, issues and challenges to the attention of our leaders and working collaboratively with governments in developing viable solutions,” Pellerin said in a CFA release Wednesday. “Farmers across this country owe him a great deal of gratitude.”

“While Bob would be the first to point out that no one person is the organization, he has certainly embodied the passion and dedication of the CFA and its members,” Bonnett said in the same release. “He will certainly be missed, but we wish him all the best in his future pursuits.”

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