As the former Green Party candidate in the soon to be defunct Minnedosa Constituency, I largely concur with Dan Lett's conclusions: that the recent Tory complaints about electoral gerrymandering are unfounded, and that this is a tacit recognition by the Tories that they can't seem to win seats in Winnipeg.
I do admit to being a little sentimental—us political candidates get attached to the areas where we campaign—; but underneath the new electoral redistribution and the political muckraking lies the structural cause of the shift of political power from the rural areas to our major urban center: the problem of rural decline.
There are few that would doubt the legitimacy of the Census data that is used to determine redistributions, and the by and large the Census data shows that many of Manitoba's rural areas are hollowing out as many young people forgo taking over the family farm in favour of working in the city. The question these rural PC MLA's should be asking is: “Why are these trends occurring?”; and “What can be done to reverse these trends?”
In an attempt to get the political discourse going I though that I might offer a few suggestions courtesy of the Green Party of Manitoba.
The underlying value of a Green approach to agriculture is move away from export oriented agriculture, towards localized food production. All to often foods travel thousands of kilometres before consumption. This not only causes needless emissions, but when food is sold locally directly from the agricultural producer to the consumer the absence of middle-men often allows farmers to garner a larger portion of the profits.
Let me elaborate with three specific examples:
1. With the summer heat comes the time-honoured tradition of farmers' markets, but how many Manitobans are aware that farmers markets are legally restricted to being open for a mere 14 days per annum. A very simple legislative change could rectify this inequality, creating the the opportunity for more Manitoban agricultural producers to diversify their income by selling local food to local consumers.
2. Another example would be Saskatchewan's decision to pay farmers up to $700 per year to help pay for the costs of organic certification. According to the 2006 Census data there were 19.054 enumerated farms in Manitoba, if every farmer in Manitoba converted to Organic Agriculture a similar program in Manitoba would cost less than 14 million.
3. Where is the equality in providing 37.5 times more funding in loan support to the hog industry than to young farmers? In a press release last week Minister Wowchuk bragged , that the “Young Farmer Rebate Program Provides $1.6 Million to Producers”; yet this year 60 million was doled out to the hog producers—they even upped the ante from 2.5 million to 5 million in support because they couldn't get rid of the money fast enough. With the age of agricultural producers constantly increasing wouldn't it seem logical to invest in young farmers?
Of course my analysis like, much Mr. Schweitzer's, is partisan. The difference is that I am trying to look for solutions to ameliorate the problem of rural depopulation, rather than squabbling over election boundaries in 2011. If it is “a good political fight” that Dan Lett wants he should start looking at the Manitoba Greens.
James Beddome is the former 2007 GPM Candidate for Minnedosa and the current GPM President