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Ontario cabinet shuffle splits ag, rural affairs

Ontario’s ministry of agriculture, food and rural affairs (OMAFRA) will be handled by two ministers in Kathleen Wynne’s administration, including the new premier herself.

Wynne, who Ontario’s Liberals chose Jan. 26 as their replacement for Dalton McGuinty, was sworn in Monday as the province’s new premier and named a 27-member cabinet.

During her campaign for the Liberal leadership, Wynne had pledged Dec. 6 to name herself as agriculture minister for a period of at least one year. Her appointment Monday as agriculture minister confirms when that one-year period will be.

Wynne, the MPP for the Toronto riding of Don Valley West, takes over the agriculture portfolio from Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale MPP Ted McMeekin.

McMeekin, who was McGuinty’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, was named Monday as Wynne’s minister of community and social services.

The rural affairs portion of the OMAFRA portfolio, meanwhile, will be handled by Jeff Leal, who most recently served as McGuinty’s chief government whip in the legislature.

Leal, the MPP for Peterborough since 2003, has degrees in economics and business administration and had served as a city councilor in Peterborough from 1985 until 2003.

According to the provincial Liberal party website, Leal worked "extensively" on council to "facilitate job creation, protect green space, advocate for vulnerable citizens, and support local agriculture."

At McGuinty’s cabinet table, Leal served as parliamentary assistant to ministers in other portfolios including aboriginal affairs (2007-09), environment (2006), energy (2005), economic development (2005) and training, colleges and universities (2004).

Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MPP Grant Crack, who had been parliamentary assistant for agriculture, food and rural affairs since November 2011, will continue as Leal’s parliamentary assistant for rural affairs. No parliamentary assistant for agriculture was named Monday.

Wynne previously said she will open a new session of the legislature, which has been prorogued since October, on Feb. 19. "There is much that can be done if we set the interests of Ontario at the heart of our work," she said in Monday’s release.

Related story:
New Ont. premier to become ag minister, Jan. 30, 2013

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