Meet the Minister: Devin Dreeshen

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

By albertaviews

BIOGRAPHY

Born: Innisfail

Education: “Studied economics and political science at the U of A”

Quote: “Working with a team to achieve a common goal is no different in football than in politics”

Connections: Dreeshen is the son of Earl Dreeshen, Conservative MP for Red Deer Mountain View

Work experience: policy adviser to federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz, 2008–2015, “advocating for agriculture trade, improved rural infrastructure support, and leading the effort to end the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly”; ag. consultant; farms near Pine Lake

Other experience: director, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association; board member, Crossroads Ag. Society

Political experience: volunteered with Trump’s campaign for eight months in 2016, travelling to 28 states and shadowing Ivanka Trump

Quote: On volunteering for Trump: “It wasn’t picking a particular candidate; it was just to see how the American system worked.” (Mountain View Today, 2020/7/18)

Elected as MLA: 2018/7/12 (in a by-election; UCP MLA Don MacIntyre had resigned following charges of sexual assault and sexual interference)

Riding: Innisfail-Sylvan Lake

Sworn in as minister: 2019/4/30

MINISTRY RESPONSIBILITY

policies, legislation, regulations and services necessary for Alberta’s agriculture, food and forest sectors to grow, prosper and diversify

inspire public confidence in wildfire and forest management and the quality and safety of food
support environmentally sustainable resource management

lead collaboration that enables safe and resilient rural communities

MINISTER’S RECORD

repealed Bill 6, the NDP’s farm safety legislation, to “reduce the regulatory burden on farmers and ranchers while still ensuring basic safety standards”; removed agricultural workers’ right to unionize; exempted small farms and ranches from safety standards

created “Champions of Agriculture,” a committee to “break down myths and misunderstandings of our sustainable agriculture practices and highlight how Alberta leads on a global stage to feed people around the world”

compensated cattle and hog producers, beekeepers and potato farmers for pandemic-related costs (e.g., backed up inventory), including $25-million for pork producers

gave $40-million from the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Fund “to accelerate innovation” and “help farmers, ranchers, industry and innovators navigate the economic repercussions of the pandemic”

deferred timber dues for six months “to help forest companies continue operating… during the pandemic” and raised Alberta’s annual allowable timber cut by 13 per cent “to provide security for forest companies” (which in 2020 saw “record-breaking prices… despite COVID-19 initially reducing demand”)

launched Agriculture Jobs Connector, a website for Albertans to find jobs in
ag. and for businesses to find workers

• gave $27.8-million to an agri-food hub at Exhibition Park in Lethbridge “to create jobs and spur investment”

• gave $300,000 to Yellowhead County through the Mountain Pine Beetle Municipal Grant Program (part of the $560-million the province has spent since 2006 attempting to control the pine beetle)

• increased the lending capacity of the public Agriculture Financial Services Corporation by $800-million

• gave $81,000 to the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association to improve its online producer directory

• to “cut red tape,” amended Meat Inspection Regulation to allow consumers to buy animals directly from farmers, slaughtered on-site; allow licensed facilities to salvage and sell meat by-products; and allow pre-slaughter inspections by video in emergencies

• cancelled the provincial carbon credit program, which had compensated farmers for practices that reduce GHG emissions (from the Western Producer: “From the farmers’ perspective, the expiry of the protocols couldn’t have come at a worse time. The value of a market-ready carbon offset… is at $30 per tonne and scheduled to rise in increments to $170 a tonne by April 2030. With the carbon offset market gone, grain and oilseed producers [will] be expected to pay carbon taxes on non-exempt farm fuels while no longer being able to recoup their costs through beneficial cropping practices, such as low soil disturbance crop production.”)

• hired trade officers for Invest Alberta in Mexico, Singapore, the US and EU

• gave $244.5-million to irrigation districts to improve infrastructure and increase water storage (see article p 36)

• cut the Agriculture and Forestry budget by $88-million, or 9 per cent;
laid off 247 ministry staff

• transferred AB Irrigation Technology Centre and Brooks Greenhouse to Lethbridge College and three ag. research programs to University of Lethbridge

• gave $10.5-million to Olds College to house Agriculture and Forestry’s field crop development centre

• created Results Driven Agriculture Research (annual budget: $37-million), which will “lead to tangible benefits for farmers, including higher profits”

• amended the Forests Act to cut “red tape” and allow industry to “create long-term economic growth and diversification” while “preserving our forests for all Albertans to enjoy”

 

CRITIQUE

• Retired agronomy research scientist Ross McKenzie on UCP cuts: “It was a huge, huge surprise, when Alberta Agriculture has done such a lot of great work over the last 40–50 years with research and developing technologies to help farmers… The cuts are devastating. More than half the staff at [Lethbridge’s and Brooks’s research centres] will be cut.” (Global News, 2020/10/23)

• Farmworker advocate Eric Musekamp, on UCP safety exemptions for small farms: “We believe farm workers are the same as and equal to every other Canadian, and we’re entitled under the law to be treated as such.… One of the very big factors in retaining workers is treating them equitably, so if you take away their rights and protections, it makes them not want to work in that sector.” (Calgary Herald, 2019/11/20)

• Innisfail farmer Alana Randol, on Dreeshen: “He won’t take meetings. He has secretaries answering his emails with form letters. He doesn’t appear to be in Innisfail. He doesn’t answer constituents’ meeting requests or phone calls. He doesn’t seem to have any kind of focus on the Innisfail and Sylvan Lake area at all.” (Mountain View Today, 9/3/2020)

 

IN THE LEGISLATURE

Dach (NDP): “Given [they’ll] struggle to pay their bills and might well lose their homes, can you tell these 247 [ministry staff] you’re firing why they’re paying for your $4.7-billion corporate tax cut…?”

Dreeshen: “Like so many businesses across this province, government has to make sure that they can offer their services in a very efficient manner.” (Hansard, 2020/10/27)

 

MINISTRY CONTACT

#229, 10800 97 Ave, Edm., AB, T5K 2B6

780 427 2137

af.minister@gov.ab.ca

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