Prairie farmers promoted in federal cabinet shuffle

The federal government’s foreign affairs and finance ministries will see added representation this year from Prairie farmers at the cabinet table.

Ted Menzies, a grain grower from Claresholm, Alta., was promoted in a mini-cabinet shuffle Tuesday to minister of state for finance, while former Alberta farmer turned lawyer Diane Ablonczy is the new minister of state for foreign affairs, on the Americas and consular affairs files.

Ministers of state assist cabinet ministers with particular responsibilities or sections of their departments.

Menzies, the MP for Alberta’s Macleod riding since 2004, has been parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty since 2007, and previously was a parliamentary secretary on the international trade file.

Before entering politics, Menzies served as president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, which represents export-minded Canadian ag commodity groups. He also served as president of the pro-deregulation Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, and as a vice-president of Grain Growers of Canada.

Ablonczy, a Calgary MP, was first elected in 1993 as a Reform member, had served since January last year as minister of state for seniors and previously as minister of state for small business and tourism. She and her husband ran a grain operation before she set up a law practice in Calgary.

The top promotion in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s mini-shuffle Tuesday went to Toronto-area MP and former national TV news anchorman Peter Kent, who replaces Jim Prentice as environment minister. Prentice left the House of Commons in November for a vice-presidency at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).

Ablonczy replaces Kent as minister of state for foreign affairs, while newly-elected Toronto-area MP Julian Fantino replaces Ablonczy in the seniors post.

In Menzies’ case, the new position “recognizes the increasing workload that he has undertaken while serving as Minister Flaherty’s parliamentary secretary,” Harper said in a statement Tuesday.

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