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  • Editorial
    The Leal deal
    By Tom VanDusen - AgriNews Staff Writer

    Thank you Jeezus!

    Basking in her new majority government position, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne no longer needs to cozy up to farmers and other rural residents who tend to not vote for the Liberal Party, particularly in Eastern Ontario.

    That's why Wynne has given up her brief minority government foray into Ontario agriculture as minister of that portfolio. She has now thoroughly washed her hands of it, turning the responsibility over to Jeff Leal who has become Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

    And we thank her for that!

    It was pure politics! That's why a desperate Preem took on the Agriculture portfolio in addition to premier duties in the last government, her first as leader of the pack.

    A quick check of the rural sea of blue refreshed on the Ontario electoral map reveals the move didn't do her a lot of good... and it didn't do farmers and other rural folk much good either.

    Fault us for our fading memories if you will, but here at The AgriNews, we can't think of one original agricultural initiative implemented by Wynne in ag minister mode.

    She basically sloughed off the most important issue to come up on her watch, namely closing by the University of Guelph of the Kemptville and Alfred campuses.

    In Alfred's case, she seemed content with a half-baked scheme for a couple of community colleges to move in and, with Kemptville, she denied there was a problem, noting that key programs would simply transfer to U of G and its Ridgetown affiliate. What's to worry!

    It seemed like she didn't get the regional importance. But nobody ever accused Wynne of being ditzy. More likely, she fully understood the resulting uproar but was content to close Kemptville located in a Progressive Conservative riding, while extending Alfred located in the only rural Liberal riding in Eastern Ontario.

    In terms of Kemptville, Alfred and no doubt most other things rural and agricultural, we're already ahead of the game with Leal.

    Noting that Kemptville is important to post-secondary agricultural education in Ontario, Leal has proclaimed a special interest in the file. He said several of his constituents are Kemptville graduates who'll "hold my feet to the fire" as the file moves forward.

    The word on the street is that the affable MPP for Peterborough means what he says and doesn't miss much. While his constituency is primarily urban and he doesn't have an agricultural background, his record of supporting the industry goes back to his days on Peterborough council.

    And he was in training as Minister of Rural Affairs in the last government where his priorities included rural jobs, infrastructure and protecting collective social services such as health care and education.

    Leal seems to be someone rural and agricultural Ontario can work with, someone not as likely as his boss to put politics first.

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