Lawrence MacAulay will maintain a steady hand on the federal government’s agriculture portfolio, as the Trudeau government prepares to head into an election in 2019.
Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay was kept on as the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-foods, as the Trudeau government announced a significant shake-up of cabinet Wednesday morning. But MacAulay remained modest about the decision of Prime Minister Trudeau to keep him on as the Federal Minister of Agriculture.
"Well, of course, you never realize why you're picked for cabinet. You never realize why you stay in Cabinet but what you do is what you do in any job – do the very best you can,” MacAulay said.
Speaking on a conference call from Vancouver, where he was due to attend a meeting of the provincial Ministers of Agriculture, MacAulay said he would continue to work to increase exports of agricultural goods and to create more opportunities in the farming sector.
"It's pretty humbling to be the Minister of Agriculture at a key time in our history. Working together with my other colleagues in Cabinet and in caucus, we will reach our target of $75 billion of agriculture and agri-food products exported by 2025.”
MacAulay has played a significant role in maintaining a rapport with key players in the US agricultural sector. In June, one week after Prime Minister Trudeau fielded insults and threats of a trade war from US President Donald Trump after the G7 Summit in Quebec City, MacAulay hosted US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue at his home in Midgell.
The two went out of their way to display their close working relationship and friendship, at a time of unusually strained US-Canada relations.
MacAulay was one of five Atlantic Canadian MP’s who remained in cabinet on Wednesday. New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc was notably shuffled from his position as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to Minister of Inter-Governmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade. The new Minister of Fisheries will be North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson.
New Brunswick MP Ginette Petitpas Taylor will remain as Minister of Health while Newfoundland MP Seamus O’Regan will remain as Minister of Veterans Affairs. Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison will also remain as President of the Treasury Board but will gain an additional portfolio as Minister of Digital Government, a new post in Trudeau’s cabinet.
A statement issued by former New Brunswick MP Rob Moore, the Conservative shadow minister for Atlantic Canada, criticized the decision to move the Fisheries portfolio to a west coast MP. The post has traditionally been occupied by a cabinet minister from the Atlantic region. The Trudeau government is hoping to bolster its MP’s in the Lower Mainland, as the Federal government moves to push ahead with the controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline.
Moore also criticized the lack of appointment of an Atlantic minister responsible for the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency.
ACOA is currently under the portfolio of the Toronto MP Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
“Centralizing power in Ottawa does nothing to help rural communities” Moore said in an e-mailed statement.
“When the Liberals won all 32 of the seats in Atlantic Canada, we were told that they would work closely with the region’s four Liberal Premiers to deliver “real” results. Turns out that was just another empty promise.”
For MacAulay, the issue of NAFTA negotiations and trade will be a dominant issue during meetings with provincial agricultural ministers over the coming days.
"I can assure you there's not many people in the Agriculture sector on both sides of the border that are not concerned about NAFTA," MacAulay said.
"We do not like tariffs by any means, but we have to deal with the cards we're dealt,"