Atamanenko Stands Pat, Easter Goes International

Passed over for the post as the NDP’s official agriculture critic, Alex Atamanenko says he plans to remain active on the Commons agriculture committee.

Meanwhile, Wayne Easter, the Liberal’s long-time farm spokesman, is going international to serve as the party’s trade critic. But he promises to keep up-to-date on agriculture issues.

Atamanenko said he was offered the post of vice chairman of the agriculture committee but declined. He said he will continue to push for improved farm-income supports, limits on genetically engineered crops, and more public agriculture research.

Malcolm Allen, the MP from Welland, Ont., was named the NDP agriculture critic and Pat Martin is the spokesman on the Canadian Wheat Board.

Easter, a long time ag critic and a former solicitor general, said he wanted to take on a new challenge. He plans to follow farm issues and help Frank Valeriote, the Liberal farm spokesman.

Easter says the new Trade Minister Ed Fast is a “decent guy and I’ll give it my best shot to work with him and see where it goes.”

The Liberals have tended to support the Harper government’s agenda for negotiating free trade deals with Europe, India, North African and Latin American countries while the NDP have opposed them.

In his first speech as minister, Fast said the government sees expanded trade deals as key to keeping the Canadian economy growing.

Easter agrees that the potential trade deals are important to the country’s future prosperity, but said Canada has to ensure a balance between expanding trade and protecting its sovereignty.

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