Niagara College welcomed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday morning.
The prime minister visited the Wine Visitor + Education Centre at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus where he met students and staff, and learned about the wine making process from students and recent graduates of Niagara College’s Winery and Viticulture Technician program.
“We were very pleased to welcome the prime minister and to share some of the interesting and innovative work that our students, staff and faculty are doing,” said Niagara College president Dan Patterson. “We were also grateful for the opportunity to highlight Niagara College’s important role in supporting key industry sectors in our region, across Ontario and Canada, including Niagara’s world-renowned grape and wine industry.”
While touring the Niagara College Teaching Winery, the Prime Minister met Kalem Magny of Fenwick, ON, a current student in Niagara College’s Winery and Viticulture Technician program, and Di Yao, originally of Fuzhou Province, China, a recent graduate of the Winery and Viticulture Technician program currently working at Jackson-Triggs Winery, who, along with Niagara College winemaker/professor Gavin Robertson, demonstrated winemaking processes.
“I’m envious that this is work for you,” the prime minister said of his surroundings in the teaching vineyard. “Who wouldn’t want their daily commute to include a vineyard like this?”
As a teacher and a prime minister, Trudeau said that he’s visited postsecondary institutions across the country.
“I’m always impressed by colleges’ and universities’ innovative spirit.”
Both Magny and Yao were excited to share their work with the prime minister.
“What really makes Niagara College’s Winery and Viticulture Technician program unique is the hands-on nature of the program,” said Magny. “It was great to show the Prime Minister what I’m learning, and describe a key part of the winemaking process.”
“Niagara College’s Winery and Viticulture Technician program provided me with the hands-on skills and experience I needed to succeed in the grape and wine industry,” said Yao, who also holds bachelor’s degrees from Canada and her native China. “I was thrilled to meet the prime minister and demonstrate the applied learning that takes place in the Niagara College Teaching Winery.”
When asked how the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) might affect Niagara’s grape and wine industry, the prime minister vowed support for Canadian agriculture, produce and wines, and pointed to Niagara College’s wine programs as essential in supporting the growth of the industry.
“Having institutions like Niagara College developing capacity for individual Canadians, for young Canadians to develop the expertise that is going to be more and more necessary in the world of wine, is a very exciting thing,” he said.
The prime minister also said that his government is committed to ensuring access to postsecondary education.
“Students today have many more degrees, diplomas and certificates to choose from than we did when we were students. Our post-secondary institutions were able to adapt to the realities of the new economy and adjust their curriculums to meet the demands of a world that is rapidly changing. We can’t forget that not everyone is benefiting from those incredible programs. Not everyone has the opportunity to get the training they want in the field they like,” he said. “Our government intends to change that.”
The Prime Minister’s visit concluded with a media availability in the College’s 40-acre teaching vineyard.