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Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership
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About the Conference Location (pdf)

78th Annual Summer Conference, August 6–9, 2009


Video On Demand 
Vidéo sur-demand 
In the Video-on-Demand search box, enter "couchiching".



A Quicktime slideshow of drawings made at the conference by Anne Steacy and Brian Gable has been posted. (Many computers already have Quicktime installed. If yours doesn't, a free version can be downloaded from

The same slideshow has also been posted at a smaller size at YouTube.

The Couchiching Youth Committee invited all Couch youth delegates to participate in the first annual “CIPA Youth Contest.” The Committee accepted submissions in two categories:

  • Artistic submissions including variations of the following: photos, YouTube videos, sketches, drawings, etc.
  • Written submissions including variations of the following: reflections pieces, random musings, anecdotes, poetry, etc.

Submissions were judged by the Youth Affairs Committee. Congratulations to these six students for getting the most votes:

Shakira Abubakar
Sarah Carpenter
Rahul D'Cunha
Gavin McGown
Tshweu Moleme
Diya Thapar

CIPA Youth Contest – Artistic and Written Submissions Information (pdf)
Photo Submissions (pdf)
Written Submissions (pdf)

News Release, August 11, 2009 (pdf)
Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs Awards the 2009 Couchiching
Public Policy Award to the Honourable Lincoln Alexander
News Release, August 4, 2009 (pdf)
Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs Conference 2009 addresses the
Global Politics of Food

On Twitter, follow the conference @couch2009, and follow CIPA year round @couchiching
Join the Couchiching group at Facebook

Reading List 
Brochure (pdf)


  Photo   Photo

Mohamed H. Awad shares his thoughts on why at Couchiching the conversation never stops.


Heather Keachie shares her thoughts about the casualness of the Couchiching experience.


Zahra Ebrahim shares her thoughts on the accessibility of Couchiching.


Food is a basic building block of evolution and civilization. It lies at the heart of highly complex and political relationships. It nourishes and nurtures. It can also divide and destroy. Today’s headlines are full of food issues: security and safety of production, the health costs of poor dietary choices, the growing number of the world’s population without access to healthy and sufficient food. Among other hot topics – climate change and the environment, urbanization, corporate and government regulatory lapses – food emerges as a common thread, woven through most human concerns.


Outside the conference centre.
More about Geneva Park
(brochure pdf)


What are we to make of all this? We know enough to suspect that the enduring drought in Australia and the record number of farmers retiring in Canada will likely have some impact on our food choices and budget. But do we know enough to make far-sighted and wise decisions locally, nationally and globally to protect the world’s present and future food supply? The economic and political upheaval currently playing out on the world’s stages is a phenomenon long familiar to those thinking about food security.

All aspects of food supply, from production and processing through distribution to consumption, are subject to the vagaries of supply and demand. But food economics can be an immediate matter of life or death, bounty or famine. It’s time we caught up with this story.

We invite you to join us at the 2009 Couchiching Conference, where we will take a close look at the Global Politics of Food. If this is your first visit to Couchiching, you’re in for a uniquely intelligent and interesting experience.

If you’ve attended a previous conference, you know you can count on a stimulating intellectual and social weekend among old friends and new. Couchiching is a crucible of provocative questions, creative ideas and divergent discussions that are the product of the collective contributions of all who attend. While you’re getting an intense intellectual workout – moderated by eating, drinking, mingling and unwinding – you’ll become part of a unique Canadian tradition. It’s an experience to remember.

Questions from delegates in 2009


2:00 Registration

3:00 Youth Forum

The time and place student delegates can meet each other. The forum allows delegates to spark their inquiries and chime in with their thoughts amongst one another.

CIPA Youth Contest – Artistic and Written Submissions (pdf)

5:00 President’s Reception


6:00 Dinner

The Food Committee gave special attention to this year's menu.


7:30 Opening Keynote Address

Global Pressures That Will Shape the Politics of Food



Keynote Speaker: DONALD L. COXE, global portfolio strategist, former general manager, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and former general counsel, Canadian Federation of Agriculture (bio)
Moderator: ALAN PEARSON, President, CIPA

Long before he became known as a global portfolio strategist and the chair of Coxe Advisors LLC, Don Coxe was the general manager of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and general counsel for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. He has watched closely as Canada’s agricultural and food policies have evolved over the years since he was involved in developing them. Indeed, he has kept his eye on the world of food, food security and agriculture, and has been working with the University of Guelph to bring together academics, investors and policy makers to find solutions to today’s food shortages. Drawing on his eclectic background and decades of experience, Don will open up the conference’s discussions with a tour d’horizon, setting the global context and explaining Canada’s role in feeding the world.

An article, drawn in part from this address, appeared in G20, The Pittsburgh Summit 2009.

Session Summary 


10:00 Evening Reception


8:00 Breakfast

9:30 Production and Cultivation: How Can the World Produce Enough Food to Go Around?


     Photo      Photo

Harriet Friedmann


Samy Watson


Ray Mowling

The global population continues to grow, and to urbanize, presenting us with new challenges for food production. The Green Revolution in the 1950s and 60s has allowed human beings to expand the production of food exponentially, turning to fossil fuel fertilizers, pesticides and new methods of irrigation. However, many are increasingly critical of the impact these technologies have had on the environment and on our health and wonder if the Green Revolution is sustainable. The conferences will begin with a discussion of a key question we will need to consider throughout: whether we currently have the capacity to feed the world and if yes, under what conditions of production and what political frameworks?

Speakers: HARRIET FRIEDMANN, Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto, SAMY WATSON, Regional Executive Director, World Bank, and former Canadian Deputy Minister of Agriculture, and RAY MOWLING, former President of Monsanto Canada (bios)

Session Summary 


12:30 Lunch

2:30 Discussion Groups

Delegate-created discussion groups:

  • Moving from Food to Nutrition
  • Can We Have an Integrated Future: Enough Quality Food, a Healthy Environment
    and Healthier People – All at the Same Time?
  • Food and Population Issues
  • What Would a People-centred Food System Look Like?
  • Imbalance: Is Muchness the Problem?

Plus a screening of Food, Inc.

5:00 Reception

6:00 Dinner

7:30 Distribution and Distortion: How Can We Get Enough Food to Everyone Who Needs It?


    Photo     Photo     Photo

Jennifer Clapp


Eric Reguly


Glen Hodgson


Alex McCalla

This panel will look at global and local food distribution, trade systems and subsidies. If food is a right for all, what are the implications for our current food pricing and distribution systems? How do we ensure everyone has access to food at a reasonable cost?

Speakers: JENNIFER CLAPP, Centre for International Governance Innovation, Waterloo; ERIC REGULY, Columnist, Globe and Mail Report on Business; GLEN HODGSON, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist, Conference Board of Canada; and Dr. ALEX McCALLA, Professor Emeritus, Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis (bios)

Session Summary 


10:00 Evening Reception


8:00 Breakfast and Annual General Meeting

9:30 Food Safety and Regulation — How Safe Is Safe Enough?


     Photo      Photo

Rory McAlpine


Ronald Doering


Pat Mooney

What is government’s role in food safety and regulation? How should that role fit with business interests, in the context of government’s choices about acceptable risks? What is an acceptable risk for the consumer, and how much mitigation is reasonable to expect from government? What are the health consequences, intended or not, to treating food as an industrial product? So many questions, and a whole morning to examine them all.

Speakers: RORY McALPINE, Vice-President, Government & Industry Relations, Maple Leaf Foods, Inc., former British Columbia Deputy Minister of Agriculture, RONALD DOERING, Partner, Gowlings; former President, Canada Food Inspection Agency, and PAT MOONEY, Executive Director, ETC Group, biotechnology and biodiversity consultant (bios)

Session Summary 


12:30 Lunch and Annual General Meeting

2:30 Discussion Groups

4:00 Reading from a Forthcoming Novel



A reading of a chapter from ERIC KOCH's forthcoming novel, The Weimar Triangle.

5:00 Reception

6:00 Dinner

7:30 The Politics of Diet: How Can We Strike the Right Balance?


     Photo      Photo

Richard Ellis


Debbie Field


Galen Weston

The food we consume affects our health, our cultural identities, our ethical commitments and, for some, our political beliefs. In North America, the issue of food consumption has become increasingly fraught, with the rise of obesity and constant concern about what we can or should eat. Yes, we have seen a rise in organic foods and vegetarianism, and the slow food movement places food at the centre of human activity, but the consumer still has a seemingly unlimited appetite for convenience and low prices. Can there be a happy medium?

Speakers: RICHARD ELLIS, Senior Vice President, Communication and Corporate Affairs, McDonald’s Canada, DEBBIE FIELD, Executive Director, Foodshare Inc., and GALEN G. WESTON, Executive Chairman, Loblaw Companies Limited (bios)
Moderator: BOB RAMSAY, Communications Consultant

Session Summary 


10:00 Evening Reception


8:00 Breakfast

9:30 Presentation of the Annual Couchiching Award for Excellence in Public Policy Leadership to the Honourable Lincoln Alexander

Photo courtesy of Gilbert &
Associates, Toronto


Each year, we present the Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership to a nationally recognized Canadian who has demonstrated a particular kind of leadership: someone who has made an impact in public policy for Canada or for a community, often in the face of public opposition.

We are extremely proud to present the 2009 Couchiching Public Policy Award  to the HONOURABLE LINCOLN ALEXANDER – Canada’s first black Lieutenant Governor and first black member of Parliament – for his lifelong work toward the creation of a socially just, diverse society.

A Brief Bio
Mr. Alexander served as Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario from 1985 to 1991. He was a Member of Parliament from 1968 to 1980 and served as federal Minister of Labour in 1979. A Companion of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Order of Ontario, Mr. Alexander has served on numerous public service boards including the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and on the Ontario Press Council. He is currently Chairman of the Ontario Heritage Trust, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Guelph, and Chairman of the Raptors Foundation. He continues to serve on public and private boards and as Patron of many charitable organizations. Mr. Alexander’s memoir, entitled ‘Go to School’, You’re A Little Black Boy, chronicling his remarkable life, was published in the Fall of 2006.

10:00 The Future of Food(s): What Will Our Children Eat?


     Photo      Photo

Susan Walsh


Ian Burton


Emrul Hasan

Climate change, overfishing, pollution, urbanization: our ability to feed the world is under attack and the future availability of some foods is uncertain. How do we protect the most vulnerable people and the most vulnerable sources of nourishment? What political and social levers can we use to respond to these challenges, and what political pressures will make it difficult to do so? This last panel of the conference will circle back to some of the questions we asked in the very first panel and project them into the future.

Speaker: SUSAN WALSH, Executive Director, USC Canada and Seeds of Survival; IAN BURTON, University of Toronto environmentalist; and EMRUL HASAN, Plan Canada (bios)

Session Summary 


12:00 Checkout and Lunch

1:00 Closing Keynote

The Global Politics of Food: What Now?



Speaker: CAROL OFF, journalist, co-host of CBC Radio’s As It Happens and author of Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet (bio)

In Bitter Chocolate, Carol Off followed the bean from the cocoa farms of rural Africa to the candy counters of North America, a story that touches on almost every aspect of food production: protests over rising prices, child labour and trafficking, multinational corporations and fair trade. Having investigated the corruption and human rights abuses associated with the multimillion-dollar cocoa industry, and having listened keenly with an expert ear to the weekend’s discussions, Carol will draw the disparate threads of all our conversations together and sum up.

Session Summary 



A interview video
with Carol Off about her book


BRIAN GABLE, a witty and talented cartoonist for The Globe and Mail, will have his sketchpad at the ready all weekend to capture the essence of the conference – and track the development of our knowledge – for posterity.

In true Couchiching fashion, at the end of the conference you will have been challenged by creative, bright and unusual ideas and you will have contributed some of your own. After three days of provocative questions, challenging discussion and divergent positions, you will have made new connections – both intellectual and human – and will return to your regular life both enlightened and befriended. Indeed, you may leave with many questions still unasked, but you’ll have many new perspectives from which to find answers. And we will have fulfilled our mission: to make sure that each of us – speaker, moderator and delegate finishes the weekend full of stimulating thoughts.




Agriculture Canada 
Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP
Henry of Pelham
International Development Research Centre 
Loblaw Companies Limited 
Porter Novelli
The Probyn Group 
Syngenta Crop Protection Canada, Inc. 
TD Bank Financial Group 
YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka 


The Burton Charitable Foundation


Catherine Aczèl Boivie and Janos Aczèl
Dorothy and Roel Buck


James Baillie
Joanna Beyersbergen
Jane Brenneman Gibson
Roel Buck
Carol Burrows
Gwen Burrows
John Butcher
Paul Dhillon
Jordan Dupuis
Harold Dynna
Wendy Feldman
Gerald Filson
Peter Hernndorf
Birthe Jorgensen, Ph.D.
John Kirton
Eric Koch
Madeline Koch
Grace Lake
Margaret Lefebvre
Henry Lotin
Nona MacDonald Heaslip
Danielle Martin
Don McCutchan
Ross McElroy
Roderick McFadyen
David & Rima McGown
Adam Ostry
Candida Paltiel
Alan Pearson
Sylvia Pivko
Michael Rutherford
Bobbi Speck
Jonathan Tucker
Christopher Waddell
Brent Walker
Helen Walsh

About the Conference Location


The annual conference is held
at the Geneva Park Conference Centre
on the east side of Lake Couchiching.
Geneva Park Brochure (pdf)

Geneva Park map

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