Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s post-election cabinet shuffle puts the province’s agriculture and food ministry and rural affairs ministry back under one minister.
Wynne on Tuesday announced Jeff Leal, the MPP for Peterborough and the province’s minister of rural affairs since February last year, as the new minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs in what’s now a 27-member cabinet.
Some observers at Queen’s Park had recently been expecting Wynne — who’d pulled double duty in cabinet since early 2013 as premier and ag minister — to hand off the ag portfolio following the June 12 election.
Wynne will now serve as minister for intergovernmental affairs on top of her duties as premier.
Leal, the MPP for Peterborough since 2003, has degrees in economics and business administration and served as a city councillor in Peterborough from 1985 until 2003, including a stint as the city’s second-deputy mayor.
According to the provincial Liberal party, Leal worked “extensively” on Peterborough’s council to “facilitate job creation, protect green space, advocate for vulnerable citizens, and support local agriculture.”
Leal, until last year, had been sitting at the parliamentary assistants’ table in then-premier Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet.
He served as the assistant in portfolios such as aboriginal affairs (2007-09), environment (2006), energy (2005), economic development (2005) and training, colleges and universities (2004).
Leal’s own new parliamentary assistant for agriculture, food and rural affairs comes from the Toronto riding of Beaches-East York, which Wynne’s Liberals captured from the New Democrats in the June 12 election.
Rookie Liberal candidate Arthur Potts won the seat by a slim 431-vote margin over four-term veteran NDP MPP Michael Prue.
Before entering politics this month, Potts owned and operated Municipal Affairs Consulting, a consultancy that works with municipalities on “concerns regarding the environment, recycling and sustainability.”
Potts, who has a master’s degree in industrial relations from Queen’s, also co-founded a waste management operation to recycle unwanted wood into useable products.
As parliamentary assistant, Potts replaces Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MPP Grant Crack, who had been parliamentary assistant for agriculture and food (2011-14) and rural affairs (2013-14) and will now assist Education Minister Liz Sandals.
Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale MPP Ted McMeekin, who previously served as minister of ag, food and rural affairs (2011-13), has been shuffled within cabinet to become minister of municipal affairs and housing.
When Wynne and Leal split up the agriculture, food and rural affairs portfolios last year, McMeekin was shuffled to the community and social services portfolio.
Wynne, speaking Tuesday during her cabinet’s swearing-in, said the province “will continue to support a highly competitive tax regime that encourages businesses to come to Ontario and invest in Ontario.”
The province, she said, is now “the No. 1 jurisdiction in North America to attract foreign direct investment, ahead of California and New York.”
Caucus spokespersons for Ontario’s opposition Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats weren’t immediately available to comment Tuesday on the rosters of their own shadow cabinets ahead of the provincial legislature reconvening.
The incumbent critics — Tory ag critic Ernie Hardeman, Tory rural affairs and horseracing industry critic Randy Pettapiece and NDP agriculture, food and rural affairs critic John Vanthof — were all re-elected June 12. — AGCanada.com Network