Local MLA Appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Agrifood Development

On Oct. 21, newly appointed Premier Danielle Smith announced her first UCP cabinet. Included in this announcement was MLA for Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock, Glenn van Dijken’s appointment to Parliamentary Secretary for Agrifood Development. MLA van Dijken was first elected in 2015 and is currently serving his second term after being re-elected in April 2019. Prior to this latest appointment, van Dijken had served on several committees, including the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices, and as chair of the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future.

In looking at the province’s economic growth and recovery after the pandemic, agriculture was identified as a growth area, along with energy and tourism. As part of his new role, MLA van Dijken will be looking at which policies are working and which policies need revamping to help on both the production and processing sides of agrifoods. He will meet with industry stakeholders to get a better idea of what type of challenges they are facing and examine interprovincial differences in regulations.

MLA van Dijken said, “It’s essentially what’s the province doing well, what can we improve on, and where are the opportunities for growth?”

This appointment ends up being a great fit with the Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock constituency. “Our constituency foundationally is grown through agriculture,” said van Dijken “agriculture has been around as long as people have been settling in the area. So, right from the Fort Assiniboine area all the way to the east side, to St. Paul County, it’s agriculture throughout.” He continues, “The goal right now is to get more from existing infrastructure. We have an obligation to the global community to manage our production in a manner that will feed the world.”

Industry stakeholder engagement is a part of the job that van Dijken has found that he really enjoys. He reports that there’s a lot of satisfaction in being able to help put people in touch with each other in a way that benefits everyone and taking the time to understand which parts of existing regulations might be getting in the way of industry.

With this being a fairly new appointment, van Dijken explains that the work is just starting. His focus right now is searching for where he can be of assistance to help provide opportunities for growth in the industry.

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette