Politics - We need Canada to return to small town values

Maybe all Canadians need to think of their national community in the same way rural Saskatchewan think of people in their community.

But by the same token, maybe people in rural Saskatchewan need to acknowledge their communities are just citizens in the larger Canadian community.

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Such thoughts cross one’s mine in light of two big national stories. The first is the struggle in the oil sector. It is caused by the price differential between light and heavy crude oil and the reality that the United States is Western Canada’s only viable customer because of the lack of pipelines to move crude oil to ocean ports.

The second is the planned closure of Oshawa’s GMC plant, putting 2,500 direct employees (and possibly thousands of parts contractors) out of work.

There was perhaps a time in this country when there would be more empathy from other parts of the country for those in trouble.

We saw that empathy in federal bailouts in the 1980s and 1990s for farmers and as recently as the 2009 bailout for the auto industry.

It may be that there is public fatigue with such bailouts.

Clearly, the agricultural bailouts weren’t especially effective at saving family farms. And there was certainly politics attached to them.

We know that in the middle of the 1986 provincial election campaign, Progressive Conservative premier Grant Devine made the infamous to call to then PC prime minister Brian Mulroney asking for help — not just because farmers needed but also because he needed it, politically.

Three decades later, what would be interesting to know is how many of those Saskatchewan farmers than benefitted from the ensuing bailout are still farming.

Similarly, it was just a decade ago when then Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper agreed provided Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors with a massive bailout. The federal and Ontario government are still owed $3.5 billion from that bailout, yet we are now seeing the planned plant shutdown in the new year.

However, the problem goes will beyond the fatigue with ineffective bailouts that seem to be the problem.

It may be the uber-partisanship — partisanship that seems fuelled by the social media that makes it rather easy to never challenge your own views or thinking — that is a cause.

Certainly, there seems little doubt that that people seem angrier.

Former Saskatchewan Brad Wall observed in a National Post article he penned that people are angrier, noting that oil patch executives are calling Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s inaction on the problems in the oil sector “treasonous.”

Given that this is not about a direct federal government policy in question like the National Energy Program (NEP) brought in by his father Pierre Trudeau, this is a rather amazing accusation.

This is not to say that the federal government and some easterners have little or no understanding of how tough things are out here.

There is simply is no doubt that western oil sales is being badly hurt by the lack of pipelines to deliver oil to alternatives customers.

But maybe it’s here where we need to think about how we — as a nation — need to come together as a community.

These are real problems in the western oil sector just as there are real problems in the eastern auto sector.

These problems are only made worse when we don’t see ourselves as neighbours and also part of the community.

In rural communities, when you saw a neighbour in trouble you don’t stop to assess the  person’s politics or which side of the tracks he or she lives on. There is only the desire to help.

We need to get back to that as a nation.

We need to be a community again.

Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.

© Copyright Yorkton This Week


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