Erin O’Toole has turned to a familiar face from Alberta to lead the agriculture file in his shadow cabinet.
John Barlow, MP for Foothills, is back as the Conservatives’ shadow minister for agriculture, a position which he previously held while Andrew Scheer was leader of the Conservative Party.
“It’s great to be back,” says Barlow in the interview below, recorded after the Conservatives’ shadow cabinet was unveiled earlier this week.
He returns to the role with some new experience, having served on the House of Commons’ health committee for the past year.
“I think I come back this time around with a better understanding of all the different elements and all the different ministers who kind of have their finger in the agricultural pie. This gives me a much better broader perspective and understanding, and a little more experience in working with other ministers as well,” he says. “Hopefully, those relationships will pay off.”
Barlow replaces southwestern Ontario MP Lianne Rood, who was named the shadow minister for rural economic development and rural broadband strategy. O’Toole originally appointed Rood to the agriculture post after she supported him in the Conservative leadership race, while Barlow endorsed Peter MacKay.
In returning Barlow to the post, O’Toole and the party also gave him an addition to the job title. Barlow’s now the shadow minister for not only agriculture and agri-food, but also “food security.”
“For me, food security is being self-sufficient, and having a rock solid supply chain within our own country,” says Barlow, explaining the significance of the tweak to his title. “We don’t want to lessen our relationships with our global trading partners, but maybe lessen our reliance on those supply chains.”
When it comes to priorities, Barlow says the shortlist includes the Liberals’ proposed fertilizer emission target, the agricultural trade deficit with Europe that’s developed under the CETA trade deal, affordability and food security with rising prices, and the ongoing ramifications from the drought in Western Canada.
He says he’s also looking forward to working with some familiar faces from the other parties. In addition to Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau’s reappointment, NDP ag critic, Alistair MacGregor, and Bloc Quebecois’ ag critic, Yves Perron, are also returning.
“I’ve always had a great working relationship with Alistair, the minister, and Mr. Perron, and so I’m looking forward to getting back there,” says Barlow.
The first session of the 44th Parliament is set to begin November 22, after which the House of Commons’ committees, including the agriculture committee, will be established. At this point, it’s unclear whether they will meet until after the Christmas break.