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John McGowan

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Graduation Year

1954

College

OVC

Interview Date

Interviewer

P. Ide

Call Number

RE1 UOG A1340156

Audio

John McGowan interview

Transcript

Peter Ide (00:00):
January the 27th, 2006. My name's Peter Ide. I'm sitting with Dr. John McGowan, as part of the University of Guelph Alumnus Oral History project. John, uh, you graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in, uh, what year?

John McGowan (00:17):
Uh, in 1954 and we were the first of the five year course at that time.

Peter Ide (00:23):
Okay.

John McGowan (00:24):
There was no class in 1953.

Peter Ide (00:27):
I see, okay.

John McGowan (00:27):
No graduating class in 1953.

Peter Ide (00:29):
Okay. And how big a class were you in the university?

John McGowan (00:32):
There was 73 of us that graduated.

Peter Ide (00:33):
Big class?

John McGowan (00:34):
Yes and as of today, uh, we have, I think 48 left out of the seven... Original 73.

Peter Ide (00:41):
Okay. That's pretty good still.

John McGowan (00:43):
Yeah. We had, we had a number of veterans in our, in our class and most of them-

Peter Ide (00:47):
So they were older?

John McGowan (00:49):
They were, they were, they were somewhat older. That's correct. I think I was the second youngest in the, in the class-

Peter Ide (00:55):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (00:55):
... At the time.

Peter Ide (00:55):
Okay.

John McGowan (00:57):
I was 23 when I graduated.

Peter Ide (00:58):
And your background, you were from a farm originally?

John McGowan (01:00):
From a small farm in Eastern Ontario.

Peter Ide (01:02):
Okay.

John McGowan (01:02):
A small... Call it a mixed farm, and I, we milked somewhere around 20, 20 cows. Had a few, few pigs, a few sows and some laying hens. Uh, my dad, uh, did custom thrashing, custom saddle filling. Uh, I think we-we started out with about 55 acres. A pretty small farm.

Peter Ide (01:20):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (01:21):
And I can remember when the gross income on that farm was $2000 a year.

Peter Ide (01:25):
Okay.

John McGowan (01:26):
So we didn't have a lot of, a lot of extra money.

Peter Ide (01:28):
Right. And then what, uh, uh, what sort of precipitated you to enter the vet school, the vet program? Was it something?

John McGowan (01:36):
Well, I always, I always liked animals. I liked, uh, all the farm animals but I've always, always had a dog of course of my own.

Peter Ide (01:43):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (01:43):
Type of thing. And, uh, I didn't really make my money about until, um, it was in my last year of high school and I realized that Easter time, I needed upper school history. And so I had to do that by my... On my own. Uh, so I studied history then the next couple of months and actually, I think I got the highest, highest mark in the class by doing it.

Peter Ide (02:09):
[crosstalk]

Peter Ide (02:09):
That's amazing, to be able to do that on your own because that's-

John McGowan (02:11):
Well, yes but-

Peter Ide (02:13):
[crosstalk]

Peter Ide (02:13):
Really determined.

John McGowan (02:13):
But my memory was a lot better in those days than it is now.

Peter Ide (02:18):
Um, now when you were at that school, was there anything specific emphasis on certain things, you know, like, uh, when I was going through it was, um, Court Hills program, so this type of thing.

John McGowan (02:32):
Uh, not-not in those days. This was, uh, I think, I think the, uh, there was one sort of innovation when I was there and that's the farm, the farm service was started.

Peter Ide (02:41):
Oh, yeah.

John McGowan (02:42):
It was Doug Labelstone and Jack Kodey and, and I can't remember who else was involved.

Peter Ide (02:47):
Yeah, okay.

John McGowan (02:47):
But, but, uh, that was, that was sort of an innovative kind of a thing and that was very good because it actually got us out into real live, real farms.

Peter Ide (02:56):
Yes.

John McGowan (02:56):
And live, live medical cases.

Peter Ide (02:58):
Yes, yeah.

John McGowan (02:59):
And, and it was extremely, uh, instructive, if you like, the course.

Peter Ide (03:02):
Yeah. I wonder, was there any, uh, any negatives from the local practitioners about that or-

John McGowan (03:07):
[crosstalk].

John McGowan (03:07):
Uh, no. I think they made some kind of an arrangement with the local, uh, practitioner. Uh, I think there was maybe one in Guelph at that time but I think there was some kind of an arrangement that the college made.

Peter Ide (03:21):
[crosstalk]

Peter Ide (03:21):
So they weren't in competition?

John McGowan (03:22):
[crosstalk].

John McGowan (03:22):
So there was no-nothing to my knowledge anyway.

Peter Ide (03:24):
Okay. Um, now, um, after graduation, did you went into practice?

John McGowan (03:35):
I did. Uh, I went out to, uh, Alberta and the reason I went to Alberta was because I had spent a summer out there working with the health of animals branch in Wetaskiwin in Alberta with Dr. Oscar Christian who, uh, was the, the district veterinarian of the day. A very well known practitioner, uh, in Saskatchewan and then I guess he'd come over to Wetaskiwin in Alberta.

John McGowan (04:03):
And I don't know whether he practiced there or not but certainly he was, he was the district veterinarian and a very, very fine, fine gentleman. I learned a lot from him and so after, uh, the next summer then, uh, which was after my fourth year, I was out there in 1952. Uh, '52. Yes, '50, '52 right after the foot and mouth outbreaks.

Peter Ide (04:26):
Yes.

John McGowan (04:26):
So we spent a lot of time checking suspects, suspected animals, okay?

Peter Ide (04:30):
Right.

John McGowan (04:32):
And, uh, then the next summer I spent, uh, interning at a practice in Illinois, which was, uh, heavily, uh, swayed towards swine and so I learned a lot about how to handle these large sows and their little lay huts.

Peter Ide (04:49):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Peter Ide (04:49):
Yeah.

John McGowan (04:51):
Uh, because we're doing a lot of vaccinating for, for hog cholera in those days. So, uh, then when I graduated then, uh, I was asked to go back, uh, to the District Agriculturist or the Ag Rep and uh, they called them DAs out there. He said to me, "Why don't you come back to, to Alberta and practice in Ponoka, uh, because there was no practitioner there and it was an excellent farming animals," and we had worked both Wetaskiwin area and the Ponoka area out there as a student. So I said, "Sure." So, uh, we drove by, drove out there and started in, uh, right after graduation in 1954.

Peter Ide (05:28):
So did you start to practice there or did you-

John McGowan (05:30):
I started to practice my own-

Peter Ide (05:31):
[crosstalk]

Peter Ide (05:31):
Wow.

John McGowan (05:31):
Started practice there in 1954.

Peter Ide (05:32):
Big step, eh?

John McGowan (05:34):
[crosstalk].

John McGowan (05:34):
It was, it was indeed. I came back and got married to a [inaudible] girl [inaudible name] and, uh, we lived there for eight years, uh, in practice. Uh, I took a partner in, in 1958 and then hired another graduate from 1961, Dr. Bill Bowman.

Peter Ide (05:57):
Oh, yes. Okay. Okay, and then, uh... Okay, so then a-after eight years in practice.

John McGowan (06:04):
Yes.

Peter Ide (06:05):
You decided that you'd have enough of practice or what, what happened then?

John McGowan (06:08):
Well, quite frankly, I was, I was getting a little bored with the practice, you know, because it was, um, it was, it was hard work which didn't bother me.

Peter Ide (06:16):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (06:16):
Uh, but it was rather repetitive, you know, getting out of the bed in the middle of the night going on to calve the cow on a Saturday. And I had an interest, a real interest in, in wildlife. Uh, you know, I-I like the outdoors very much. And so I thought I would like to do some graduate work in, in wildlife biology and, uh, so I had a, a trip down to Guelph to see if I can get in to the wildlife biology course at the OAC.

Peter Ide (06:48):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (06:49):
To do a Master's degree and I happened to be going down the hallway and Trevor Wally Jones who was the Dean of the university stopped me and he knew who I was and I knew who he was of course. And, uh, he said, "John," he said, "Why don't you come and do a master's degree here in wildlife diseases?" And I said, "Well, that, that sounds pretty good."

Peter Ide (07:11):
Was that a new, um, a new offering at that time?

John McGowan (07:14):
Uh, fairly, uh, relatively new.

Peter Ide (07:16):
Okay.

John McGowan (07:16):
Relatively new, yeah. And, uh, it was Don Gray was actually the, uh, a graduate student also and we did some courses together but, uh, anyway to come back to that, um, we, uh, went into the, went into the master's course, Master of Veterinary Science Course, which I don't think, uh, exists anymore, MVSC.

Peter Ide (07:41):
I don't think so, no.

John McGowan (07:42):
And so two years later, uh, or less than two years later, um, I-I-I got master's degree. Well, I couldn't find a job that would pay me enough to support my family, uh, wife and four children at that time and I had paid all of my expenses to come back, to come back to Guelph and no salary and no scholarship, no fellowship and for two years.

Peter Ide (08:06):
A real leap of interest.

John McGowan (08:07):
So I, uh, then went to... And I, I loved. I would have loved to work in wildlife field particularly with, uh, with Caribou because you know, the importance of Caribou to the people of the north. So, um, I-I accepted a job as the director of the veterinary services branch for the province of Manitoba.

Peter Ide (08:31):
What was the subject of your thesis, John? Was, uh, when you did your-

John McGowan (08:39):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (08:39):
Uh. That was, uh, episodiology of multiple sclerosis.

Peter Ide (08:39):
Okay.

John McGowan (08:41):
And, uh, we did-

Peter Ide (08:42):
Wildlife.

John McGowan (08:43):
[crosstalk].

John McGowan (08:43):
And wild, wildlife in particular. That's right, you know, the raccoons and skunks and, and deer and moose and, uh, anything, pretty well anything that, that blocked wildlife, you know, we were, were involved in.

Peter Ide (08:57):
Uh, okay. So then, uh, then you went into an administrative position really after that.

John McGowan (09:02):
I did indeed, yes. Yes.

Peter Ide (09:03):
Um, how did you find the transition this scientific sort of research skill to the administrative position?

John McGowan (09:11):
Well, uh, it was, it was quite the, uh, transition there's, there's no doubt but I found out, uh, shortly after I got there that I liked the, the administrative and the management of, of, uh, of veterinary medicine.

Peter Ide (09:26):
Right.

John McGowan (09:27):
Right off my alley.

Peter Ide (09:28):
Right.

John McGowan (09:28):
And so, uh, we had a field division, we had a laboratory division if anything and, um, I-I-I liked the management part of that and, and we had, uh, I guess almost five years in Manitoba doing that.

Peter Ide (09:41):
Yeah, that's a big job to take on, uh, again from, uh, from not having experience in particular in that, that type of thing to be able to take that on.

John McGowan (09:51):
That's correct.

Peter Ide (09:52):
[crosstalk].

John McGowan (09:52):
I-I think that the chap I worked with, uh, Esmond Jarvis the Deputy Minister of the Department of Agriculture there and he and I were, were got to be very good friends. He was one year older than I, I am right now and unfortunately just passed away, uh, not too long ago but, uh, as an aside, he, he was, um, he came to, to Ottawa, left the deputy ministership there, came to Ottawa and I just sort of, um, I guess followed in his footsteps and took over his job with... At, at one point time then. But, um, it was, uh, it was a very interesting experience.

Peter Ide (10:34):
So then, uh, you, you, you, you realized that, that was, uh, an interesting niche for you to get into. It was administration of veterinary science and after your, uh, what, five years in that position.

John McGowan (10:47):
Yes.

Peter Ide (10:48):
Uh, then, then where did you go?

John McGowan (10:50):
I joined the, uh, the federal department of health, uh, as a section at, in the Bureau of Veterinary Medicine and this is the group that did the, uh, uh, authorization of veterinary drugs, uh, drugs used in animals.

Peter Ide (11:06):
Okay, that was here in Ottawa.

John McGowan (11:07):
[crosstalk].

John McGowan (11:07):
In Ottawa, yes, yes.

Peter Ide (11:09):
And, uh, uh, that was quite a, uh, um, a different sort of job from the job in Manitoba presumably.

John McGowan (11:16):
It was.

Peter Ide (11:17):
And why did you, why did you decide on that then?

John McGowan (11:20):
Well, before I left Manitoba, um, uh, I decided that I wanted to be the, the senior veterinary officer in Canada.

Peter Ide (11:29):
Oh, very good.

John McGowan (11:31):
And (laughs), um, we had some instance, uh, with things that happened in Manitoba when I was there that, um, I guess precipitated that thought. Um, I thought perhaps some of those things could be handled a little bit better. So that was my goal, um, and that's why I moved in Ottawa.

Peter Ide (11:55):
Okay, very good.

John McGowan (11:56):
And that was in 1968, 1968.

Peter Ide (12:00):
And it wasn't long after that but you did become the, the-

John McGowan (12:07):
Well, I did.

Peter Ide (12:07):
Head of the veterinary research diagnostic and field people.

John McGowan (12:10):
That's correct. I, uh, I went. That was, uh, another two, uh, moves. There was another move to the chief, which is, uh, another promotion to the chief of the animal resources division in the, uh, Federal Department of Health. And then following that, I became the director of the Bureau of Veterinary Medicine, which is the, the group that I joined, uh, when I moved from Manitoba.

John McGowan (12:38):
And, uh, I was the second, uh, second director of, of that particular division. Uh, and this was the group of professionals veterinarians that, uh, that did the assessment of, of animal drugs.

Peter Ide (12:56):
And that, that was the assessment that was done before licensing was given and so-

John McGowan (13:01):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (13:01):
That's correct. That's correct, yes. Yes. So then in, in, uh, '76, I was interviewed for the position of, uh, assistant deputy minister, uh, of the health and animals branch in, in Canada Department of Agriculture and I won that competition. And so I joined the Department, Federal Department in May of 1976.

Peter Ide (13:29):
Now that was, that was prior to the formation and the food production inspection director.

John McGowan (13:39):
That is correct. That is correct.

Peter Ide (13:40):
Is that right?

John McGowan (13:40):
Yes.

Peter Ide (13:40):
Okay.

John McGowan (13:40):
Then in 1979, I was asked to... Told actually, to take the... What I had in the Health Federal branch and marry it with the production side of the production and marketing branch.

Peter Ide (13:57):
Okay.

John McGowan (13:59):
And so I did that and, um, I still have the piece of paper where I was trying to figure out what we're going to call new branch and, uh, ended up with food production and inspection branch.

Peter Ide (14:10):
[crosstalk].

John McGowan (14:10):
And that doubled the number of people. That was I think about 4500 people in that particular branch at the time.

Peter Ide (14:19):
[crosstalk].

John McGowan (14:19):
I think there was 26... 2500 or 2600 in the health of animals branch before we... At the time with amalgamation. And so we, we, uh, we, uh looked after that and this was, um, uh, professional people of course were veterinarians and, and professional agrologists and research scientists with three, three particular professional groups were there.

John McGowan (14:45):
And I think we had something like, uh, 550 veterinarians, uh, something like 400 and some odd, uh, agrologists, uh, and I think 65 research scientists I believe at that time. Um, that was a very interesting, a very interesting experience, uh, over the years from 1976 until '86 actually.

Peter Ide (15:10):
And very difficult job, I think.

John McGowan (15:15):
Very difficult. Uh, no doubt about it, uh, to try and build, uh, the management team of that, you know. Uh, one thing that... The one thing I, I, I, I, uh, found out that, uh, that management skills in terms of professional and veterinarians and agrologists was sadly lacking.

Peter Ide (15:35):
Yeah.

John McGowan (15:36):
And so we tried to, uh, do some training and, and management techniques and, and brought people in to, to actually train people and problem solving and, and, and the project management, uh, in particular. And that really made quite a... Uh, it made my job a lot easier because I had, uh, a cart of trained managers, if you like, that looked after the various areas that we had.

John McGowan (16:01):
Now one thing we did do is we tried to keep the veterinary side apart from the agrologist side and as I said, I was told to put these two branches together.

Peter Ide (16:15):
Yes.

John McGowan (16:15):
And I didn't want there to be conflict because traditionally there was-

Peter Ide (16:19):
[crosstalk]

Peter Ide (16:19):
Yes, that's correct. That's right.

John McGowan (16:20):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (16:20):
Between veterinarians and agrologists.

Peter Ide (16:21):
For no good reason but-

John McGowan (16:23):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (16:23):
And so I tired to minimize that as much as I could and, and, and it, and it actually did, did work, uh, I think when I was there.

Peter Ide (16:30):
Yeah.

John McGowan (16:31):
Um, it was, it was quite, quite an interesting experience but, uh, it was stressful. Uh, but we had excellent people, excellent people working for me and, and, uh, I can't say enough good about the people.

Peter Ide (16:46):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Peter Ide (16:48):
You know, that's very good. Uh, um, um, and, and I-I know you accomplished a lot in that job, John, and one of your major accomplishments from my perspective anyway was the, the way you organized the tackling of Brucellosis and the eradication of Brucellosis from the, from the dairy herd in Calgary, the dairy and beef herd. What, what, um, uh, what, what do you have to say about that? Like what, what... This is-

John McGowan (17:17):
Well.

Peter Ide (17:17):
... Something you'd focused on and you obviously made it a, a point of, uh, keeping on top of it until it was done.

John McGowan (17:24):
Yeah. Well, well, when you... Uh, you know, I realized that what is, what is the, the most important thing that we can do when we're there and, uh, so yeah, that's the simplest, setting priorities and the priority, uh, for me and for the livestock industry in Calgary was the elimination or eradication of Brucellosis.

Peter Ide (17:47):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (17:48):
So that was the side of it and so I had to sell this idea of course to our senior management, so the deputy minister, okay?

Peter Ide (17:55):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (17:55):
In, in, in, uh, in agriculture and the minister. The minister of the day of course was Jim Waylor. And when I told him that I thought maybe we could maybe do a little bit better job, you know, in that, that particular eradication program, uh, he reacted a bit.

John McGowan (18:15):
And, and so I had to prove myself, uh, that, that we could do it. And so he set, he set, uh, the management framework and again with very excellent people but one of the keys to that of course was the participation of the livestock industry of Calgary and we formed, uh, consulted a committee and everything that we, we, we did we later planned out in front of them. We asked for their feedback.

Peter Ide (18:42):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (18:43):
Uh, and we did this in a very regular basis and, and that scheme worked I think extremely well. It was... When we started, there was 1500 herds under quarantine. This was costing, uh, the government of Canada, uh, a lot of money, taxpayers', taxpayers' money. And so when we completed that task, uh, and I think it was 1986, uh, the compensation money was zero. And when you look that in a compounding, compounded basis, that was I think quite, quite a good confirmation-

Peter Ide (19:21):
Right.

John McGowan (19:21):
... On the part of livestock industry, government working together to accomplish a, a goal.

Peter Ide (19:27):
Right, right. Yeah, exactly. Now this constitutive committee, was that sort of a unique, um, approach or-

John McGowan (19:33):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (19:33):
Well, I think, I think it was. I think that, that probably... I have to be a little careful with what I say.

Peter Ide (19:38):
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

John McGowan (19:40):
I have to... I don't want to be immodest but I think it was the first time that in government, that, that they had that kind of a system.

Peter Ide (19:45):
Yes. Yeah, yeah. Okay.

John McGowan (19:47):
Where, where we said we're going to work with industry.

Peter Ide (19:50):
Yeah.

John McGowan (19:50):
To accomplish something together.

Peter Ide (19:52):
It's interesting.

John McGowan (19:53):
[crosstalk].

Peter Ide (19:53):
I mean, once it's done, then it seems to be such, such a logical thing to do. It's, it's astounding that it hadn't been done before, really, when you think about it.

John McGowan (20:01):
Well, exactly. Yeah.

Peter Ide (20:02):
[crosstalk].

Peter Ide (20:02):
It's like any sort of major step.

John McGowan (20:04):
[crosstalk].

John McGowan (20:04):
It's just, it's just good common sense.

Peter Ide (20:05):
Yeah, right.

John McGowan (20:06):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (20:06):
Really all it is.

Peter Ide (20:06):
Right. And actually from the time you, you, you took that on, the Brucellosis eradication, uh, program until the time it was accomplished, it was fairly sure, wasn't it?

John McGowan (20:17):
Well, um, as I said, we moved there in May of, of, of '76 and in '86, we had accomplished that.

Peter Ide (20:25):
Yeah.

John McGowan (20:25):
And on a country with that's with the, uh-

Peter Ide (20:28):
[crosstalk].

John McGowan (20:29):
Parameters of Canada.

Peter Ide (20:30):
Yeah.

John McGowan (20:30):
And the diverse livestock of, that, that, that, um-

Peter Ide (20:36):
It was a major step forward because-

John McGowan (20:38):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (20:38):
We're, we're rather proud of that but it was the team, it was a team effort, uh-

Peter Ide (20:41):
[crosstalk]

Peter Ide (20:41):
Yeah, yeah but still you have to have someone at the end and the US hadn't that.

John McGowan (20:42):
Oh, no, no. They still don't.

Peter Ide (20:45):
No.

John McGowan (20:46):
Still don't, still don't, still don't have the [inaudible].

Peter Ide (20:48):
Um.

John McGowan (20:51):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (20:51):
But we were, were a little bit pushed into that too because the, the US, the US had, uh, put very severe restrictions on export of Canadian, uh, product of, of livestock.

Peter Ide (21:02):
[crosstalk]

Peter Ide (21:02):
Oh, I see. I see. Based on Brucellosis you mean or-

John McGowan (21:05):
Uh, to a certain extent, yeah.

Peter Ide (21:07):
Really? Okay.

John McGowan (21:08):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (21:08):
So we were, we were a little pushed bit into it and that, that just felt just established as, as, as a priority.

Peter Ide (21:13):
Yeah. Um, um, I-I know you, you were also involved a lot in overseas, uh, trade missions and this sort of thing, John. Um, uh, and, and also, uh, heavily involved with the OIE, which is the, the world, uh, sort of association of veterinary, uh, officers and disease control officers. Um-

John McGowan (21:36):
Yes.

Peter Ide (21:38):
Can you talk a little bit about that? Both those things, the OIE and the international trade, uh, negotiations.

John McGowan (21:42):
You know, I-I sat on the OIE from '76 I think until '91, if I remember correctly. Um, and I was on the administrative committee for most of that time, which is like the board of directors.

Peter Ide (21:55):
Okay.

John McGowan (21:56):
And this, this organizations made up the, um, standard veterinary officers of, of, of countries in the world.

Peter Ide (22:03):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (22:04):
There is a fee that you obtain to belong to this but, uh, because you have the support of the administration of, of the office which was located... Is still located in Paris, but an, an extremely important organization because, uh, with international trade and, and livestock, livestock product, uh, you have to have, you have to have sort of global, uh, rules, regulations and this is of course what this organization did and it really did, uh, I think accomplish quite a lot, uh, during that period of time.

John McGowan (22:36):
And, and, uh, not only that, you get to know your counterparts in, in other countries so if you have a problem with a particular import or export of livestock or livestock probably. You could pick up the telephone and, and, and speak, speak to that particular person. So, uh, they were, they were, they were very good years and, and, um, I was in Paris.

John McGowan (22:57):
I think, you know, the main meeting was in May of each year which lasted a full week and then we had the administrative board of the directors meeting in February of each year and, uh, to do the planning for, for, for the, for the future. But, uh, extremely important organization and still going strong.

Peter Ide (23:16):
Yeah, it is.

John McGowan (23:17):
And then very proud it.

Peter Ide (23:17):
Yeah.

John McGowan (23:18):
Very, very proud it.

Peter Ide (23:19):
It's worked very well.

John McGowan (23:20):
Yeah.

Peter Ide (23:21):
And as you say, the one on one context is, is so important.

John McGowan (23:24):
Ab-absolutely. Yeah, yeah.

Peter Ide (23:26):
Um, okay. International trade, I know you were involved a lot with um, international trade missions and this sort of thing and sort of advising on veterinary medical, uh, questions and this sort of thing.

John McGowan (23:38):
Yeah.

Peter Ide (23:38):
What, uh-

John McGowan (23:39):
Uh-

Peter Ide (23:40):
Particularly brush on-

John McGowan (23:41):
[crosstalk].

John McGowan (23:42):
You know, we-we did quite a bit of that actually when I was, when I was involved with the, uh, from say '76-'86 but then even increased, um, when I became senior assistant deputy minister in 1986 and this was the number two position that we have seen in the, uh, Canada Department of Agriculture. And, uh, so I had more time. I was... I did not have a, a large staff but I had time and, and so I was, I was concentrating on trying to, uh, improve Canada's position with regard to export or product.

John McGowan (24:22):
And I think if you go back into the, into the, uh, the records of, of what was accomplished over a period of time, that, that the exports did really, uh, augment, augment.

Peter Ide (24:33):
Augment.

John McGowan (24:33):
... Uh, considerably. But, uh, we've, you know, we, we did... A lot of, a lot of, um, export promotion will be like, uh, many countries in the world. US of course, number one, uh, China, uh, Japan, uh, Russia, um, OPEC would take all of, all of the Eastern European countries. Uh, we tried to... We thought there was a market there and I think that there was a market there that we developed. Uh, Thailand, um, South America.

Peter Ide (25:04):
Yeah.

John McGowan (25:05):
Uh, South American countries, Latin America countries, uh, and, and so I spent quite a lot of time actually, uh, on that, uh... Like we, we would... When we would go on these missions, we would take industry people with us and we would have a seminar and give each of the Canadian people, involved people, the, uh, the, uh, industry people an opportunity to get up and talk about their product and then the receiving country, of course, the country we were visiting would have their own specialists there or they would have their own industry people there and it was, uh... It was, it was a very, uh, fruitful, I guess experience, uh, to, to have this kind of, kind of, uh, meeting.

John McGowan (25:52):
And then we would, then we would... The industry people then would go out into the country and visit the people that they thought they could export to. And it really, really did work quite well.

Peter Ide (26:02):
Yeah. So it was... That would be quite a revolving, uh, period of time as well.

John McGowan (26:07):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (26:07):
Oh, extremely, extremely interesting.

Peter Ide (26:07):
Yeah.

John McGowan (26:08):
Extremely interesting stage. Uh, six, I guess almost six years that I've had. Until I turned 62, I decided that the time had come to, to retire.

Peter Ide (26:20):
Okay. Which is, um, really good after a very productive career. But, and then, and then after you retired John, you, you kept up doing consultating... Consultative work and so on and, and perhaps still do but what, um... Just talk a little bit about that where you move from, you know, a senior administrative position into a consultation position.

John McGowan (26:43):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (26:44):
Well, there were, uh, a number of, um, consultancies if you like, uh, that I did. Uh, we were, uh, quite involved in, in, in import of, of, uh, Llama and Alpaca from South America.

Peter Ide (27:05):
Oh, yeah. Okay.

John McGowan (27:05):
And that was a several year project.

Peter Ide (27:07):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (27:09):
And that was extremely interesting. Uh, I think we brought about 500, 500 of those little critters in. Uh, the other one that I, I, early in July was, was working with a second largest poultry, broiler, broiler producer in the world, which is a company in Thailand and I worked for them for a number of years.

Peter Ide (27:31):
[crosstalk].

John McGowan (27:31):
Uh, accessing Canadian market and, uh, that, that was a positive thing because we were completely reliant on the US for imports of poultry products.

Peter Ide (27:43):
Okay.

John McGowan (27:43):
And so the Canadian people said they needed an alternative market, uh, or supply of, of, of broiler chicken. And this is, this is, this is the cooked product of course.

Peter Ide (27:55):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (27:56):
And, uh, so I worked with a company in Thailand to access the Canadian market and this was a win-win situation for not only Canada but for Thailand. And I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed that number of, number of trips back to Thailand and, and, and, um, got to know a lot of our own industry people at the same time.

John McGowan (28:19):
And, uh, I had a number, a number of contracts working with the... I actually worked with the, with the department again on a contract. Uh, a potato problem down in Prince Edward Island and that was an access problem, uh, for potatoes to the United States, um, PVYN was the, was the-

Peter Ide (28:36):
Disease.

John McGowan (28:41):
... The disease they had. Uh, I worked with several provinces and, and various projects. Uh, I guess that they, they were primarily the highlights but, but very interesting. You keep your hand in for a few years.

Peter Ide (28:56):
Yeah, exactly.

John McGowan (28:57):
[crosstalk]

Peter Ide (28:57):
You kind of wean yourself off of the, the high pressure stuff.

John McGowan (29:00):
That's right. And so, you know, the last few years and, uh, I'm 75 now but the last few years, I really hadn't done anything.

Peter Ide (29:07):
Okay.

John McGowan (29:07):
I'm enjoying my curling and my bridge and my golfing and my fishing and I'd like to start doing a little hunting and-

Peter Ide (29:16):
[crosstalk]

Peter Ide (29:16):
Oh, yeah?

John McGowan (29:16):
Get around with that.

Peter Ide (29:18):
Oh, that's very good.

John McGowan (29:19):
But, uh, tried to stay occupied.

Peter Ide (29:21):
Yeah. Well it's, you know, it's, uh, you put a very interesting career John. You've contributed a hell of a lot to the Canadian economy and to be able to kind of look back on it, it must give you a certain degree of pride. But what, um, what changes... We'll just switch into something a little bit different but what changes, have, have occurred in agriculture, in veterinary medicine throughout your career, you think? Like any, anything that sort of jumps out at you as being a major difference from the way things used to be in the old days sort of.

John McGowan (29:54):
Well I guess the big thing is the commercialization of, of agriculture. You know, fewer farms. Much, many, uh, fewer farms. Much larger farms, uh, much more penetration of agriculture by, by multinational, uh, companies which I don't really think is a very good thing. Um, the, uh, of course the whole supply and management system is now under, under, under fire I guess in, in, uh, the grocery products, uh, manufacturers meaning the restaurant people which I don't think is in the best interest of, of, of agriculture.

John McGowan (30:35):
Uh, in terms of veterinary medicine, um, the, the graduates of today are extremely well, well trained.

Peter Ide (30:41):
Yeah.

John McGowan (30:42):
Much better trained, I think that we, uh... we, we were, we were well trained but, uh, the-the graduates now are, are just superb.

Peter Ide (30:51):
[crosstalk]

Peter Ide (30:51):
Yeah, it is a progressive thing, isn't it?

John McGowan (30:52):
Absolutely, absolutely.

Peter Ide (30:52):
Okay.

John McGowan (30:54):
Uh, but there's been so many changes and most of them positive but the, uh, a little concerned about the commercialization of, of agriculture let's say in terms of multinational, uh, company interests.

Peter Ide (31:13):
But, I mean, probably... Well, I guess we can't get into that but it's probably unstoppable unless there's some major, uh, major impediments.

John McGowan (31:24):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (31:24):
I think it would, I think it would be very difficult to turn the clock back.

Peter Ide (31:27):
Yeah. Yeah, right.

John McGowan (31:27):
Uh, it would take major government, uh, uh, decisions to, to, to actually do something about it but, uh, and I don't think that's encouraged.

Peter Ide (31:39):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (31:39):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (31:40):
But, uh, you know, the-the trend continues, you will end up with one firm in Canada.

Peter Ide (31:46):
Yeah, yeah.

John McGowan (31:47):
[crosstalk]

Peter Ide (31:47):
That's, you know, quite sad actually.

John McGowan (31:48):
Yeah, yeah it is. It is.

Peter Ide (31:50):
John, um, o-o-on, um, uh... If you were talking to a young person, you know, we talked about all the changes in veterinary medicine and so on. If you're talking to a young person now, who said I thinking I'll go into veterinary medicine, what do you think about it Dr. McGowan? What advice would you give to that person?

John McGowan (32:10):
Well, the field of veterinary medicine is, is I think one of the most important or interesting fields that, that I, that I know of and, uh, there are so many, uh, areas that you can, um, actually be employed in. If, if you want to be a practitioner in large animals, that, that's fine. If, uh, if you want to be a practitioner in small animals, that's fine.

John McGowan (32:38):
If you want to specialize in a particular science part of, of, of those fields, you can do that too. That, I think, as I understand it, there's one small animal practice. Another one now, it has about 40 veterinarians.

Peter Ide (32:50):
Yes, a big one.

John McGowan (32:50):
And specialists in everything.

Peter Ide (32:50):
Yeah.

John McGowan (32:51):
You know, and, and so there's ample, ample, uh, opportunity to, to specialize. The, um... I think that not only that but in the, in the, in the medical field, in the pure medical field, there's, there's opportunities too to, to get into the research, research side helping. Uh, helping on the research side and the pharmaceutical industry, there's, there's good opportunities there, uh, and, and the field of public health, uh, there's, there's opportunities.

John McGowan (33:25):
Uh, so it's, it's, it's, it's an area that has many possibilities, extremely interesting. Uh, the course is not easy. It's a difficult course but if you come out, you're well trained, you have the, the basics and then you can decide whether you want to-

Peter Ide (33:42):
[crosstalk]

Peter Ide (33:42):
Right.

John McGowan (33:42):
... Want to go into a particular field.

Peter Ide (33:43):
Right, so your advice would be very positive then.

John McGowan (33:46):
Very positive.

Peter Ide (33:46):
Yeah.

John McGowan (33:47):
Absolutely positive, yeah.

Peter Ide (33:50):
Um, okay. We've covered all sorts of things and, uh, we-we don't want the interview to go on too long but John, are there other things that, that I haven't touched on that you would like to, uh, to, to mention or to, uh, to discuss?

John McGowan (34:04):
Hmm. Okay, I was just thinking in the way over, Peter, if there's one thing that I'd feel quite strongly about, that when I graduated back in 1954, the only real experience I had in the field was the summer previous in the, uh, in the State of Illinois and also on the farm service part when we were in our final year.

John McGowan (34:29):
I, I really believe that the, an internship, if you're, if you're planning to go into practice, an internship is, is really very important.

Peter Ide (34:37):
Okay.

John McGowan (34:39):
I'm kicking myself that I didn't do it.

Peter Ide (34:41):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John McGowan (34:41):
Because I left school when I was 22 years old and when I graduated, I would've, uh, I, I, I really feel like that it improved my service to the livestock industry if I would've had six month or years of internship.

Peter Ide (34:58):
Yeah, after graduation.

John McGowan (34:59):
After grad-

Peter Ide (34:59):
And before practice.

John McGowan (35:00):
After graduation and before practice.

Peter Ide (35:03):
Right, right.

John McGowan (35:03):
That's right, yeah.

Peter Ide (35:05):
Well, also an interesting thing, and I-I guess one of the pressures of... That the kids have when they graduate is that they're behind the eight ball and the money and so they want to get rolling-

John McGowan (35:14):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (35:14):
Exactly, exactly. Certainly I had a problem with that one.

Peter Ide (35:17):
Yeah, exactly. Okay, thanks very much John. Uh, you know, to, to have had the type of, um, career that you've had to look back on, very, very good and contributed a lot. Thanks very much for the time. Just to talk to me today and, uh, to this, um, alumnus, uh, oral history program I think is very good. Thanks-

John McGowan (35:39):
[crosstalk]

John McGowan (35:39):
Very welcome, Peter.

Peter Ide (35:39):
Thank you.

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