Kelowna-Lake Country MLA back in cabinet

Norm Letnick has been named B.C.'s new agriculture minister, a job he had prior to the last provincial election.

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick

It’s back to the future for Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick.

After serving as B.C.’s agriculture minister prior to the last provincial election under Premier Christy Clark and then being dropped from cabinet to serve as Clark’s parliamentary secretary, Letnick is back in cabinet again as agriculture minister for a second time.

Clark replaced Pat Pimm with Letnick Friday. He was scheduled to be sworn in  by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon Friday afternoon.

Pimm, 56, is battling colon cancer and underwent surgery in January. Pimm will continue to serve as MLA for Peace River North.

Reached in Victoria prior to being sworn in, Letnick said he does not expect the learning curve associated with taking over as a minister to be as steep for him this time as he has only been out of the agriculture minister’s job for a year.

But there will be challenges and he expects to learn more once he had been briefed by ministry staff.

“I’m looking forward to getting to work, and that starts with reconnecting with stakeholders, sitting down and working together on our common goal of a sustainable and thriving agricultural sector,” said Letnick.

“We’ll work together to ensure British Columbia’s farmers and ranchers have a bright future, for generations to come.”

He said he plans to continue traveling around the province to hear directly from farmers and agricultural organizations and wants to continue with the province’s goal of raising revenues from agriculture in this province to $14 billion per year. He said when he left the ministry they were at $11 billion per year.

During Letnick’s tenure, the budget for agriculture in B.C. was one of the few that was increased. It went up about 20 per cent, he said.

One of the first things he will do as minister, he said, is to meet with the B.C. Agiculture Council.

The province recently announced major changes to B.C. Agricultural Land Reserve that could see development more easily allowed on some lands previously set aside solely for agriculture.

Letnick, who learned of his new appointment Thursday afternoon, said he went home and reread the proposed legislation changing the ALR because it will now fall under his ministry’s jurisdiction.

“The protection of farmland and support for farming families is a  priority for this government, and Norm brings a wealth of experience as a former Minister of Agriculture,” said Clark, who is the MLA for Westside-Kelowna and one of the three MLA’s who represent the Central Okanagan along with Letnick and Forests and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson (Kelowna-Mission).

Thomson had been serving as interim agriculture minister following Pimm’s cancer diagnosis and surgery.

“I want to thank Pat Pimm for leading an ambitious agenda to strengthen and grow B.C.’s agriculture industry. Right now, he needs to focus on his family, his health and recovery,” said Clark.

Letnick said he and his family are praying for Pimm’s recovery and wish him all the best.

In addition to his cabinet post, Letnick will continue his work handling intergovernmental affairs for the province and his responsibilities for French speakers in B.C. He will, however, have to give up his chairmanship of the standing committee on health.