Heart problems have forced Ted Menzies, veteran farm leader and former federal cabinet minister, to resign as president and CEO of CropLife Canada after just three years in the post.
While his appointment in 2014 was controversial, coming months after leaving the Harper cabinet, he continued to be an ambassador for Canadian farmers as he was when he was an Alberta crop grower and politician.
“I got a wake-up call,” Menzies said in an interview. “If I’d carried on the way I was going, I was at a high risk of having a stroke because of my erratic heartbeat. If I couldn’t do the job at 100 per cent, then I needed to get out of the way.”
For now, Menzies is focused on dealing with the health issue, which he learned about from a cardiologist in late December. He’s been impressed by the reaction to the news from old political friends and many people he came in contact with over the years.
CropLife chairman Jay Bradshaw said in a statement, “Ted contributed a great deal to our organization and we will miss his insight and dedication to Canadian agriculture.”
Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said he was surprised when he heard of Menzies’ health problem because he was always so positive and upbeat.
“He was always a gentleman; even in politics he stayed above the partisan fray. He always looked for common ground on an issue and he always had that big smile. He has many friends in the industry and elsewhere.”
Richard Phillips, former executive director of Grain Growers of Canada, called Menzies “a great agvocate for our sector.” Phillips was head of the Canadian Grain Council until he had to resign himself to battle bladder cancer.
“Ted is very knowledgeable and dedicated; he has moved mountains to promote agriculture in Canada,” said Carla Ventin, vice-president of Food & Consumer Products Canada. “And he always did this with a smile on his face, and also made everyone else smile.”
Menzies was an active participant in the Grow Canada conference in early December. In the fall, he was talking up CropLife’s initiative in drawing attention to the value of a report by RIAS Inc. on the benefits of crop protection and plant biotechnology.
Menzies planned to be active in looking for venues and opportunities to discuss the information contained in the report. It’s important information for the agri-food sector to have in any discussions on social licence and public trust, he added.
He wanted Canadians to receive the message that innovations “generate more than 111,000 jobs and $8.3 billion in additional agricultural output in Canada. This increased output from plant science innovations also accounts for 71 per cent of Canada’s positive trade balance in crops.”
Bradshaw said that Pierre Petelle, CropLife Canada’s vice-president of chemistry, has been appointed acting president while an executive search to fill the position on a permanent basis is underway.
“CropLife Canada has a strong team of professionals that will continue, under Pierre’s interim leadership, to work with partners throughout the food value chain to enhance our industry’s ability to deliver the benefits of plant science technologies to farmers and, through farmers, to all Canadians,” Bradshaw added. The organization has engaged Kincannon & Reed to lead the search for a permanent replacement for Menzies.
First elected as a Conservative MP to represent the Alberta Constituency of Macleod in 2004, Menzies served as the minister of state for finance and parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance. He was an effective spokesman for the government on economic and financial issues during the 2011 election campaign.
Prior to entering federal politics Menzies was involved in several farm organizations serving as president of several of them including Western Canadian Wheat Growers, Grain Growers of Canada and Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance.
Menzies owned and operated a 5,000-acre farm in southern Alberta from 1974-2003 where he produced grain, oilseeds, pulses and spices.