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[Exclusive] Premier, Minister of Agriculture Kathleen Wynne Talks with Farms.com

Wynne Provides Insights into Dual Role, Shares Plans for Ag Portfolio in 2014

By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com

Confident that she’s given it her best shot, Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne, who also doubles as the province’s minister of agriculture and food, says she has made inroads since she took on the ag portfolio almost a year ago.

While Wynne admits her job isn’t done yet, she does feel content with what she has managed to do. “I feel like I’ve made a good start,” she said.

Let’s get a snapshot of Wynne’s year as minister of agriculture and food, and find out what her plans are for the portfolio in 2014.

Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprising is Wynne’s proudest accomplishment as minister of agriculture. One, which she identifies as a point of pride, was getting the horse racing industry back on track, so to speak.   

“When I came into this office there was a lot of turmoil in the horse racing sector…now people aren’t questioning whether or not there will be a race season next year,” she said. “I’m very proud of how far and how fast we’ve been able to move on this file.”

Wynne says the most rewarding aspect of her job has been getting to know the sector, the farmers and the food processors. “I’ve had so many enlightening and rewarding opportunities in this role,” she said.

But with any job it isn’t without its challenges too.

“Getting the horse racing industry to a point where people could feel optimistic about the future,” said Wynne. “Getting the Local Food Act actually passed in the legislature, given that we have a minority government…those were big political challenges,” she said.

Does she have any regrets taking on the dual role?

“My only regret in this job is that there aren’t enough hours in the day,” said Wynne.

Her critics dubbed her as a “part-time minister.” Has it stuck? Maybe. Maybe not. The impressions from farmers and industry appear to be mixed. Some agree that she isn’t doing enough, while others believe she has elevated the sector.

Premier Wynne doesn’t believe that a rural/urban divide exists.

“I believe and I know there are differences between rural and urban communities. It would be silly to suggest that every community is exactly the same, but divisions suggest that there are different worldviews that make it impossible to get along and that’s what I don’t believe,” Wynne said firmly. “I don’t believe that there are those kinds of political divisions.”

Is Wynne in election mode?

“When I say ‘one Ontario,’ I think people know that we are interconnected and that our futures are dependent on each other,” said Wynne.

The ‘one Ontario’ part sounds like a campaign phrase to me, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see if it’s said on the campaign trail, whenever the next election may be.

What are the three main goals for the agriculture and food ministry in 2014?

“We have some very specific goals,” explains Wynne. Premier Wynne has what she calls “explicit goals” and one “aspirational” target in mind.

 Explicit goals:

  • Challenging the agri-food sector to double its growth by 2020
  •  Promote the Local Food Fund

Aspirational goal:

  • Put the notion of the rural/urban divide to rest

“My hope would be that there will be a better understanding of rural and urban [communities]. That some of this discussion of divisions would fade,” Wynne said. “One of the reasons I took on this role was to bridge the rural/urban divide that was being propagated for political gain,” she said.

Come February, Wynne will have fulfilled her first promise to act as minister of agriculture and food for a year.

What will she do next?

Farms.com asked, but it seems that she isn’t ready to commit to an answer just yet. “Right now I can’t say that I’m going to leave the role at that exact date.” Almost flirting with the idea that she may stay on as the ag minister longer than originally expected. “There have been a number of people from the agriculture and food sector who have come to me and say that they are actually quite happy to have the premier in that role,” she said.

Wynne concluded by sharing how much she “loves” the job, noting that she plans to continue to be a voice for the agriculture and food industries.

Editor’s note: Farms.com would like to thank Premier Wynne for her time to speak with Farms.com Media. We are grateful for this exclusive opportunity, which provides some insight into her dual role as minister of agriculture and her plans for the portfolio in 2014.
 


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