Minister Griffiths’ insight upsets the urban media … good for him

Politicians aren’t usually known for stating the obvious and the truth.

Politicians aren’t usually known for stating the obvious and the truth.

It’s even more rare for a government minister to take such a bold step.

Well, Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths did just that and was roundly condemned by a prominent urban daily newspaper for doing so. In responding to a leading question in the Legislature from a Liberal MLA about taxation, Minister Griffiths pointed out that it’s rural Albertans that do all the work whilst most city folks benefit from their labours.

How right he is, but he struck a raw nerve with city politicians and the city media. Calgary Mayor Nenshi, in responding to Griffiths’ statement, condescendingly pronounced that city people were the ones that paid the taxes — really — that must imply that people outside his city don’t pay taxes.

Oh, I forgot to mention, most folks in Calgary pay their taxes from money they earned or procured from products produced, grown, mined, drilled or shipped by folks in the countryside.

An editorial in a Calgary daily implied that Minister Griffiths’ statement was “odd,” coming from a minister with his portfolio, that being municipal affairs, as if that job required him to have only urban perspectives on issues.

Minister Griffiths not only has a right to make such statements, but is well-qualified to do so having served many years as the MLA for Battle River-Wainwright — a rural and small-town constituency. That would give him a direct connection to what folks in the countryside are thinking.

I would suggest that the editorial braintrust of a city-centric Calgary newspaper would have little connection or understanding of what folks are thinking in rural Alberta. In fact, their editorial blusters with the comments that, “He shouldn’t have said it, it was ill-advised and unproductive …”

That would seem to be a rather lame response to what would seem to most as being obvious and reality. I guess that editorial comment also implies that free speech can be annoying.

Earth to city folks, their politicians and their naïve media — without people in the countryside generating economic activity, there would be no city.

Ancient history is clear that only increased productivity in agriculture allowed some folks to begin living in settlements. As agricultural productivity increased, so did cities. A hundred years ago, there were still more people living in the countryside than in cities. Then an explosion in agriculture and food production occurred and more people were able to move to cities.

It wasn’t the other way around.

That’s a concept that people in agriculture are quite aware of, but appears to escape some city slickers.

It’s been said that only three per cent of the population produces all the food for the rest. I would suggest that perhaps 20 per cent of the Alberta population, all living in rural areas and smaller centres, produce not only the food, but produce all the energy, mineral and forestry wealth of the province.

That leaves 80 per cent of the population that live off of that production. That doesn’t seem to occur to some folks in the urban media who are convinced as the daily editorial states, “(that) sector of the province couldn’t survive,” implying that without cities the countryside would not survive.

Really, in a crunch when food and energy were to disappear from the city, I expect folks in the countryside would survive first.

I cite the European experience with that situation. After the Second World War, during which many of them starved, the Europeans set up elaborate and costly support mechanisms to make sure that people in the countryside continued to live there and produce agricultural and food products.

There was no illusion with them as to who was more important in their economies.

I would suggest that there is a bigger picture here in the minister’s statement and it’s just human nature. Folks in rural and small-town Alberta rightly resent folks in the big cities living off their labours and benefitting disproportionately from the energy wealth located in the countryside.

But then people living in other provinces resent Albertans in general for benefitting from our energy resources. Most of us have endured snide remarks about fat and rich Albertans whose wealth comes from the pockets of other Canadians having to buy our energy products.

Sure, it’s all sour grapes in a way, but that’s the reality and there is no sense pretending it doesn’t exist.

Minister Griffiths, you are to be commended for stating the obvious and the truth, and I can say with pride that most everyone in rural and small-town Alberta would support your insightful perspective.