Ontario’s incumbent agriculture minister and her opposition critics are all headed back to Queen’s Park as voters gave Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals a new majority mandate Thursday night.
Wynne, who pledged during her campaign for the Liberal leadership in 2012 to name herself as minister of agriculture for at least a year, won 59 of 107 seats, followed by Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives with 27 and Andrea Horwath’s NDP with 21.
Wynne easily won her own riding of Don Valley-West by a spread of 12,133 votes over her closest opponent, Tory candidate David Porter. Hudak held his riding of Niagara West-Glanbrook but announced Thursday he would step down as Tory leader.
Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal, who’s been Wynne’s minister of rural affairs since February last year, sharing what was previously the ag, food and rural affairs portfolio, held his riding with an 8,740-vote spread over Tory challenger Scott Stewart.
It’s not yet known whether Wynne will remain as minister of agriculture and food. Her community and social services minister, Ted McMeekin, who she and Leal replaced in the ag, food and rural affairs file, remains an available option.
McMeekin, a former Flamborough mayor and Hamilton city councillor, held his riding of Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale on Thursday by a spread of over 5,700 votes against Tory challenger Donna Skelly, a former CHCH-TV journalist.
Otherwise, Wynne’s new caucus is nearly void of experience in the agriculture and agri-food sectors. An indirectly experienced candidate would be Toronto’s Han Dong, who before entering public service as a community organizer at Queen’s Park was a marketing director for grocery wholesaler Chianti Foods.
A cabinet post could arguably be a suitable reward for Dong after he captured Trinity-Spadina, held by the NDP’s Rosario Marchese, the MPP for the riding since its creation in 1999. Marchese, a former cabinet minister (1990-91) in the Bob Rae government as MPP for what was then Fort York, lost Thursday by a 9,175-vote margin.
The legislative assembly’s previous ag critics also remain available to return to their posts after Thursday night.
Ernie Hardeman, the Tories’ critic for agriculture and food and a former agriculture minister (1999-2001) in Mike Harris’ government, held his riding, Oxford, by a spread of almost 8,400 votes over NDP candidate Bryan Smith.
Hardeman, a former mayor of Oxford, ran Hardeman Feed Ltd. in Salford until entering provincial politics in 1995.
The Tories’ incumbent rural affairs critic, Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece, held his riding against Liberal challenger Stewart Skinner, an Ontario Pork delegate and former commodity trader, by a spread of almost 2,500 votes.
Pettapiece, a municipal councilor in North Perth before entering provincial politics in 2011, is also the incumbent Tory critic for the horseracing industry, a thorny file for the Liberals since their cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks program. Pettapiece was also previously the Tories’ deputy agriculture critic (2011-13).
The New Democrats’ agriculture, food and rural affairs critic, John Vanthof, also held his riding of Timiskaming—Cochrane for the NDP on Thursday against Liberal challenger Sebastien Goyer by a spread of almost 8,500 votes.
Vanthof, an MPP since 2011 — and the nephew of Tory ag critic Hardeman — previously served 10 years as president of the Temiskaming Federation of Agriculture and a stint on the board of Dairy Farmers of Ontario. — AGCanada.com Network