Liberals name Guelph MP as ag critic

Its ranks thinned drastically in last month’s election, the federal Liberal Party has gone to the ag-centred city of Guelph for its new agriculture critic.

Frank Valeriote, the MP for Guelph since October 2008, was named Wednesday by interim party leader Bob Rae as the Liberals’ new critic for agriculture and agri-food, rural affairs and auto policy.

A lawyer by profession, raised in the hometown of the Ontario Agricultural College, Valeriote is no stranger to the ag portfolio, having served as a member of the Commons standing committee on agriculture and agri-food since January 2009.

He previously served as critic responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (2009-11), assistant critic on auto policy (2008-09), and vice-chair of a Commons subcommittee on the automotive industry in Canada (2009).

Valeriote has also taken part in previous Liberal caucus working groups researching food safety, a national food policy and water-related issues, and was chair of the Liberal Auto Caucus.

Before entering federal politics, Valeriote served for 18 years on the city’s Catholic school board, including several years as its chairman.

He also previously served as chair of Missionary Ventures Canada, a Guelph-based interdenominational organization that “channels resources for the development of churches, schools, feeding centres, orphanages, clinics and hospitals in over 30 countries.”

As ag critic, Valeriote replaces Prince Edward Island MP Wayne Easter, a former president of the National Farmers Union, named Wednesday as the party’s new international trade critic.

Regina-area MP Ralph Goodale, who served as agriculture minister (1993-97) and minister for the Canadian Wheat Board (1993-2003) under then-prime minister Jean Chretien, was named Wednesday as Rae’s deputy leader.

Among other Liberal shadow cabinet members of interest to farmers are:

  • Quebec MP Francis Scarpaleggia, who returns as critic on water policy and also now becomes national caucus chair;
  • Montreal-area MP Denis Coderre, moved from natural resources to become transport critic;
  • Etobicoke MP Kirsty Duncan, moved from veterans affairs to become environment critic; and
  • Vancouver MP Hedy Fry, who until the last election chaired the Commons standing committee on the status of women, and was named Wednesday as health critic.

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