The Rural Ontario Institute recently hosted the International Association of Programs for Agricultural Leadership (IAPAL) conference in Ottawa, for the first time in two decades.
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Conference attendees toured the Senate, the Ottawa Smart Farm and GPS Ontario’s farm in North Gower.
“I found it fascinating talking with them about how they handle political situations; how they handle situations with their farm groups; different sorts of tactics on how they tackle various issues,” said Keith Currie, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and conference attendee.
Why it matters: The conference showcases how various countries approach agricultural issues with local governments.
“What are the issues the government says to stay away from, and how do they interact in the bigger international picture on those same issues.”
It was the first time in years that Canada hosted IAPAL representatives from the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe for the annual conference, said Currie. Ottawa MPP Lisa McLeod, Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs minister Lisa Thompson and former Ottawa councillor Janet Harder, who was integral in creating Invest Ottawa that funds the Smart Farm, also attended.
Currie said learning the political strategies of North American and European agriculture leaders to address chemical registration or approval, approaches to GMOs, and property rights was enlightening.
He said it provided networking and communication opportunities with Canada’s trade partners to the south, who are responsible for 65 to 70 per cent of Canada’s export market.
It is helpful to know the cultural and regulatory framework differences and similarities of global trading partners, said Currie, and how they approach trade products, policies and succession and program planning within their organizations.
“It’s good to have those relaxed, non-political conversations,” he said.
During their tour of Parliament Hill and the Senate, Currie said most delegates were impressed by the politician’s antics during Question Period because most other governments don’t yell and pound their fists.
“They found that incredibly fascinating that that kind of conduct goes on,” he said. “So, getting their perspective on our government and vice versa was valuable. I hope it was valuable for them too.”