Prime Minister Stephen Harper has reached into the heart of the B.C. ranching industry to find the province's Lieutenant-Governor, selecting a veteran rancher who says she hopes to use the office to teach urbanites about agriculture, where possible.
On Monday, Judith Guichon was named British Columbia's 29th Lieutenant-Governor, succeeding Steven L. Point, who had been in the post since 2007 and had reached the end of his five-year term.
In announcing the appointment, Mr. Harper saluted the Kamloops resident's dedication to her community, the province and her leading role in environmentally sound ranching and agriculture. Ms. Guichon, 65, owns and operates a ranch near Kamloops.
As Lieutenant-Governor, Ms. Guichon said she is hoping to travel broadly in B.C., particularly to small resource- and agriculture-based communities.
"Agriculture is my passion, so I am looking forward to meeting as many of the people that are involved in the communities as I can," said Ms. Guichon, the second woman to hold the post.
She also said she hopes, as much as the largely ceremonial office allows, to educate urban British Columbians on how ranchers go beyond producing food by caring for the environment.
Ms. Guichon, who just completed a two-year term as president of the British Columbia Cattlemen's Association, said she doubted she would politicize the post by being an advocate for sustainable ranching, suggesting the environment is "not a political issue."
Political scientist Norman Ruff said Ms. Guichon stands out among others who have held the office in modern times as a representative of the agricultural sector and of the B.C. Interior, and for being the second woman to hold the post.
Kevin Boon, general manager of the Cattlemen's Association, said Ms. Guichon had told the organization she was being considered for an appointment, but would not provide any other details.
Ms. Guichon was set to be past president of the association, but has resigned in light of her new job. She has also been associated with such community organizations as the Fraser Basin Council of B.C. and the Grasslands Conservation Council of B.C.
Mr. Boon said he expected Ms. Guichon's professional background would inform her work in the largely ceremonial post of lieutenant-governor. "She has understood the value of the resource industry and those first-dollar industries and how important they are to the economy of the province," he said. "She knows very well they have a huge part in British Columbia. Knowledge of that will be really helpful to her."
Ms. Guichon said she thought it was a practical joke when she was awoken from a nap several weeks ago by a call indicating she was on a short list for the position after B.C. legislators were tapped for their views.
"I decided it was a golden opportunity at my stage in life," Ms. Guichon said. "I was about to turn 65, retirement age, and I have two of my four children who are home working on the ranch with me, and I thought this is an opportunity to find something else to keep me busy, and allow them to make their own decisions without me looking over their shoulders."
She said she is "giving up a lot of wide open spaces and peace and quiet" to take on the responsibility, but noted "five years is not a long time really."
Ms. Guichon has been supportive of the B.C. Liberals, making a modest donation to the party and also writing a 2011 letter in support of the harmonized sales tax, which she called "one of the best things to happen to my family-run ranch" because of savings associated with it. The tax was defeated in a public referendum.
The B.C. New Democrats praised the appointment on Monday. "I have every confidence she will do an excellent job and want to thank her for her commitment to serving our province," NDP Leader Adrian Dix said in a statement.