If recent experience has taught me anything, it’s not to expect much in terms of positive for Western Canada and agriculture to come from the Stephen Harper government.
But when I heard recently about cuts from Harper’s budget about to impact the Motherwell Homestead Historic Site at Abernathy, I was not particularly shocked, but I was very disappointed.
The Motherwell Homestead will become a self-guided site in 2013 as a result of the impact from a $29.2 million budget cut to Parks Canada.
One of the great things about the Motherwell site has been having staff in period costume to help take you beyond the surface of looking at a display to really understanding what you are viewing.
It is one thing to see a horse drawn plow, and to read a little plaque about how it was done. It is decidedly more meaningful, and impactful to see a demonstration.
That is where the Motherwell Homestead has shone, because it has offered agricultural programming that is meant to depict a prairie homestead, and the homestead is not just the cornerstone of agriculture today, but frankly of the Prairie Region as it exists today.
The site has had people on-site doing demonstrations with horse-drawn implements showing how the land was broken and worked.
Go to the house, a beautiful heritage building filled with artifacts, but more importantly there has been the smell of fresh bread made by staff. It gives you a feeling of truly stepping back into our collective past.
For those unfamiliar with the site, it honours an important figure in agriculture.
William R. Motherwell was the province’s first agriculture minister, a more significant portfolio in the era given the importance of farming at that time.
Motherwell would later become federal minister in the Liberal government of prime minister William Lyon MacKenzie King.
Homesteaded near Abernethy in 1882 the Motherwell farm site was designated a national historic site in 1966.
The man, and our homesteading past deserve to be remembered, and that is best achieved by having qualified staff to help you understand what you are seeing.
Sadly our history apparently isn’t a particular priority for the federal Conservatives, and the Parks cuts will mean the loss of five staff at Motherwell.
And in terms of Saskatchewan five more staff are being lost at the Grasslands National Park at Val Marie, which at a time when we have growing interest in protecting natural ecosystems, the cuts again makes little sense.
Cuts to heritage programming make no sense when you factor in their importance to local economies, tourism, and the education of a new generation. Too bad Harper and his Cabinet couldn’t see that from Ottawa.
Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.