He may be retired from official political life but Gerry Ritz still has rock star status at Canadian Western Agribition.
The former federal agriculture minister burned the CWA brand to officially open the Regina show last week and was surrounded by well-wishers and fans.
President Bruce Holmquist acknowledged Ritz’s role in securing federal funds for the International Trade Centre and his work to secure markets for Canadian agricultural exports.
“It was heartening to see his passion … for what Canada’s place on the world stage should be,” he said.
“He opened markets for our products. He helped calm the waters over international disputes and he stood up for Canadian agriculture in times of crisis.”
Ritz said he does miss the international side of his political work but said he stays in contact with many.
“I’m now working doing a little bit of consulting work with different groups on government regulations and trade regulations and how best to move their products around the world from a Canadian base so that’s interesting and it gets me up every morning,” he told reporters. “We know we have the best in the world so it’s not a tough sell. The big problem is getting it there in a timely way and making sure that other governments recognize the quality and consistency and safety of our food supply.”
He said issues with durum in Italy, canola and beef in China and pulses in India need more attention because no one is “banging the drum.”
He predicts “very nasty” provincial and federal campaigns ahead over issues such as a carbon tax and pipelines.
Ritz is active on Twitter and said he just can’t let falsehoods stand.
“I get more agricultural comments from people that don’t know a damn thing about agriculture out of Toronto and Vancouver and Montreal than I get out of the real population out there,” he said. “They’re experts; they might have a plant on their balcony but somehow they’re telling me what to do about bees and neonics and things like that and they haven’t looked at the science. You can’t argue science with people that are thinking with their heart and make any kind of a dent.”
Provincial Agriculture Minister David Marit used the CWA official opening to announce $500,000 in continued market development funding for the show over the next five years.