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."