Could election money have been better spent?

Could election money have been better spent?

Canadians spent $600 million in the span of 35 days on the recent federal election. For that amount of money, the nation could have accomplished many things — or at least had more fun.

On a bulk deal the country could have purchased 600 very large combines or 850 good-sized tractors. The tricky part would lie in how this equipment was distributed and how to ensure it was put to good use. But it’s a fun thought.

Depending on the size of the bales, the prices and the trucks, we could have put more than 40,000 loads of feed, onto Canadian farms and ranches. That would solve a lot of problems, assuming feed could have been found.

That $600 million could more than double what has been committed to AgriRecovery this year due to the drought, though it wouldn’t leave a lasting legacy — unless it saved your farm.

It wouldn’t be enough to bring back the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, but it might be enough to put the wheels back beneath the Indian Head Shelterbelt Centre in Saskatchewan. But not everyone wants more trees in their fields so it might not be a fair dividend on the investment.

The $600 million would buy a lot of training in agriculture. It would provide tuition, cover fees and buy books for about 13,000 four-year students at the half-dozen major agricultural degree programs in the country. We could throw in 1,000 new large animal veterinarians with $120 million of the total. That would surely leave a legacy.

For $600 million, about 20,000 young folks could attend college programs in agriculture-related studies. The shortage of farm equipment mechanics with technology training would be solved, along with a similar shortage of veterinary technicians and equipment operators.

And think of all the well-trained truck drivers we would have on our highways if we could have helped defray the $15,000 in training costs they endure. That done, we might need to spend some money on a communications program to help tell the tale of how important truck drivers are to Canadians, just so they would be treated well enough to make the work more appealing.

We could have used the money to reduce food waste in Canada. That $600 million could provide startup loans and grants to a lot of grassroots businesses that collect or compost or bioprocess our lost production. That would surely count toward the reduced carbon footprint needed for Canada to remain in line with the Paris agreement.

And speaking of food waste, rather than retrofitting farm grain dryers or providing grants toward the purchase of new ones, a $600 million fund could pay the carbon tax and other costs associated with efficient, commercial drying equipment for many seasons.

A fund of $600 million would provide a lot of higher-end, precision pasture management systems, fencing, riparian area protections and watering tools. Say 4,500? And those systems could use some new, fully-funded college and university grads to operate them. Good for carbon, good for the economy and good for the livestock sector’s demographics.

Though it’s fun to speculate and to dream, the $600 million spent on the election is gone and the political landscape looks much the same as it did before.

The good news is that a lot of the money went to pay young people to work during the election. And it gives editorialists the opportunity to consider how Canadian farmers might want to spend money in the future, for the good of the nation.

Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen and Mike Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.

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