Miller Named Commons Agriculture Committee Chairman

“We will have to be a slow-moving wheel applying pressure.”

Commons Agriulture Committee Chairman Larry Miller

Larry Miller, Conservative MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, has been elected chairman of the Common’s agriculture committee.

While the post is worth an extra $11,000 a year on his MP’s pay, he must have wondered if it was worth it after the committee members wrangled for almost two hours over procedural matters following his election.

Afterwards he said he was used to chairing argumentative groups from his time as warden and reeve in Grey-Bruce and on the Niagara Escarpment Advisory Committee where he often filled in for the appointed chairman.

Plus he’s been a member of the agriculture committee for 4.5 years and got to watch Gerry Ritz and Manitoba MP James Bezan run the committee. Ritz is now agriculture minister while Bezan is chair of the environment committee. In the last Parliament, many committees were caught up in procedural battles between the Conservatives and the opposition, but Bezan kept the agriculture committee running quite smoothly.

Another Manitoba MP who was a well-liked and regarded chairman is Merv Tweed from Brandon who was re-elected chairman of the Commons transport committee. The committee will have its plate full with legislation on transportation of dangerous goods, Arctic pollution regulations and marine safety amendments.

Because there’s no agriculture legislation expected for the foreseeable future, the agriculture committee will discuss spending estimates with Ritz and undertake a study on chal lenges facing farmers. Miller said the issues he would like to see considered are the extent of competition among the suppliers of fertilizer and fuel and the concentration in the slaughterhouse industry. “I want to keep the committee working for the betterment of agriculture.”

Being chairman reduces his ability to press some of the issues because he has to try to be a neutral party. “But I’ll find a way to keep these issues before the committee. I want to look out for the concern of producers.”

The issues have been a common item in past committee deliberations and he says MPs will have to keep working on them. “We will have to be a slow-moving wheel applying pressure.”

Among the proposals for committee study advanced during the meeting was one from Pierre Lemieux, MP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell and parliamentary secretary for agriculture, who called for a look at international trade and market development for farm products, echoing one of Ritz’s key themes. Alberta Conservative Brian Storseth wanted the committee to look at competition in the global economy and how that affected farmers.

Liberal farm spokesman Wayne Easter had a different shopping list. He said the committee should call in Sheila Weatherill who’s heading the listeria investigation, to look at how the government’s various agrisupport programs for farmers are working and see how effective the Product of Canada label program has been.

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