Rural voters victim of conservative fiscal nonsense

by Ken MacDougall

I’ve always been stunned at the propensity of taxpayers here on the Prairies falling for the machismo nonsense of conservative-thinking politicians whenever they start mentioning an individual’s “right” to be able to do things on his own – which, translated, means that you’re going to have to pay for this sooner or later, and since our corporate friends want you to start “now”, let’s get the con job underway, the sooner the better.

Gerry Ritz, probably the most ideologically driven of these, and his good friend Stephen Harper, pulled off what to me has been the greatest theft of farm assets when the Conservatives effectively pulled the chain and flushed away the Canada Wheat Board.

The Board, a federal agency that had been selling both barley and wheat on behalf of Canadian farmers since the end of World War II, found itself in courtroom in August of 2012, the beheading sword to be delayed for a few more years as the “Marketing Freedom for Farmers Act” was proclaimed. Harper, to the cheers of a few of Ritz’s farmer friends around Kindersley, even “pardoned” those poor schmucks who’d been unfortunate enough to get fined or jailed when they tried to sell their produce on to buyers in the United States.

Now, one would have thought in listening to Harper and Ritz stress the “importance” of this Act to the farming community that the number of their brethren convicted under previous administrative procedure totalled numbers that Donald Trump alleged were complicit in voter fraud during the 2020 Presidential election; as usual, though, they were more Biden-like– ten, in all.

Was this Act even necessary? Of course not; all 10 convictions were registered prior to 1998, when enraged by one of its members having received sentence merely for having delivered grain to a 4-H Club FOB, legislation was introduced to give farmers full management rights over the CWB and elect its own Directors, so that such stupidity could never happen again. In the fourteen years following much-needed changes to legislation, the CWB functioned as it should have, selling grain for its 150,000 or more members at the highest possible prices, treating each producer as “equal” irrespective of operational size and crop produced– that is, until the Harper government gave away the $17 billion in CWB assets to a company supported by a Saudi prince, just so the Saudi regime would buy Canadian LAV’s to use in further incursions into foreign lands such as Yemen.

OK – I “get it” – the part where the producer wants to be recognized for his contribution to keeping Canadians from starving, at least. However, all that this Act did was speed the demise of the small grain producer. Today, most farms are little more than massive corporations, with their land holdings in production measured in “townships”, not mere “sections”.

But if ANY of these producers feel that, with the size of their operations, a senior official from any of these American agribusinesses buying their product is going to even remember their name, much less greet them at the door with a case – or even a bottle of 50-year-old Scotch, they’ve just been conned by Gerry Ritz.

In 2014, these farmers who’d “fought so hard for the right to market their own crops” found out what “individuality” brings as an award to their efforts. Now even lacking the Crow’s Nest agreement with CP Rail on the subsidization of grain transportation, American agribusinesses started the buying season off by offering lowest price possible, withholding information as to the premiums buyers were prepared to pay for prompt delivery of quality product, and using whatever means necessary to have their shipments “prioritized” over others, creating the biggest backlog of Canadian grain movement in our nation’s history.

The subsequent penalties and fines for delayed shipment, ALL by the way passed on to the producers, ended up costing EACH and EVERY ONE of our 43,000 provincial producers an average of $118,000 – a point that neither our good MP Randy Hoback nor his good friend Gerry Ritz challenged when I first commented upon that reality back in 2014.

Now, I’ve only brought up the CWB because over the next two columns, I’m going to tear apart the fictional literature of the Descents of Devine Party, aka the Saskatchewan Party, for their ability to publicize the fables of two premiers, Brad Wall and Scott Moe, making light of the NDP governments of Roy Romanow, and later Lorne Calvert, in their a valiant attempt to restructure health care services and education in our rural settings, where the population was trending downward in a big hurry.

Did these changes implemented by the NDP not save us money in the long run? Of course they did.

Was the Romanow government unaware of the drastic need to inject monies into, in particular, the provision of health care services, as opposed to “cutting back” on such services, as was being PERCEIVED by rural-based Saskatchewanians?

Of course they were; however, what they FAILED to do is explain to rural Saskatchewan that in order to be able to deliver increasingly costly health care services at affordable prices in the future, they had to FIRST find some coin that the Devine government hadn’t squandered so that they could address this issue with confidence, WITHOUT in that near future having to raise taxes, as premiers Wall and Moe have had to do.

The issue here is one of “contingencies”, or what has to be done during crisis management situations.

The DoD Party seems totally incapable of planning for some future downturn; for instance, wasn’t it the moderator of the leadership debate who closed the program down by stupidly asking Dr. Meili WHERE the NDP would get the funds necessary to implement the much stricter intervention they were calling for now, working on a “theory” that the spread of the COVID virus would get worse as we approached Christmas?

The situation DID worsen – and our premier, instead of announcing the need for a more strict imposition of limits to gathering and mask-wearing, leaves that announcement to Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shahab.

There is no point now in noting that Dr. Meili was correct in calling for increasingly stronger measures; asking Premier Moe that question now would be like, as Jason Kenney would put it, interjecting an “NDP bias” into this health care issue. But in an election, isn’t the point of the campaign for the public to analyze which party is better prepared to handle the future concerns of our province or nation?

For two elections now, 2011 and 2020, the Descendants of Devine Party have found it amusing to keep pointing out the “results” of premier Romanow having imposed their organizational skills upon both educational and health care services, while ignoring the future benefits such actions created. We should be celebrating the fact that both Romanow and Calvert found money to reinvest in health care, as these reforms even allowed Saskatchewan to provide more expensive – and expansive – services for an ageing Baby Boomer society. In 1997 and 1998, every other government in Canada, and especially that of PM Mulroney, didn’t think “boomers” were the issue; there was just too MUCH “health care” available to the public, and it was the fiscal responsibility of our leaders to “cut back”.

Now, as the “boomers” absorb the worst of the COVID pandemic, we’ve a premier managing this crisis by worrying more about whether his “base” have to wear masks in public or their celebrations further curtailed by “social distancing”.

With friends like the premier, one can only hope that Dr. Shahab hasn’t many “enemies”.