Simpson Centre

About the Simpson Centre for Agricultural and Food Innovation and Public Education

On February 7, 2020, The School of Public Policy, with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, announced the creation of the Simpson Centre for Agricultural and Food Innovation and Public Education.

Housed at the School of Public Policy, the Simpson Centre will focus on the numerous social and economic factors that facilitate the success of Canadian agri-food and agri-business.  The goal is to make the Simpson Centre a locus of Canadian research that strengthens and supports the growth and sustainability of agri-food and agri-business – especially in western Canada.


John Simpson


The Simpson Centre was named after noted Calgary rancher and businessman John Simpson. Mr. Simpson, a born and raised Albertan, is the owner, Chairman and CEO of the CANA Group of Companies – a family-owned private construction services and development company. John and his wife Jollean live on the Simpson Ranch in the foothills of Alberta.  The ranch is home to one of Canada’s largest Hereford herds.

John is not only a serious rancher but a serious equestrian. His passion for riding started at the age of five and continued to bloom from there. He represented Canada in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, the 1978 World Show Jumping Championships in Aachen Germany, and the 1979 Pan American Games in Puerto Rico, where he helped the jumping team win a Silver medal.

In 2005 John was awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal in recognition of his outstanding service to the people and Province of Alberta. In 2008 John was inducted into the Spruce Meadows Hall of Fame. After many years of community services, John received an Honorary Degree from Mount Royal University and an Honorary Doctoral Degree from the University of Calgary


Agriculture is of major importance not just to farmers and ranchers, but to all Canadians. We all benefit from advances in agri-tech, accessible export markets and business-friendly policies that help spur economic growth –  Dr. Ed McCauley, president and vice chancellor, University of Calgary.

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How The School of Public Policy will Support the Simpson Centre

The School of Public Policy is known for its independence, rigour and fact-based analysis. The School will support the Simpson Centre in research and public education on forward-looking and practical issues in the agricultural sector, while always maintaining The School’s rigorous standards. Those standards include having an independent advisory council, the separation of funding from research outcomes, and the use of double-blind peer review.

At the same time, the School of Public Policy aggressively works to impact policy discourse through the rapid and assertive dissemination of our findings through the media, to other academics, and to business and government.

For more information regarding the Simpson Centre, please contact:

Karen Spencer
Project Coordinator, Simpson Centre
Office (403) 210-8947
Cell (403) 680-4285


Scientific Research and a Proactive Outreach Agenda

The aim of the Simpson Centre is to drive research that informs the public and stakeholder dialogue about agri-food and agri-business issues – with a special focus on western Canada. To that end, we will establish four research areas within the Simpson Centre. These will focus on timely and relevant topics that impact decision making in an effort to strengthen the farming and agricultural sector in Canada and as it exports abroad. As research is developed, results will be aggressively disseminated through our proven successful communications and events teams – reaching decision-makers, influencers, the general public, international audiences, and informing best practices in the sector itself.

Our Four Research Areas:

Trade Policy

Canada is poised to be the breadbasket for vast numbers of people entering the middle class in Asia. The potential for exports is enormous. This could be Canada’s, and especially western Canada’s, next big thing. So we need to be ready. That means making good on trade agreements, upping our game in terms of international representation at trade summits, and working on-the-ground abroad to pitch our agri-food and agri-businesses. The issues that require immediate research attention are:

  • The US-China trade war – its impact on Canada and how Canada can establish its own, advantageous trade agenda with China.
  • The WTO and Agreement on Agriculture has benefited Canadian agri-food but has stalled. How can Canada re-exert itself to take full advantage of the WTO.
  • CETA was implemented in September 2017 and was a historic agreement on many fronts including removal of trade irritants. Nonetheless, the agreement has so far been a disappointment. EU agri-food exports to Canada grew by four percent from 2017 to 2018. However, Canadian exports to the EU have stagnated. In part, the explanation for this imbalance has been non-tariff barriers including food safety rules and regulations. The Research will provide focused prescriptions to overcome these challenges.
  • Trade diversification – Canada is simply too dependent on two major export markets – the US and China. This research will engage Canada’s foreign affairs experts to provide advice on how to aggressively engage with our prime emerging markets, with a focus on Asia outside of China.

Environment and climate change

Agriculture is a major user of resources and a contributor to greenhouse gases (GHGs). At the same time, Canada’s responsible and sustainable agricultural practices are at the forefront of mitigating environmental impact – potentially making agriculture a net contributor to GHG reductions and sustainable food production.

Topics include:

  • Canadian agriculture and carbon capture – best practices in agriculture to capture GHG’s and mitigate overall environmental impacts.
  • Understanding an applying global trends in food production – as the global middle class grows, so does interest in sustainable, humane and organic agricultural practices. How can Canada take the lead in implementing these practices, and thereby create a competitive advantage for Canadian producers in a globalized agri-food market?

Agriculture as a major resource sector

Are Canadians fully aware of the vast economic contributions that agriculture and livestock farming make to current and future Canadian prosperity?

  •  Modeling and calculating the contribution of agri-food and agri-business to the Canadian economy.
  • Demonstrating the growth potential, in dollars, cents and impact across Canada (including in urban centres) of the Canadian agri-food and agri-business sector.


Food and agriculture technology

Some of the biggest recent irritants to the grain and livestock expert sectors have come from real or perceived quality issues. Technology is key to addressing and mitigating these issues.

  • Block-chain and quality control – blockchain technology is about much more than e-currency. It has applications to any complex industry that requires multiple inputs and control tracking through a complex supply chain. How can Canada become a global leader in the application of blockchain, and other technologies, to agricultural production and exports?

How will it be structured?

The Centre will have a director, who will hold an academic appointment in the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Assisting the director with operations will be a project coordinator, who will ensure that the research work of the Centre will represent the best use of endowment funds and take full advantage of the pre-existing resources and infrastructure available at The School of Public Policy and the University of Calgary. An independent Advisory Board will oversee operations and provide input on research issues.  This model has been successfully used by The School with its Extractive Resources Governance Program.

Are other faculties or schools involved in this project?

The project of a dedicated centre focused on research and public education in the agri-business and agri-food sector was developed in close collaboration between UCalgary School of Public Policy and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Other schools and faculties are expected to contribute their particular expertise to the Simpson Centre on a program basis. Once the centre is established, it will develop partnerships with other research centres in the province, in Canada and beyond.

For more information regarding the Simpson Centre, please contact:

Karen Spencer
Project Coordinator, Simpson Centre
Office (403) 210-8947
Cell (403) 680-4285