YouTube player


Murad Al-Katib was an honouree at the Annual Testimonial Dinner Honour Roll 2024. Al-Katib grew an idea, born in his basement, into a $3-billion-a-year business — and revolutionized an industry in the process.

In his award acceptance speech, he throws down a challenge for the Canadian business community and all entrepreneurs to not settle for small wins:

Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, Ed, the Public Policy Forum folks, it’s truly humbling to be up on the stage receiving an honour like this. I thought about what I wanted to say coming up and I really believe that I wanted to give you a little bit of a background of why myself as a business leader really cares that much about public policy. 

My mother always used to say that everything ultimately comes back to your mother so I’m going to giver her that credit and say, the story of my family is one that I hope will inspire you all. As a family, my parents came from Turkey and my father came to this country and settled in a small little farming community in rural Saksatchewan called Davidson as a country doctor. He came from Turkey and he served the people of Saskatchewan for 55 years as a rural practitioner in rural Saksatchewan. 

My mother is the one I really want to talk about. My mother came as a young bride from Turkey and learned to speak English watching Sesame Street without kids and imagine in 1976 she was the first immigrant Muslim woman elected to a rural municipal council in Canada. 

Think of the RM of Willner in Saskatchewan in 1976 electing her for 27 years as a community leader. And my mother used to say to us as kids, “You have the luxury of growing up in a democracy. And in a democracy every four years you get a chance to go into a ballot box and secretly mark your ballot and you get to have your say. But as a leader, you have to come out of that ballot box and hear the will of the people and give yourself to the government of the day and help to affect change in policy.” And that has always been my inspiration in my career. 

I think back to a kid growing up in Davidson, Sask., and think of some of the cool things I’ve got a chance to do, like: 

  • contributing to the formation of a trade organization in Saskatchewan called STEP, that took it out of government and privatized it and 28 years later it’s still in existence; 
  • or influencing the Government of Canada to recognize that Canadian companies have to invest abroad in value chains and that Canadian-directed investment abroad is a critical part of our foreign policy, our trade policy and our economic policy of this country and that government should support that and recognize that those benefits accrue back to Canada; 
  • one thing I always point to is a review of the Canada Transportation Act led by David Emerson, the Hon. Lisa Raitt, another one of our testimonial winners who I know is here — those kinds of things really help to set the stage for Canada’s future. 

Again, we’ve celebrated — following an astronaut and following an Olympian hockey player — I want to become a little bit more somber and I want to talk about the world today. 

Up to 828 million people — more than one in 10 of the world’s population — go to bed hungry every night. And acute food insecurity has reached unprecedented highs. It’s affecting 349 million people, up from 135 million in 2019. More than 30 million children in 15 worst-affected countries suffer from acute malnutrition. 

A deadly combination of conflict, economic shocks, the post-pandemic effect, climate extremes, supply chain disruptions are magnifying along with wars in Ukraine, the current Gaza conflict. These are material things that are pushing prices up and pushing food out of the reach of the world’s most vulnerable. 

I have one thing to say to you all tonight: the world needs a little more Canada. Our abundance of land, water, coupled with our world-class farmers is society’s solution for food inflation and for food security. The post-COVID supply chain disruptions have not been only a slap in the face of the world but a punch in the nose.   

Everyone needs to recognize that agricultural crops make up 82 percent of the global calorie supply, but less than 25 percent of the total agricultural land use in the world. Crop productivity is key to reducing food insecurity and careful stewardship of our soil health, of our environment, and of sustainable technology use is going to increase our crop production as we continue to go forward. And the protein highway starts in Canada and links to the emerging markets of the world.  

Those of us who have dedicated our careers to agriculture and food, acknowledge agriculture is a major polluter — and you may not have thought you were going to hear that from me tonight. But we’re also understanding that the yield gains, smart fertilization, the use of precision ag, data, analytics, carbon intensity of our ag system in Canada will be among the lowest carbon-intensity food systems in the world. 

The canola fields of Saskatchewan are the same as the Saudi Arabian oilfields, only every harvest we renew that oilfield. And we have to recognize that we can produce today with canola renewable diesel, sustainable aviation fuel; we can create opportunities in rural communities and we can still respect the need for the leftover proteins and meals and things to be put to use in the food industry of the world. 

Imagine taking that fuel and putting it back in tractors and producing the canola again every year and creating over time with data and analytics and lowering our carbon intensity and net zero fuel. We can do that in this country. 

So, the new agriculture is a driver of the economy of our great nation. 

Now, I want you all to remember in wrapping up, we are all policy people here, and I want you all to recognize one thing: you don’t have to be a business owner to be an entrepreneur. And I want to challenge you all to continue to own the job that you do. I want you as entrepreneurs to be bold and I want us in Canada to stop aspiring just to grow enough to be bought by somebody or to be something that’s of significance to somebody. 

You can either be dinner or you can be a diner. I want to eat; I don’t want to be eaten. I want to scale Canadian businesses and I want the future to be there for our generations to come. So, be bold as you continue on your journeys. Profit and purpose alignment is the way entrepreneurs will solve society’s problems. I believe that entrepreneurs will ultimately help to guide government and help to guide NGOs to solve those problems. 

I look forward to what the next decades bring as Canada drives the food, fuel and fertilizer revolutions in the world. 

Hear from more PPF honourees:

  • Former astronaut and cabinet minister Marc Garneau talked about serving his country and the clarifying force of ‘a rocket about to unleash seven million pounds of thrust.’
  • Hyman Solomon Award honouree Paul Wells spoke on the importance of journalism: ‘When politicians go around us, are they doing it to get the truth to you by a shorter path?’
  • Jayna Hefford described launching the wildly successful PWHL: ‘It’s not about hockey. It’s about changing society. We’re creating change for the next generation.’
  • Emerging Leader Award honouree Raven Lacerte discussed the national movement she launched to end violence against women: ‘I am standing up for my daughters. Who are you standing up for?’
  • Janice Charette extolled the privilege of a life in public service: ‘We need to celebrate those that are actually in the arena.’
  • JP Gladu explained how Indigenous nations are key to unlocking Canada’s potential: ‘The Canadian balance sheet is starting to shift. Which side of the ledger do you want to be on?’