A provincial cabinet shuffle has planted MPP Lisa Thompson in familiar soil.
Premier Doug Ford’s recent eight-person cabinet shuffle saw the Huron-Bruce representative replace Ernie Hardeman as Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
“I am humbled to be given this new post and I pledge to Ontario’s agri-food sector and rural communities that I will work hard on their behalf,” Thompson said. “I’d like to also applaud and acknowledge the great work done by Ernie Hardeman over the years as Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.”
Thompson comes from an agricultural background, having grown up near Wingham. She now lives in Bruce County on her husband’s 120-year-old family farm.
A graduate of the University of Guelph and an alumnus of the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program and the George Morris Executive Leadership program, Thompson has a history as an advocate for the health and prosperity of agriculture and rural communities.
Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Peggy Brekveld said the OFA has worked with Thompson over the past year in her previous role as Minister of Government and Consumer Services. OFA had concerns with the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act and the potential negative impact to its democratic structure.
“Minister Thompson has a valuable understanding of farm and rural issues and has a direct connection to those communities,” said Brekveld. “We look forward to working alongside her to grow the industry and continue to focus on the priorities and opportunities that will stimulate economic growth for all Ontarians.”
Keith Currie, Canadian Federation of Agriculture vice-president and OFA past-president, congratulated Thompson, saying he has worked with her in several roles outside of government over the years.
“She has a long history of involvement in the Ontario agriculture industry,” Currie said. “I look forward to continuing to build that relationship going forward.”
Brekveld praised the premier’s appointment of a person with strong ties to agriculture but added that the OFA would miss Hardeman’s passion and commitment to the industry.
Hardeman worked hard to serve Ontario’s agriculture industry, said Currie.
In 2020, Currie said Hardeman championed the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, Bill 156, the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act and advanced risk management program money.
Beef Farmers of Ontario also praised the former minister’s work.
“Minister Hardeman has advocated for farmers on a number of significant issues like mental health, farm and food security, trade access and improving the financial viability of farming in the province,” said BFO President Rob Lipsett.
During the pandemic, Hardeman was instrumental in initiating the Canada-Ontario COVID-19 AgriRecovery Beef Emergency Feed Maintenance Initiative, known as the set-aside program, and weathered various pandemic-related challenges related to its impact on domestic and international food systems, said Lipsett.
Lipsett said Thompson is an ally to Ontario food and agriculture and he plans to address with her the need for greater risk management support programming for beef farmers.
“We are also anxious to find ways to address the lack of processing capacity in the province and how we can work together to ensure Ontarians and our global partners have access to a reliable supply of Ontario beef.”
The cabinet shuffle also saw Dave Piccini replace Jeff Yurek as Minister of Environment, Todd Smith appointed Minister of Energy and Kinga Surma appointed Minister of Infrastructure.
Greg Rickford’s appointment to the newly merged role of Minister of Northern Development, Mining, Natural Resources and Indigenous Affairs will focus on the economic growth, development and sustainability of Northern Ontario.