Rural Canada wants say in national unity

The president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities says rural Canada must not be left out of the current conversation about national unity.

Ray Orb told delegates to the recent midterm convention in Regina that he hoped he would get a phone call from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just as several big city mayors had after the Liberals were shut out of two provinces in the recent election.

“We heard the prime minister say that he needed to earn the trust of people in Saskatchewan and Alberta,” he said. “Left out of the conversation today is the voice of rural Saskatchewan. Engaging with rural has to be part of the solution.”

Orb said nearly 23 percent of Canadians work in rural communities and rural industries drive urban economies.

A study by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities found that rural Canada contributes nearly 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Orb is chair of FCM’s rural forum and supports that organization’s call for a rural lens within the federal government.

But he also said FCM is a little late with the Western Economic Solutions Taskforce it announced Nov. 8.

“I’m a bit critical of it,” Orb said. “The task force seems like a good idea but it seems reactionary.”

He said SARM brought forward concerns about the downturn in oil and gas several years ago. The organization also expressed concern about Bill C69, which restricts pipelines, and the carbon tax.

Agricultural financial support programs and the federal equalization formula are also on his list.

“We wonder how the task force will tackle that complicated issue,” Orb said of equalization.

FCM president Bill Karsten said the organization worries about what is happening in many western Canadian communities.

“There is no doubt that this crisis has left families and workers in these provinces feeling alone in the search for solutions and we are now facing growing concern about that feeling of isolation within our proud confederation,” he said in a statement.

Karsten said the task force would “convene important conversations between the municipal and federal orders of government to ensure the perspectives of western communities are voiced, and to drive new solutions on how to best support them through this economic crisis.”

Orb added he doesn’t want FCM to be seen as interfering between the federal and provincial governments.

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