Chicken Farmers of Canada Lobby Day in Ottawa
Thanks to my wonderful family, I was able to take some time away from home obligations to attend Lobby Day in Ottawa in early May. In a previous post, I mentioned that I have been selected to be part of the Chicken Farmers of Canada young farmer program. It is an 18 month term, and one of the key elements is the opportunity to attend lobby day. Lobby day for Chicken Farmers of Canada is when directors from each provincial board and their staff all come together to meet with as many MP’s and Senators in a day as schedules will allow. Generally, most producers and staff try to meet with the MP’s of their own province, but that is not always the case.
I had the chance to team up with two producer directors from SaskChicken. We with 3 of our Saskatchewan MP’s who included Kelly Block, Rosemarie Falk, and Robert Kitchen. We updated them on current initiatives of the Chicken Farmers of Canada such as our animal welfare program and our sustainability excellence. Also discussed were some major concerns that are threatening our industry such as carbon tax and the illegal importation of broiler meat improperly labeled as spent fowl. Our MP’s were very open and receptive to gaining an understanding of our industry. We would gladly extend an invite to welcome them and their families anytime they would like to tour our chicken barns!
Lobby Day was only part of our time in Ottawa. We spent 4 nights and our schedules were kept full from morning until night, which is a great thing! We are taking time away from our family and our farms and having a full schedule means we were making the most of our time away from home and it was well worth while. I could definitely feel the 2 hour time difference and the early mornings catching up to me by the end of the week!
Our first day in Ottawa was spent at the Chicken Farmers of Canada office. We overviewed the internal structure of the organization and each segment came in and took time out of their busy days to speak to us on their roles and responsibilities. There are so many moving parts and they all seem to work so well together to represent our industry! To give you an example of the different roles, we learned about communications, the strategic plan, our animal care program, sustainability initiatives, food safety policies, trade, public affairs, and how allocation and production of chicken is divided amongst the provinces. Myself and the other young farmers went away with a better understanding of our industry and how important each role is to our end goal - to provide Canadians with a fresh and safe chicken product.
Lobby day was the second day and the third day was spent with professional development in the morning, lunch at the Parliament restaurant, and Question Period in the afternoon. It was very rewarding to see the Chicken Farmers lobby day efforts come full circle as the topic of broiler meat being illegally imported as spend fowl was brought forward during Question Period in the House of Commons as an issue that needs to be addressed. If one takes initiative, you have the ability to create change! The remainder of the afternoon was spent touring the Parliament and our tour guide had connections to take us back to the lobby of the House of Commons where all the MP’s gather after Question Period. Very exciting! Then the day wrapped up with the Chicken Farmers reception. I had the opportunity to meet MP’s and Senators from all across the country as well as their staff. I was told by multiple people that it is one of the best receptions to attend on the hill. Of course one cannot turn down the delicious chicken dishes that were served!
Ottawa is such a unique and beautiful city. If you ever have a chance to attend, I highly suggest you do so! I came away with a greater appreciation of our country and our democracy. Ladies - a tip for you. Bring your large purse or bag. Pack one pair of heels and one pair of flats. All the Parliament buildings and hotels are close enough together that you walk everywhere. But everything is also enough of a distance that you do a LOT of walking. Having shoes to change in and out of was a lifesaver!