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Pellerin to run for CFA president

“Pellerin has always been a farmer politician.”

– Hugh Maynard

For the first time in 25 years, there will be an election for president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

And for the first time ever, the new president could be a francophone from Quebec.

Laurent Pellerin officially announced his candidacy last week during the Keystone Agricultural Producers annual meeting in Winnipeg.

Pellerin has been CFA first vice-president for the past 10 years. He is a former president of L’Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), the Quebec provincial farm organization.

Pellerin, a hog farmer from Nicolet, Que., will run against Ron Bonnett of Bruce Mines, Ont., who has also announced his candidacy. Bonnett, a former Ontario Federation of Agriculture president, is currently CFA’s second vice-president.

The CFA presidency became vacant after Bob Friesen of Manitoba resigned to run as a Liberal candidate in the federal election last fall.

The presidency was last contested in 1985, when Don Knoerr defeated the incumbent Glenn Flaten. The post is usually filled by acclamation.

Pellerin’s run at the presidency also breaks another tradition. Traditionally, by an unwritten gentlemen’s agreement, the CFA first vice-president is a Quebecer, usually the UPA president.

Pellerin’s decision throws all that up in the air. It leaves unanswered the question of who will become CFA first vice-president if he wins.

Christian Lacasse is the current UPA president, having defeated Pellerin in December 2007. However, Pellerin continued in his CFA post.

Pellerin is not the first Quebecer to try for the top post at CFA. In 1978, Roland Pigeon, then president of Co-op Féderée, ran against and lost to Dobson Lea.

Hugh Maynard, a longtime Quebec agricultural commentator, said he was not surprised to hear of Pellerin’s decision.

“Pellerin has always been a farmer politician,” he said.

Being bilingual will be an asset if Pellerin wins, Maynard said. CFA presidents in the recent past have all been unilingual anglophones.

As a Quebecer, Pellerin is a

strong proponent of supply management and a firm supporter of Canada’s so-called “balanced position” on trade, which favours freer trade while retaining protection for certain sensitive commodities, said Maynard.

“He is an extremely capable farm politician and has always been well received and fully engaged.”

CFA delegates will elect the new president at their annual meeting in Ottawa Feb. 24-26.

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