This might be a good time for Premier Brad Wall to think about the history of this province and the importance of Saskatchewan’s rural roots — especially, its agriculture roots.
Most might not see the phasing out of the Saskatchewan wheat sheaf logo (or more accurately put, the stook) of government letterhead in that way.
The wheat sheaf symbol that also adorns the province’s coat of arms may seem outdated to some. Some who view this debate from a partisan perspective are even suggesting the wheat sheaf logo is a remnant of the NDP years that should be left behind.
But what shouldn’t be lost is how that wheat sheaf came to represent why people came here and who we still are — a rural, agricultural province.
Wall and company need to take stock of the stook and what it truly means.
Of course, the move to the more frequent use of the new logo — a stylized Saskatchewan that just happens to be the Sask. Party’s green and gold colours — doesn’t detract from what this government has done for rural Saskatchewan. The Sask. Party government record speaks for itself. Its record is a rather solid one — especially compared with that of its NDP predecessors.
During the Allan Blakeney administration of the 1970s when Saskatchewan agriculture was starting a major transition, the NDP resisted change by doing everything from taxing tandem axle trucks to opposing farmer-owned inland terminals.
The Blakeney NDP — and even the Roy Romanow-Lorne Calvert governments, to a large extent — held on to the vision of rural Saskatchewan of the Tommy Douglas era of the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
Rural Saskatchewan was about the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, Co-op stores and trusting the Canadian Wheat Board to sell the grain that you threshed from sheaves that had been stooked.
Certainly, agriculture wasn’t about maximizing profits through better yields, better fertilization, zero-tillage and marketing.
It is a problem that haunts the NDP to this very day, as it grasps to find its rural roots that died out sometime during the 1990s when hospital were being closed and highways were left in disrepair.
Admittedly, Wall’s government has had the good fortune of strong economy that’s allowed it to reinstate rural infrastructure. Also, it didn’t have to solve the deficit/debt crisis left behind by the Progressive Conservatives of the 1980s — the reason behind the NDP’s fiscal choices that that hammered rural infrastructure.
But what might be just as critical to the Sask. Party is to remember that today’s prosperity in Saskatchewan is directly tied to the resources located in rural Saskatchewan.
Notwithstanding the fact that much of the province’s recent wealth has come from rural Saskatchewan oil, gas, potash and, yes, agriculture, the province is becoming more urbanized province. The two major cities are where we are growing the fastest.
And recently, Wall has hinted that that might be time to at least discuss the role of the Crown corporations — what’s practical and makes good economic sense. There’s nothing wrong with talking, but one wonders whether such a discussion today will take more of on a urban viewpoint and not fully reflect the appreciation rural customers have for the services provided by STC, SaskTel or SaskPower that might not be quite the same from profit-driven, private suppliers.
One fears Saskatchewan may be getting too caught up in this urbanized, somehow reflected in the new, stylized, urban-looking logo the government now seems intent on using.
So maybe we do need reminders of where we came from.
Symbols are important and the iconic wheat sheaf has become a symbol of how rural Saskatchewan has adjusted, endured, persevered and thrived.
The NDP clearly made the mistake of not accepting that rural Saskatchewan was changing.
But let us hope the Sask. Party does not make a different mistake of forgetting the things in this province most worth preserving.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.