Letters to the editor – February 11, 2016

We’re not better yet

In the federal election, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said “better is possible in Canada.” This provided hope to many, myself included.

Unfortunately, it would appear that the Liberals are content having the agriculture sector weighted down with corporate greed and astro-turf farm groups pushing those corporate agendas.

Almost three months into his job, some claim the minister of agriculture does not even have a full complement of staff and has not even met with many elected farm leaders yet. Is this a sign that “better is possible” for this sector?

The Conservatives’ appointee as chief grain commissioner for the Canadian Grain Commission left Jan. 20, and no replacement has been selected. Is this the priority the Liberals have for an institution that is so critical to prairie grain farmers?

The Liberals promised an audit on what most prairie grain farmers see as a giveaway of the Canadian Wheat Board to the Saudi government and Bunge, but so far all the minister of agriculture has said is that he is too busy to meet with concerned farmers. Is better possible?

The Liberals have now signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which supposedly promises so much but only delivers an agenda for corporations to dominate democratic governments. It even allows corporations to sue governments over issues that its own citizens cannot sue their own government for.

I am not against trade, but does anyone at these negotiations ask the question — at what price?

If governments and astro-turf farm groups are worried about level playing fields, why don’t all the countries negotiate identical farm support programs so all farmers could compete on a level playing field?

It seems for agriculture “better is not possible” in Canada. In spite of much publicized falling oil and natural gas prices, farmers are still facing increased fertilizer costs made from natural gas. Grain prices are falling while the grain trade makes excessive profits. It even looks like the new normal will be reduced rail service with increased revenue for the railways.

Better is certainly possible, but not if Ottawa continues with the “same old same old.”

Kyle Korneychuk
Pelly, Sask.

Expropriating land

Regarding the reinforcing of the Assiniboine River dikes in a 2011 project in the Lower Assiniboine Valley east of Portage la Prairie, Man.

My brother and I operate our father’s farm (the late John Kuzyk) in the Parish of Poplar Point, River lots 12-17 in the RM of Portage la Prairie. We have been issued a notice of expropriation and we take exception to government’s ill-considered proposal.

We demand that the government leave our father’s property as they found it. We will accept nothing less. If it insists on proceeding against our wishes then it will be literally making itself at home in our home. To quote another victim, “it’s incredible how the government destroys your property then tells you how they will fix it.”

To quote government, the dikes are intended to protect farmland, farms and residences as well as the communities of Elie, La Salle, Sanford and Starbuck (and it conveniently omitted Winnipeg), but these are not the communities that have had their properties destroyed. We have been sacrificed for others; might be a good time for others to speak on our behalf.

On March 12, 2014, I wrote government requesting names of everyone who is or was in charge of the Reinforcing of the Assiniboine River Dikes project in 2011 east of Portage la Prairie. I waited three months; no reply. Shortly after, we received a call from someone in government telling us that it is going to proceed with expropriation. Talk about a blatant disregard for the victims who pay their salaries and pensions. We received a notice of expropriation with a short time line in the middle of our busiest season. How low can you get?

Other property owners also want their properties left as government found them but they aren’t receiving notices of expropriation. Steve Ashton, minister of infrastructure and transportation, issued me a notice of expropriation. The minister ignored me behind closed doors. He best not ignore me in public.

The land inside the dike belongs to the property in question. It has our permission to buy a borrow pit, as it was done in the days when government was somewhat civilized. In 2011, I told an audience that rivers are dredged to increase flow and capacity. The flood of 2011 left six inches of silt — more that enough for the project. Even Steve Topping, provincial flood analyst agrees. Said Topping in The Winnipeg Sun July 8, 2014, “What we are finding in the Assiniboine River efficiency is not as good as it was in 2011 due to vegetative foliage in the river.” No kidding.

The government took the highest and best soil of my father’s farm and made it a ditch. It moved the Assiniboine River from the wet side of the dike to the dry side. The original dike was build with dirt from inside the dike and today it insists on destroying 50 miles of prime farmland to lift the dike two feet. Even stupidity has its limits. Twice, the government moved that same dirt back and forth. Move it back once more and leave it. In government it’s called reclaiming land.

In the spring of 2014, dirt was hauled for five weeks for 10 miles to shore up a portion of dike. Haul more dirt for the project and quit messing up our operation.

We are a small organic farm. Until this project, we controlled weeds by cultivation; government controlled the weeds on the dike. We will not devote the rest of our lives trying to control weeds in 75 feet of swamp and bulrushes, Neither will the government.

The payment offered will be considered income and victims will pay tax and possibly capital gains on property that is not for sale. To date, government has had three seasons, the latter of which were dry inside the dike, to complete this project to our satisfaction.

The proposal serves us absolutely no purpose; and don’t think that money buys happiness. Even those who agreed to a settlement are not happy. They were just fed up.

To date, government owes us for four years for inconvenience, loss of productivity, and any problems that might arise in the future.

Will the minister will explain to me and the public why the government finds it so difficult to leave the property in question as government found it when after an emergency?

Walter Kuzyk
On behalf of Walter
and brother Terry Kuzyk
Portage la Prairie, Man.

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