The Foothills MP doesn’t plan to shadow box with the federal agriculture minister.
No, MP John Barlow hopes to have frank, constructive conversations that lead to helping agriculture producers across Canada.
“One of the things I want to do is work with the new minister of agriculture (Marie-Claude Bibeau from Quebec) and get her to be a strong voice for agriculture at the cabinet table,” Barlow said. “What we saw with the previous minister was a real hands-off approach.
“When the NAFTA re-negotiations were happening, the China canola crisis was happening he wasn’t keeping in touch with his colleagues, his fellow ministers, to find where things were at or what was going to be the impact on agriculture.
“We need that ag minister to say: ‘Hey this is the impact this is having on agriculture, this is the direction we should go…”
Parliament was in session for the first time last week since the Liberal leaders, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, were elected to a minority government on Oct. 21. The Conservatives are the official opposition.
Barlow was named shadow minister of agriculture and agri-food by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, it was announced on Dec. 5.
Bibeau became ag minister in March, replacing Lawrence MacAulay.
Although Barlow sits in opposition, he wants reasonable talk with Bibeau and also when he works in committee.
His job as shadow cabinet minister isn’t to shoot down every idea from the ruling government.
“My job is to hold her (Bibeau) to account on issues that the Liberal government brings forward that impact agriculture,” Barlow said. “But a big part of it is, she’s from Quebec, she’s not overly versed on all the sectors of agriculture — it’s hard to say anybody is — but also help educate her on some of the issues not only in western Canada, but across our country.
“Certainly we criticize but I also think education is there as well.”
He plans to meet with Bibeau in the near future.
“Hopefully, we can have a meeting in the very near future to outline how we can work together and find solutions over the issues of the past four years.”
Barlow added he will be a member of the agriculture committee, where much of the grunt work is done away from the cameras during question period.
“We will be trying to deal with issues there — on the short-term and the long-term — and try to address to issues and ideas before they get to the forefront,” Barlow said.
Pressing issues in agriculture are getting canola back into China, increasing the amount of pulses back into India as well as backlogs in getting grain in the bin to markets.
Barlow, who grew up in Saskatchewan before moving to Alberta, has lived in the Foothills area for approximately 25 years and is thrilled to get the ag post.
“I’m ecstatic,” Barlow said. “It’s a critical part of my riding. I am in the heart of cattle country, a lot of grain and there is a lot of new things happening in the riding.”
He said he also finds the industry interesting and even more so after serving the area since 2014.
“I have built strong working relationships with a lot of the stakeholders across Canada,” he said. “I have good working knowledge and I have built up some mentors across the riding.”
Those would include former provincial agriculture ministers in Evan Berger and George Groeneveld. As well as his predecessor, former MP Ted Menzies of the then-Macleod riding had a strong ag background.
“One of the things that makes agriculture so interesting is it has its fingers in so many different silos,” Barlow said.