The latest cabinet shuffle in our federal politics includes a new ministry – Rural Economic Development ministry.
As is often the case, the perceived needs of a country are reflected in focused service by the governments of the day. A few years ago, in Britain a cabinet ministry for loneliness was developed. Crisis points are brought to the forefront of our thinking.
So, why is rural economic development such a big thing?
We might immediately think of politics. Liberals do well in urban settings, Conservatives in rural settings. In an election year, a perception must be generated (and hopefully a future reality) that all people can be embraced by a governing party.
I’m inclined to be a bit skeptical of new announcements of cabinet ministries. In this case, though, I would like to speak to the need for rural economic development – at least as it pertains to farming (in parts of western Canada, rural development must also speak to the oil industry – which is a whole other topic).
Justin Trudeau’s photo op shows him seated on a “garden” tractor – at least, that is what struck me when I saw a photo-op of him on a farm. Then I harkened back to working on my uncle’s farm in Ontario a few decades ago. When 100-200 acres (you can translate that to hectares, if you wish) is your farm, the “garden” tractor will provide for your agricultural needs.
For a western Canadian farmer, where 2-3 sections of land (a few 1,000 acres) constitutes a sustainable farm, there is an immediate disconnect. The people of the land, men and women, are big business entrepreneurs. They have taken on aggressive economic development to stay alive. The many small homesteads that used to dot the horizon, such as my grandfather’s just outside Kindersley, are no longer the home base for farming operations.
Yes, the rural municipalities can use infrastructure help – as has been promised. Of greater help is free flow of product, free trade agreements, and freedom to explore new avenues of environmental sustainability. If this is the intention and fulfilment, we will address one aspect of healthy rural development.
But . . . In the latter part of the 1900’s a push was made to uphold the family farm in Saskatchewan. The dream of community and the feeling of family was seen as in stark contrast to a society of isolation and loneliness. I believe the DNA of rural communities still holds fast – the dream has not been completely shattered.
There is another side to rural development. We can fight perceived injustices and seek greater economic gain. That is the war in which we seem to be engaged.
But perhaps the peace of rural life is really our fight. We would gain by reflecting on and acting upon our legacy of community. Further, we would be inspired by a vision to take this “gospel” of togetherness to the rest of Canada.
Rural development may be just what Canada needs!
For more, visit KindersleySocial.ca/Ron-Baker