Francesco Braga, 53, teaches derivatives at the University of Guelph in south-western Ontario.
On Monday, he spotted his name and photograph in Italian online
newspapers announcing that he had been appointed to the post alongside
"positive comments from the industry," he told AFP, even though he left
his homeland 28 years ago and has no political affiliations.
Then he received an email from the Italian ministry of agriculture
asking him to check in and a flurry of messages congratulating him.
The new agriculture minister, Mario Catania, was even quoted as praising the Italian-Canadian professor.
"My wife thought my friends in
Italy were playing games," Braga said, but he started to make travel
arrangements at the behest of the Italian government to attend his swearing-in ceremony.
A new Italian administration had been formed after Silvio Berlusconi's
resignation and the new prime minister Mario Monti -- tasked with
fixing Italy's ailing finances -- was busy filling new appointments.
After some back and forth at the highest levels, Braga was informed that they had made a mistake.
It turned out the job was intended for Franco Braga, a civil engineering professor at Rome's Sapienza University with expertise in earthquakes.
Italy's new infrastructure
minister, Altero Matteoli, had flagged Franco Braga for the post of
infrastructure undersecretary. "But they put him in agriculture," he
told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Adding to the confusion, Franco
Braga had not gone to his swearing-in ceremony, reportedly upset that he
had not gone to infrastructure.
"It's a silly mistake," Francesco
Braga said. "But also these guys are the ones who have to save Italy
from imploding, and they seem kind of disjointed."
With a laugh, he added: "It's also
a sad day for Italian agribusiness if they get a civil engineer with
expertise in designing buildings to withstand earthquakes, and not an
economist who works with agribusiness."