Vice-presidential candidate
George Charbonneau

Let me start by saying that the telephone call with an offer to stand for election was quite a surprise. My first thought was “What will Ann think about this?” Our son Matt has moved to Victoria and his career in the music recording arts is coming together nicely. Our daughter Amy is just in the process of moving back to my home town of Arnprior to begin supply teaching. We are “empty nesters” again. Ann took less time to think about this than I did and her immediate reaction was “You should say yes.”

I grew up in a small rural town with lots of job opportunities in food-animal agriculture. The veterinary profession stood out as a career that offered life-long learning opportunities. After graduating from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1981, I spent some time working in swine-farm management and learned about the business from the producer’s perspective. Over time, I gradually did more contract work for government, industry, and other swine veterinarians, as well as expanding my own client base. In 1989, Ann and I moved to Stratford when Amy and Matt were ready to start school. Stratford turned out to be a wonderful place for us to raise a family and an equally great location to work together in building a swine practice.

Stratford is also the home of the Ontario Pork Congress. Volunteers from all segments of the pork supply chain work together to put on an annual trade show and education program. The Pork Congress has always been a great place to learn how to work as part of a volunteer organization, and over time, I was elected to most of the executive positions, including president. In 1996, a small group of volunteers began to think that we should be able to harness the same type of cooperative spirit in dealing with industry issues. I had the opportunity to chair the steering committee of the Ontario Pork Industry Council and later served as the first chairman of the board of directors. Along the way, I have also served two terms as president of the Ontario Association of Swine Veterinarians, and currently, I am serving as president of the Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians.

I am very fortunate to have had a number of great coaches over the years and even luckier to have started a swine practice when the industry was growing. There was an abundance of low-hanging fruit. There were also fewer societal issues to deal with. As a profession, we spend more and more time dealing with industry issues. The AASV plays an important role in managing these issues and allows us to collectively step up to the plate much more effectively and efficiently than we could ever do as individuals. These issues present risks to our industry and profession, but they also present some of our greatest opportunities.

Animal welfare. Consumers will decide the outcomes by voting with their pocket books at the meat counter and by voting in political referendums. We need to demonstrate by our actions that “We Care.”

Food safety and antimicrobial resistance. Traceability brings accountability, and veterinarians will continue to play a central role here.

Industry careers. The AASV has done a wonderful job of networking with students, and the increasingly international scope of AASV activities presents some significant opportunities.

Animal health. Health still trumps just about everything else in production. Regional disease-elimination efforts are demonstrating the importance of social networking and information-management tools. We need to provide industry leadership in the early detection, control, and elimination of emerging diseases. Circovirus has taught us that we can’t afford to reinvent the wheel each time a new disease emerges.

In recent years, I have had the opportunity to serve on the AASV PRRS, Communication, and Program committees. I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with AASV members whose contributions to the industry and the profession I have admired. I have also had the opportunity to interact with the folks at the National Pork Board. The growing spirit of cooperation in research, issues management, and regional disease elimination is a great example of how we are so much more effective as part of a bigger team. This spirit of cooperation continues to spread across borders and is tearing down silos that once separated us. Communications technology is indeed making this a very small world, and AASV has been very progressive in adopting this new technology to provide continuing education for both veterinary medicine and the issues that we face.

I grew up in a home and community where service was demonstrated by what you did and not just what you said. I have always received more from service than I have been able to give. I believe that I can bring something to the table if elected. I am truly honored to have been nominated, and I will do my best to serve the AASV.

--George Charbonneau