10 October 2007


On CBC radio this afternoon, provincial affairs reporter David Cochrane mentioned a possible increase in the size of the provincial cabinet and mentioned splitting the agriculture and forestry bits off the natural resources ministry. The reason given was that agriculture hasn't been getting the attention that it deserves.


That wasn't in Charlene Johnson's briefing notes for her participation in a forum sponsored by the agriculture federation last Friday. Johnson, incidentally, is parliamentary secretary to the natural resources minister.

In fact, when asked about departmental configurations in a future cabinet, Johnson begged off the questions saying it was The Leader's prerogative.

The idea was introduced into the discussion by Simon Lono based on the observation that since minerals and oil had such attention in the administration, the other bits - like the trees, vegetables and cows - were being left behind. Lono made a straightforward and practical observation based on his own experience in government and the the idea met with some positive reaction among the handful of people attending the session. Sadly, no media were there to record it for posterity.

Now if David heard this idea long before last Friday, there's no doubt he'll flip an e-mail pretty quickly to sort it out. But, something says the idea wasn't in the idea pile at the Tory campaign bunker until after that Friday. Smart politician that she is, Johnson should have noticed the practical suggestion, the positive reaction and brought it back to the The Leader.

Poof, the day after the election, Cochrane is mentioning it as something he picked up.

Now, if David heard this idea after Friday - or if he got it from Charlene - maybe he should do some more asking.

Update: [12 Oct 07] Two e-mails, one from david Cochrane, shed some light on the original of creating - once again - a department of agriculture, likely coupled with forestry. Cochrane's comments were based on discussions going back well before the election. Another e-mail pointed out that the idea was floated at least as far back as January within the agriculture federation.

Interesting then, that the idea never turned up during the campaign, endorsed or even mentioned by Charlene Johnson, apparently, and not mentioned within the Progressive Conservative platform. Agriculture contributes significantly to the provincial economy and having it buried away inside natural resources hasn't given it the attention the sector deserves.

Let's see if the new cabinet structure includes a separate agriculture department and/or whether other departments mgiht be re-arranged to deal with other possible policy initiatives. in his comments on CBC radio, Cochrane suggested an increase in cabinet by one seat which would bring the total up to around 17 or 18. It will be interesting to see if that view holds or if - as Shawn Skinner suggested the same day - the new circumstances in the province warrant a change that might be wider in scope. There will be change; it's just a matter of how much.

A new department of Labrador development and aboriginal affairs? A new department of community development and culture?