Agriculture minister doesn't come from the farm team

Last week, first-term Comox Valley MLA Don McRae was appointed the province's new agriculture minister. But the former Courtenay city councillor and high school humanities teacher isn't known for having a background in that sector - other than representing an agricultural region. By comparison, three of the seven MLAs who preceded him in that portfolio, had some experience working the land. They include:

* Ben Stewart (October 2010 to March 2011), who co-founded Quails' Gate Winery in Kelowna. Prior to his election in 2009, Mr. Stewart also served as chairman of the Vinters' Quality Association of Canada and the British Columbia Grape Marketing Board;

* Steve Thomson (June 2009 to October 2010), whose resumes includes a stints as the top staffer at the British Columbia Agriculture Council, the British Columbia Fruit Growers Association and the British Columbia Milk Producers Association. According to a biography posted on the legislature's Website, Mr. Thomson also "comes from a pioneer family who continues to operate the original family farm established in 1896."

* John van Dongen (June 2001 to January 2003, April 2003 to June 2005), was an Abbotsford diary farmer who served on the boards of the British Columbia Dairy Foundation, Dairyland Ltd. and the British Columbia Federation of Dairymen's Associations, as well as the federal farm debt review board.

Under the new Clark administration, Mr. Stewart is the caucus whip and Mr. Thomson is the minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations. Meanwhile, Mr. van Dongen has been left in the backbenches.

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