Friday November 28, 2014

Hay shows country may work after all


It wasn’t the biggest news story you read last week nor was it the most political.

But it was a nice story ... and nice reminder that this country still works. And it comes along a time when some of us may be beginning to harbour other thoughts.

The story from the Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan was all about a national coalition of Canadian farm groups launching what is know as the Hay East 2012 program to assist Ontario and Quebec livestock producers dealing with severe drought this summer.

“We clearly have a pressing need in Ontario and farmers in Western Canada are prepared to assist our livestock producers,” said Mark Wales president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “Now we need the support of our federal and provincial governments, the railways, corporate partners and other stakeholders to make this effort have a real impact on the ground.”

It’s a great gesture by Western farmers and ranchers. But if sounds a little familiar to you, it’s because it is. A decade ago in 2002 when Western farmers and ranchers were experiencing drought problems, it was Ontario and Quebec farmers who launched an identical program called Hay East.

About 110,000 tonnes of hay were shipped west from benevolent Eastern farmers and millions of dollars was raised through fund-raising to make the rail shipments possible.

Some 10 years later, appreciative Western farmers and ranchers are now eager to return the favour.

“As we head into the final stretches of harvest across much of the province and start turning our thoughts towards thanksgiving, I think it’s time for all of us in the west to take a moment to think of those less fortunate than ourselves,” said APAS President Norm Hall.

“In 2002, Eastern farmers shipped us thousands of bales of hay to help save our herds from starvation. It’s ten years later and the time has come for us to give back to the people who helped us when we needed it.”

In the great scheme of what’s going on in our country today, this nice little program demonstrating Canadians helping other Canadians is really no big deal.

But it is more than a little ironic that the Hay West program comes along at a time when a separatist government in Quebec is again raising the hackles of Westerners.

The election of a Parti Quebecois minority government was met with an immediate response from Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, warning that Prime Minister Stephen Harper better not give any more special considerations to Quebec to appease the separatists.

Admittedly, it’s hard to argue against Wall’s sentiment. The threat of separation and the never-ending demands from Quebec government have clearly worn down Westerners’ patience. Add to this the growing sentiment in resource rich West that if Quebec wants to go so badly, maybe no is the time they should go.

But maybe a lot of people aren’t really thinking this through to its final conclusion.

To begin with, at least half of Quebecers clearly want to remain Canadians _ a number that would likely be higher when push comes shove.

What about the rest of us, though? What do we stand lose?

Well, the loss of Quebec will make it exceedingly tough keep the remainder of the federation together including both Ontario and the Atlantic provinces. So really, what’s always at stake here is our entire country _ all that it is and all that it represents.

We are a nation from sea-to-sea-to-sea that we’ve made work for the past 145 years simply because what has brought us together has always been stronger than what has divided us.

Sure, there are differences from region to region. Those differences run even deeper when it comes to Quebec. Moreover, what unites is sometimes hard to define.

But sometimes it’s sharing in a time of need. Sometimes it’s a simple as bale of hay.

Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 15 years.



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