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Letnick steps into cabinet as new ag minister

Although he doesn’t have a background in agriculture, B.C.’s newly-minted agriculture minister is confident that his experience in business will stand him in good stead.

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick pointed to his 20 years in business and 10 years teaching it, and noted that “agriculture is business,” in commenting on his new appointment.

He become the third Central Okanagan MLA to be named to a cabinet post in a cabinet shuffle announced by Premier Christy Clark Wednesday morning.

Letnick noted that he has worked with local fruit growers and the agriculture ministry in the last three years to help find the $2 million for a new replant program for the industry.

As well, as chairman of the Okanagan caucus, he notes he has worked closely with other valley MLAs on agriculture issues.

Reacting to his predecessor’s announcement a few days ago of $2 million for a new buy-local campaign for the agriculture industry in B.C., Letnick laughed and said he wished that could have been his first announcement in his new position, since it’s a concept he supports strongly.

However, he noted, the government wants to balance the budget so it’s important to watch every dollar spent.

He said he will be talking to stakeholders in the agriculture industry around the province in the coming months.

Letnick is the seventh agriculture minister serving B.C. in the past four years; the eleventh in the past 20 years.

Commenting on his appointment, Rhonda Dreidiger, chair of the B.C. Agriculture Council, said she’s optimistic that Letnick’s experience on several Select Standing Committees means he’s not coming into his new post cold.

“He has a good background and experience,” she commented, adding, “We’re looking forward to working with him on the programs and priorities set by the previous minister.”

She noted that it’s ironic agriculture is a huge economic generator for B.C.—third in the province—yet it’s at the bottom of the barrel in terms of the priorities of this government.

Letnick’s appointment makes him the third of the three Central Okanagan MLAs to occupy the agriculture portfolio.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

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