Barlow named shadow minister of agriculture, agri-food
By Rob Vogt
Local Press Writer
The Member of Parliament for Foothills, which includes Claresholm, Stavely and the Municipal District of Willow Creek, has been named the official opposition’s shadow minister for agriculture, agri-food and food security.
The announcement was made on Nov. 9 and came as a surprise to John Barlow.
“I had no idea,” he said in a Nov. 12 phone interview, adding he received the phone call from Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole the day before the official announcement.
“I’m really pleased,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to get back at it.”
Barlow had served in a similar role under Andrew Scheer, the previous Conservative leader.
He enters the role with no one single priority because, as he describes it, agriculture is unique in that it touches so many government portfolios from international trade to health and the environment.
Instead, he looks to triage priorities.
Those include dealing with the fourth drought in five years.
“There’s some work to do for sure,” Barlow said.
They also include getting businesses up and running that have been seriously affected by the pandemic.
“We want life to get back to normal,” he said. “It’s certainly been a challenging two years.”
Rural broadband Internet connection is another issue.
So is the mental health of agriculture producers.
“It’s something we’ll be focusing on,” he said.
Barlow noted mental health is something he hopes every level of government makes a priority.
“Mental health should be top of mind,” he said, observing there is not a lack of funding, but instead how those resources are allocated.
He added there is no silver bullet, or one single solution, but a suite of programs to support mental health.
“Every level of government understands how important this is,” Barlow said. “It’s been exacerbated by the pandemic.”
Barlow’s role is to shadow Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of agriculture and agri-food, who he worked with previously when he was shadow agriculture minister.
His message to her with a new parliament and a new cabinet is simple.
“She has to exert herself,” Barlow said, and be a strong voice for agriculture. “I don’t think she’s done that before.”
He has observed in the past issues have not been brought to cabinet.
“She has to start to do that,” Barlow said.
He also fears what the appointment of another minister will mean for agriculture – Steven Guilbeault in environment and climate change.
Barlow described Guilbeault as an eco-activist making decisions based on ideology.
He fears the new minister’s impact on the oil and gas sector will be negative.
“It’s just as dangerous on Canadian agriculture,” Barlow added, pointing to clean fuel standards and a fertilizer review as signs of this.
Moreover, Barlow said no credit has been given to hard-working agriculture producers who have worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through various efforts such as carbon sequestration and more.
“(Agriculture) is an important industry to my riding,” he concluded.
There are many agriculture leaders in this riding and Barlow can draw on their knowledge and experience if he has questions.
“I have some great people to reach out to,” he said.