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N.S. ag critic named agriculture minister

John MacDonell, the Nova Scotia NDP’s agriculture critic, was sworn in Friday evening as the province’s agriculture minister in Premier Darrell Dexter’s new NDP government.

MacDonell, a teacher, farmer and the MLA for the Hants East constituency since 1998, was named Friday to a 12-member cabinet with responsibility for both the agriculture and natural resources portfolios. He was previously also the party’s critic on aboriginal affairs.

MacDonell was raised at and still lives at Enfield, about 35 km north of Halifax, on a farm that has been in his family since 1877. There he currently keeps a flock of sheep, a team of Canadian horses and assorted waterfowl including Giant Canadian geese.

MacDonell is also a member of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and other livestock associations. As ag critic, the party noted, he has previously introduced legislation to provide drought relief to farmers.

His involvement with the NDP goes back to his stint as the first president of the first Hants East NDP riding association. After becoming the riding’s MLA in 1998, he was re-elected in 1999, 2003, 2006 and again last week when he defeated Tory candidate Todd Williams by about 4,500 votes.

MacDonell also has a B.Ed. from St. Mary’s University and taught science at Hants East Rural High School for 15 years.

Other appointments of note for the province’s ag industry include Shelburne MLA and former fisherman Sterling Belliveau as environment minister, and Windsor Junction-area MLA, professor and businessman Percy Paris as economic and rural development minister.

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