By Connor Lynch
QUEEN’S PARK — The Progressive Conservatives swept the board in last month’s election and rural Ontario has been abuzz with speculation as to who the new agriculture minister will be.
Premier-elected Doug Ford said on the campaign trail that his agriculture minister would be a farmer, limiting the pool of candidates if he holds to that. His director of communications, Jeff Silverstein, declined to speculate.
Here’s a quick preview of the four MPPs whose names have been making the rounds on social media as candidates in advance of the June 29 swearing-in and cabinet naming.
Toby Barrett (MPP — Haldimand-Norfolk): The farmer and long-time MPP was the most-recent ag critic, before the legislature was dissolved for the election. The 72-year-old former high school teacher has been ag critic three times, as well as parliamentary assistant to the ag minister. A Port Dover-area farmer, he holds an economics degree from the University of Guelph and a Masters of Science from the Ontario Agriculture College.
Lisa Thompson (MPP — Huron-Bruce): The Teeswater-area goat farmer shares her hometown with the Ontario Dairy Goat Co-op, where she served as the general manager for six years. Elected in 2011, she’s been environmental critic twice, Green Energy Act critic once, and the 53-year-old holds a degree in Public Administration and Consumer Economics from the University of Guelph.
Though not farmers, two other Western Ontario MPPs have been mentioned.
Ernie Hardeman (MPP — Oxford): He’s a former ag minister and ag critic. The 70-year-old Municipal Affairs and Housing critic is the former chair of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, the former warden of Oxford County, and a retired fire captain.
Monte McNaughton (MPP — Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): This two-term 41-year-old MPP and business school graduate was most recently critic for Economic Development and Growth.
Meanwhile, the New Democratic Party (NDP) takes on its new role as the Official Opposition in the legislature. Most recently, the NPD ag critic was Northern Ontario native John Vanthof (MPP — Timiskaming-Cochrane). The 54-year-old New Liskeard-area dairy farmer is Hardeman’s nephew, and was president of the Temiskaming Federation of Agriculture for 10 years.