Rural issues matter in this Sask. election, no matter where you live
Environment, connectivity and trade top of mind for farmers
This is an opinion piece by Adrienne Ivey, a rancher, agricultural advocate, blogger and mom from Ituna, Sask. She is part of CBC Saskatchewan's Contributors Panel, which is weighing in on issues relevant to Saskatchewan in advance of the provincial election on Oct. 26.
Among a growing rural-urban divide, rural and agricultural issues should matter to every Saskatchewan voter during the 2020 election, no matter where they reside.
Only one-third of Saskatchewan's population is considered rural, but these communities provide the food, water and energy essential to the larger urban population's well-being. Rural stability is what allows our cities to thrive. City dwellers are free from the burden of growing their own food because dedicated farmers grow it for them.
As a farmer and rural resident, I have been following this election campaign with great interest. The policies introduced this month will have both immediate and lasting effects on me, as both a farmer and a mom who would like to see my children succeed here at home.
The environment, connectivity and trade are top of mind to farmers during this campaign.
Sask. farmers lead on sustainability
Climate change is one of the largest issues of our time. Agriculture is poised to be a major solution.
Saskatchewan farmers are among the best in the world at sustainable farming and continue to search for new and better ways to farm. The most environmentally sustainable farms are also the most financially sustainable.
Farms pay carbon tax on many things, but farmers are not compensated for the carbon pulled from the atmosphere and stored in their soil through our grasslands or zero-till methods. The Saskatchewan Party has stood up against the federally-imposed carbon tax and is committed to rallying against it for the province. The NDP intend to keep a carbon tax if elected, although they have not specified what the details of this tax would look like.
It was good to see the NDP supporting the protection of wetland and grasslands, and their importance as part of the climate solution, but the party must also be clear about if they stand with the federal NDP's endorsement of the LEAP manifesto and its negative view of many crops, such as canola, that are financially and environmentally important to our farmers.
Reliable broadband key
Rural life is isolating by nature. It is common for rural communities to feel as though they are far removed from decisions made in urban centres.
The most obvious way to keep rural people connected within our society is broadband internet.
The world has recently learned that working from home is possible, but rural people have been doing it for ages. The greatest barrier to rural home offices and businesses is access to dependable broadband.
Both the NDP and the Sask Party have pledged to increase connectivity in rural areas, but neither has presented a plan that thinks outside the box to accomplish this. Connecting every rural household and business with fibre optic cable would require an unreasonable budget, so creative cost-sharing solutions must be found.
Trade can't be left to feds
Trade is a pivotal issue for the entire province. Many people see trade and exports as a federal issue, but Saskatchewan is an export province, so this is not something that can be left to other jurisdictions.
Trade is not exclusive to agriculture. Forestry, energy, mining and manufacturing all depend heavily on healthy export markets. Maintaining relationships with our main trading partners and seeking new trade agreements must be a top priority for any Saskatchewan government.
Trade is not mentioned in the NDP platform. The Sask Party has set goals of expanding our export infrastructure and promises to open new trade offices in key export markets.
Recent trade disruptions show us that our trade agreements are only as strong as our top political relationships, showcasing the need to have a provincial government strong in relationship building and negotiating.
There is only one market – the global market – and we need to be prepared to showcase Saskatchewan to the world.
Rural issues ripple outward
Rural and agricultural issues may appear specialized and unique, but there is no doubt that these policies have enormous ripple effects on the overall Saskatchewan economy.
Agriculture is one of the top GDP contributors in Saskatchewan. A financially healthy rural population will also increase wealth in urban centres.
There is great benefit to vibrant rural communities and the wide-open spaces they provide — even before a global pandemic made us see the value in physical distancing.
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