AALP Class 19 Seminar 2: Awareness of Self and Others

Date: March 1, 2022

Author: Olivia Noorenberghe & Kevin Weaver, AALP Class 19 Participants

Throughout this seminar we had the opportunity to explore interpersonal attentiveness and self-awareness with Gavin Robinson as he led us through the GridWorks workshop. Class 19 is the tenth AALP class Gavin has worked with. With feedback from our peers and through several guided activities, each of us was able to discover how we act in conflict situations and why. We also worked to develop the tools needed to improve analytical and emotional intelligence. Throughout this workshop Class 19 gained self-confidence in conflict management, the importance of adaptability, utilizing critique to accomplish our goals and fostering quality relationships to achieve quality results efficiently and effectively.

One of our first speakers, The Honourable Ted Arnott, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario joined us via Zoom to answer various questions. Ted Arnott was first elected to the Legislature at age 27 in 1990 as the MPP for the riding of Wellington and has since been re-elected seven times. Once the youngest MPP in the Ontario PC Party caucus, he is now one of the longest-serving MPPs in the Legislature. During his time at the Legislature, Ted has served as a deputy presiding officer, parliamentary assistant to several ministers, and critic to several ministers, among other parliamentary roles. Ted’s vast experience has provided him with numerous lessons which he shared with Class 19. These lessons ranged from how to deal with disagreements in legislature to how to best bridge urban and rural divide.

Thanks to The Honourable Lisa Thompson, Minister of Food and Rural Affairs and AALP Class 6 alumnus, Class 19 had the opportunity to have a guided tour of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, this was the first tour of the legislature in nearly two years due to Covid-19.  Ontario’s Legislative Building is situated on the historic grounds of Queen’s Park in downtown Toronto.  The current building opened in 1893 and is the fourth building purposely built to house Ontario’s Parliament.  It was designed in the Richardson Romanesque style of architecture, which typically features elements from northern Italian structures such as heavy stonework, rounded archways, domed towers, and detailed carvings. The exterior walls were made of pink sandstone quarried from the Credit Valley near Orangeville. 

Inside, the building featured cast iron columns and detailing, oak floors and paneling, and inner walls constructed of over 10 million bricks. The Legislative Chamber was lined with beautiful wood carvings made from mahogany and sycamore, and artist Gustav Hahn painted the walls and ceiling with murals.  The newest carving was unveiled in November 2021 that showcases the Seven Grandfather Teachings guiding principles. These teachings have been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years through ceremonies and stories. Placed above the interior Chamber entrance, the carving embodies animals representing Love, Wisdom, Truth, Humility, Respect, Courage and Honesty. This piece was created by Indigenous artist Garrett Nahdee who is from the Walpole Island First Nation in southwestern Ontario.

Two wings branch out on either side of the centre block which houses the Legislative Chamber. Inside, original oak floors and cast iron columns in the east hall contrast with Italian marble in the interior west wing of the building. The west wing was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1909.   Toronto Architect E.J. Lennox was hired to redesign the west wing, and added an additional two floors to provide more space for government offices.  A new north wing was also constructed at this time. Completed in 1913, it houses the Legislative Library – a research facility for MPPs and Legislature staff.

The day ended with a virtual interview from Jacqueline Dwyer and Noel Livingston from the Toronto Black Farmers and Growers Collective.  Jacqueline and Noel are the founding members of the Toronto Black Farmers and Growers Collective.  They believe that food brings people together and accessibility and affordability of good, clean food is paramount.  Headquartered with 1 acre of land in Downsview Park, Toronto and an additional 3 acres at Country Heritage Park, Milton they aim to provide fresh, healthy, culturally relevant, locally grown food to as many families that are in need.  They also offer workshops that empower people to live and eat sustainably.

The evening was closed off with an entertaining “Off the Cuff” session hosted by Tracey Arts and Qamar Zaman.  We are all eagerly awaiting the new Electric Tractor with a 2km cord to be displayed at the Outdoor Farm Show this year, just kidding!

The next day was a busy one, beginning with a virtual roundtable discussion from MPP’s Randy Pettapiece and John Vanthof.  Mr. Pettapiece is the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. In this role, he puts his agriculture background to good use for Perth-Wellington, where agriculture is a primary industry. Mr. Vanthof is the deputy leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party. He is the critic for agriculture, food and rural development and sits on various committees including the Board of Internal Economy. John has been the member of Provincial Parliament for the District of Timiskaming for the past 11 years. Both MPP’s touched on key initiatives in their own ridings as well as the current “Freedom Convoy” and how it is impacting agriculture.

Cheyenne Sundance, the founder of Sundance Harvest spoke to Class 19 about small scale farming as a viable solution to take better care of the environment and strengthen local food sovereignty. She is a self-taught farmer out of necessity due to the lack of equity centered farms in Ontario. In 2019, she started Sundance Harvest, which is a year-round urban farm located in Toronto, Ontario. The 1.5 acre site presides at Downsview Park and cultivates produce for four season community support associations (CSA). Cheyenne also runs a free urban agriculture non-profit organization called “Growing in the Margins” which aims to educate Black and Indigenous people of colour (BIPOC) who may want to be involved in the agriculture industry in the future.

We were also fortunate to speak with Minister Thompson, who has a long history of being an active and engaged citizen, working with many community organizations such as Ontario 4-H and AgScape. Prior to being Agriculture Minister, Ms. Thompson served as Minister of Government and Consumer Services, Ontario’s Registrar General and Minister of Education. From the Minister’s talk with Class 19, there were many key takeaways. The first was that we need to understand how local issues can evolve and impact at the provincial level. In addition to this, she proposed numerous ways of how we can engage MPP’s and create a heightened awareness for the agri-food industry. Minister Thompson also touched on key qualities of a good leader, her time in AALP and the value of the AALP experience. Her passion for agriculture and hearing her firsthand experiences left Class 19 with a renewed excitement for the seminar we were attending and the rest of the AALP experience.

After speaking with Minister Thompson, we bundled up for a food tour of Kensington Market and Chinatown with our tour guides Kevin Durkee, Owner and Katilin Benoit, Toronto Manager of Culinary Adventure Co.  The tour commenced on the outskirts of the National Historical Site, Kensington Market.  Kensington Market is comprised of Victorian homes, diverse food shops, restaurants and variety of shops.  Kensington market originated when George Denison, purchased an area of land in 1815.  The estate was subdivided in the 1850s and in the 1880s houses were built on small plots.  The area has welcomed immigrants from all across the world making it Toronto’s most vibrant and diverse neighbourhood.

The first stop was to purchase a surprise desert From Bunner’s, a Vegan and Gluten-Free Bake Shop. This was graciously carried throughout the tour by Katilin in anticipation of its unveiling at the end.  Our second stop was at “it spot” a Turkish restaurant specializing in authentic Turkish hummus.  We then toured into the back alleys of the market for a Big Cheese Tasting Experience where we enjoyed a selection of artisan Canadian Cheeses.  Our last stop was to enjoy a traditional multi-course Dim Sum feast in one of Toronto’s Chinatown restaurants.  As we thanked Kevin and Katilin for their hospitality they handed out our desert, a Canadian school age special with a twist, Josephine Louis!

The evening concluded with a Commodity Spotlight on Poultry Meat & Production presented by Dave Stanfield and Mari Veliz.  The presentation provided a well detailed review of the Canadian Poultry Meat Production of Broilers and Turkeys and a tasty, easy to cook chicken recipe.

On our final day Bryce Eger, President of Corteva Agriscience Canada, provided some insights into what it’s like to lead a company during COVID-19 as well as the great work currently happening at CropLife Canada. Placing emphasis on meeting the different needs of people coping with diverse situations during the pandemic was essential to enabling everyone to participate at their best. Through Bryce’s testament along with our own personal experiences, we have learned first-hand that the agriculture industry is tremendously resilient. This essential industry has never stopped working tirelessly to put food on the plates of Canadians, regardless of a world-wide pandemic.

Another lesson provided by Claire Cowan, focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Having worked with multi-national corporations, farmer-led organizations and as an ag journalist, Claire was able to explain these complex and critical issues and apply them in real life scenarios that we may encounter in the agriculture industry.

With the in-depth teachings of Grid Works, Class 19 was provided the tools to assist on how to act in conflict situations and why.  We also worked to develop the tools needed to improve analytical and emotional intelligence. Throughout this workshop Class 19 gained self-confidence in conflict management, the importance of adaptability, using critique to accomplish our goals and fostering trusting relationships to achieve quality results efficiently and effectively.  The various guest speakers highlighted the importance of Food Security and Food Sovereignty and how various groups are working to help bring safe, clean food to their communities in need.  We broadened our understanding of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly and were provided valuable advice on how we as Leaders in the Ontario Agri-Food Sector can assist our various organizations, members and communities by bringing both our concerns forward, and well developed, sound solutions. We are more aware of ourselves and others.