I’ve been writing some articles for the View in Lake Country and this is the first one!
Norm Letnick always insists, “Just call me Norm!” And it’s no different now that the MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country has been promoted to Minister of Agriculture by Premier Christie Clark.
After two weeks on the job, Norm is already calling his now position “rewarding.” He’s been to Vancouver to welcome a group from India to an Indo-Canadian Conference on Agriculture. He’s been in Whitehorse, meeting with his provincial counterparts from across Canada, negotiating a $3 billion deal over five years from the federal government for business risk management for farmers, innovation in agriculture and market expansion. Norm has also been busy working on changing barriers to wine trade between provinces and accessing the Chinese market for cherries. And he’s been out on the farm as well, meeting with meat producers in Kamloops to talk about abattoirs and finding out about the challenges to fruit growers at Sam and Patty DeMaria’s orchard and Longhill Farm Market in Kelowna.
Of course Norm is not starting from scratch. He credits the great staff at the Ministry for making the transition go so smoothly. He says his biggest challenge now, and his biggest opportunity, is building the needed relationships with other politicians, farm associations and the farmers themselves.
Norm’s goals for the coming months include bring the current issues “over the finish line” and dealing with any emergent issues. He plans to tour the province, speaking and listening to producers, processors and anyone else involved in agriculture. He calls himself a small-town guy and wants to take a casual approach to these discussion to get a better sense of the issues facing the future of agriculture in the province. He is also spending a week in Victoria at UBCM hearing from local government officials from across the province on issues ranging from the Agriculture Land Reserve to meat regulations.
Norm knows that with this new Ministry he won’t be able to please everyone. But he is committed to listen and have rational discussions. Norm says, “It’s so easy to say yes to satisfy a group’s immediate requests, but sometimes that might compromise sustainability for the future. So it’s important to take our time before making decisions, because they are hard to change once made.”
Norm’s not worried about being able to take on the new challenge of Agriculture Minister and still keep up with his local constituents. “My wife calls me an over-achiever,” he laughs. “This is a very unique opportunity to serve and my family is so supportive. I love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like work. Adding a Ministerial appointment brings a unique set of workload challenges that I’m ready for!” Norm stays on as the chair of the Okanagan Caucus but is no longer on the Standing Committee on Health. However, he says his local constituents have consistently said that health care is their first priority, so he will continue to work on health care issues. Constituents can still reach Norm just as they did before, by phone, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or through his website which he hopes to keep updated with info as he travels around the province.
“I want to continue to be the best MLA I can be for my constituents, and now I want to also be the best Minister of Agriculture I can be for my new, large group of constituents.”