Saskatchewan Can Do Better

I read an article this morning that struck a nerve in me. Tiffany Paulsen’s article in the Leader Post (here) hit the nail on the head for me. Her exact sentiments have been rumbling around in my head for the past week. 

Last Thursday, when Premier Wall announced his upcoming retirement, I wrote an open letter to him, remembering the Saskatchewan I grew up in, where it has grown to, and thanking him for the hard work and dedication he has given to the people of this province. (Read it here.) 

As with all things political, I expected some engagement. I expected differing views. I had no idea that people would react with hate. With personal attacks and downright viciousness. 

Should I be shocked? Apparently there is still a healthy dose of “Old Saskatchewan” kicking around. Those who would rather vent and complain, attack and claw, rather than step up and create the change they would like to see.

I am not taking about the people who would like to see a change in government. That’s the great part about democracy – having differing views and holding responsible, adult conversations about them.

I am talking about the people who see a man, choosing to walk out the door, and taking that moment to take a swing at his back end as he is literally walking away. 

To those people, what exactly did you think your personal attacks would do? Make him leave politics? Wait. He already did that. Make him change the last budget? Pretty sure that petty name calling isn’t going to get you far in that. 

I wish we could all remember that these are real people we are dealing with. Just like every one of us. 

And if you think for one second that your comments were justified, I dare you to apply the same sentiments the next time someone retires from your work place. The next “Congratulations on your Retirement” card that is passed around the coffee room, stick to the same mentality. Because if you can comment viciousness on a letter to a retiring Premier, I can only imagine that you would also feel that “Get lost bag, you are a terrible nurse/teacher/lawyer/banker/whatever, and we can’t wait to see you gone”, would be an equally appropriate farewell comment for someone you disagree with in your workplace. I can’t wait to see their face when they open that card. 

So here is my plea. My call to action. 

If you can be anything, choose to be kind. 

As I tell my children, you cannot control others, you can only control yourself. So do better. Stop being mean and vindictive. If you want change, fair enough. Go create it. Stop attacking and start building. In Premier Wall’s words, it’s time for renewal in Saskatchewan. Let’s make this amazing province even better, starting with ourselves. 

What Saskatchewan Farmers Need To Learn from Alberta (and Ontario)

For anyone involved in Canadian agriculture, it’s pretty hard to miss the news of what is going on in Alberta with Bill 6 and the farmer uprising against it. Social and print media alike are on fire with farmer protests. If you are not up with what Bill 6 is all about, read more about it on Real Agriculture here, or how it directly effects Alberta farmers here on a post from Sarah Schultz of Nurse Loves Farmer (she does a much better job at explaining this than I could!) 

Last year saw similar farmer strife in Ontario surrounding their government Neonic insecticide ban. 
Those of us lucky enough to farm here in Saskatchewan are happily sitting back and rubbing our proverbially full tummies, proclaiming to the world how awesome we have it here.  I’ll admit it, I’ve sent my fair share of boastful tweets about how great farming in Saskatchewan is. 

But before we get too comfortable sitting back resting on our laurels, take a moment to rewind Alberta back 4 or so years. I am pretty darn sure they were in our spot then; pretty happy sitting back, looking at places like Ontario, with a “It can’t happen here, we have it great!” kinda attitude. 

After speaking with a handful of great farmers from both Alberta and Ontario, I have come up with a collection of advice that both they and I feel that the Saskatchewan agriculture industry needs to learn from their mistakes. 

1. Engage Our Politicians BEFORE we have a problem. Do you know what kind of constituents that politicians NEVER hear from? Happy ones!! They are so accustomed to only hearing from people with a beef, it must be increadibly wearing. These are the people driving policy that directly effects our business. This is who we need to connect with and forge relationships with long before there is a fire to be put out. Don’t just leave it up to our industry/commodity groups. It is up to each one of us to be the leader in this relationship. 

2. Never forget the power of consumer popular opinion. The driving force behind the Neonic ban in Ontario didn’t come from well meaning (but clueless) politicians. An outcry from urban consumers alarmed about the seemingly imminent “Beepocalypse” is what drove such unscientific policy. Ontario farmers have lamented that they did not move quickly enough to bridge the disconnect between viral social media hysteria in consumers, and what the real issues are on farms. 

3. Never underestimate the power of banding together. I think every farmer out there can see how difficult it can be to get a consensus (on any given subject) with a large group of other farmers. We can be judgemental of each other and can have a real hard time holding our tongues and opinions in. Of what has been happening in Alberta, I think there is one thing most Alta farmers can agree on. They are incredibly proud of the way they have banded together. Even the Hutterites, who the government offered to exempt from bill 6, have stuck by their fellow farmers and demanded that the government hear the farmers collective voice. Moving forward, whatever complex issues and problems are thrown at the Sask Ag industry this is a lesson we must remember. There is power in numbers and a united voice.  

Every election year brings new faces in power, whether there is a change in government or not. As we look to our own provincial election this spring, how comfortable are we with the outcome? How comfortable are we with the relationship we have with Canadian consumers? How skilled are we at supporting our fellow farmers? 

We are so very blessed to be lucky enough to be farming in Saskatchewan (and not just for the low land prices!). Are we ready to look outside of our neat, straight borders and see what the future could hold for us? Are we ready?