Rob Flack named ag minister—twice

Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Rob Flack, a little over two years after first being elected, has been named Ontario’s new agricultural minister not just once, but twice in a week.

He was appointed Ontario’s Minister of Farming, Agriculture and Agribusiness in a Cabinet shuffle that saw the former Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs split.

Former agriculture minister Lisa Thompson was named the new Minister of Rural Affairs, charged with responsibility for small towns in Ontario’s countryside.

Minister Flack said in a subsequent meeting with Premier Doug Ford, he pointed out that the word “Food” should be included in his new title, and the premier agreed that was important.

So, two days after being initially sworn in as a full Cabinet minister (he previously was Associate Minister of Housing), he was sworn in again, this time as Minister of Agriculture, Food and Agribusiness.

He is settling in at the headquarters of his new ministry in Guelph, meeting with his deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and other ministry workers, learning where they worked and what the focus of their work was.

A farmer and former agribusiness executive, he emphasized “There’s still lots for me to learn.” His first priority would be a “listening and learning tour.”

He wanted to meet with stakeholders in Ontario’s agriculture sector, from producers to those who transported food and sold farm products, and everyone and everything involved in the business of food.

“That’s what agriculture really is,” he said about keeping the industry sustainable and capable of feeding Ontario, as well as exporting a vast amount of food, much of which went to the USA.

Minister Flack said his other focus, important to Premier Ford, was looking at agriculture and food through a provincial “economic lens.”

He would examine the promise and potential of the industry in the province, which already contributed $50-billion annually to Ontario’s gross domestic product and employed just under a million workers.

Ontario’s farming sector produced 200 commodities, and he would look for opportunities to find ways to grow the industry even more.

He said the top priority of the ministry would remain the same, though, ensuring food safety and security.

Beyond that, he said, he was only five days into his new job, and had a lot to learn.

However, looking after his home riding would remain vitally important to him. He’d be helped by having a relatively quick commute to his ministry’s office in Guelph, though of course he’d still spend time at the Legislature in Toronto.

He had a great constituency team to look after residents and would probably expand that. But he also planned to still spend a lot of time on Elgin-Middlesex-London, including its need for “massive infrastructure” investment to meeting the growing economic needs of the community.

Rob Perry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express