New ag minister visits Merritt
B.C.’s new Minister of Agriculture is hitting the road to meet with front-line agriculture workers across the province.
Nor m Letnick, an Okanagan College business instructor and MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country, visited Merritt between visits to the Douglas Lake Ranch and 100 Mile House on Oct. 29.
“It’s incumbent upon me to have the best judgement I can have,” Letnick said. “I think the best way to do that is to get information from experts, but also to use your own judgement to make the final decision. For me to do that, I feel like I need to get out and talk to people who are also experts in their own ways.”
Letnick’s appointment to the ministry by Premier Christy Clark on Sept. 5 came about a month before the massive beef recall at XL Foods in Brooks, Alta. — putting the spotlight on slaughterhouse inspection practices that the province will be taking over from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in 2014.
“Coincidentally, we are in the process of reviewing our own meat inspection system,” Letnick said. “We’re not doing it all-of-a-sudden because of what’s happening in Alberta, but it can get confusing. I know when I was sitting in the premier’s living room and she offered me the ministry, she never said, ‘By the way, bone up on all your meat inspection regulations because you’re going to be really busy.’ Both of us, of course, at the time didn’t know that was going to be the case.”
Letnick’s tour is part of his larger goal to familiarize himself with issues affecting B.C.’s front-line agriculture workers, of which there are roughly 61,000 producing well over 300 products.
“All these things require different champions in different areas,” he said. “We’re going to have some from the BC Cattlemen’s Association, the blueberry association, some, of course, in the [BC Tree Fruits] association, but all of that needs to come through one person at a table with 18 or 20 other people called Cabinet,” Letnick said.
His responsibilities still include those of an MLA, as Letnick maintains his post as a MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country.
“My role as a minister is dual: I still have to make sure that I serve the needs of the people of Kelowna-Lake Country, but now I have to serve the needs of agriculture and, basically, we all eat, so I have to serve 4.4 million people in the province to make sure they have a safe, secure, sustainable food supply,” he said.
Letnick said his goal following the completion of the meat inspection review is re-election as MLA, Liberal Party re-election, and re-appointment as Minister of Agriculture. Letnick succeeds fellow Liberal MLA Don McRae who is now the Minister of Education.