The negative letter, from a person living in Ontario, took issue with the notion that people should not have to move if full-time employment declines where they live. It wondered about the sense of "entitlement" that "you rural folks have," suggesting that rural people "sit on their ass and do nothing" and want him to pay them. "No way," he said.
That is one vote that can be chalked up for the Conservatives, but more to the point, it exposes the gulf in understanding between rural and urban Canada. The column was not speaking of people looking for handouts, but rather of people who work hard, sometimes at a variety of seasonal jobs, in order to piece together a living in their home communities.
The continuing round of job cuts is taking employment out of eastern Canada at a marginal saving to taxpayers, particularly when compared to the thirty billion (that's thirty thousand million) dollars the government wants to spend on fighter jets. It is not clear yet what these fighter jets are supposed to do, beyond propping up delusions of international grandeur.
It was better when Canada had a reputation for international peacekeeping, rather than a reputation as a country with a military trying to punch above its weight. We need a military, to be sure, but we need to think about what kind of military it should be.
Before he became prime minister, Stephen Harper disparaged Canada as being similar to a "Northern European welfare state." He was speaking to a right-wing political group from the United States. It might be fair to ask him what is wrong with Northern European democracies. We have travelled in those countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Denmark) and they are modern, efficient, beautiful countries that occupy the same hemisphere that Canada does and therefore have many of the same challenges.
We were always impressed, when travelling through the Swedish countryside, how there was no visible poverty, how each town and village was landscaped with flowers and public green spaces. Even in small villages there were libraries, athletic fields with regulation soccer pitches, swimming pools, gyms and stores filled with cheeses, breads, yogurts, fish and meat.
The quality of life in rural Sweden seems very good and people seem to move between cities and the countryside without worrying whether a person is urban or rural. Sweden has problems, of course, as do all countries; it's how they are handled that matters.
It should not be supposed that Sweden has left all of this to chance. The Swedish government actively promotes a vibrant rural Sweden. It constantly supports research into finding ways to make the country better, knowing that urban areas cannot be healthy without a healthy hinterland.
The Swedish government identifies rural development options and encourages people to turn them into income-generating opportunities. Instead of saying that people should move if their jobs disappear (and isn't it ironic that our government is making so many jobs disappear), the Swedish government says that there should be other opportunities in an area that can support the people who wish to stay there.
It sees the natural landscape as, a government report says, an opportunity for the development of enterprises in the visitor industry associated with hunting, fishing, outdoor life and in the health care and rehabilitation sector. "It is also important for housing and enterprise in general."
It sees the development of broad entrepreneurial experience as important in the country, along with social networks. It sees labour that is underutilized as a resource to be developed. It looks for ways to use land in other than the traditional rural uses, but which are connected to traditional uses like farming and forestry. It looks for ways to use existing buildings for a variety of purposes.
It looks for ways to promote good jobs in the rural areas in order to reduce the need to commute for jobs elsewhere. And it backs all of this up with investment aid to pay for the necessary research, design, property, construction, equipment, marketing and support services.
The opposite seems to be happening in Canada, where the money, jobs and income security required to sustain a good rural life are being taken away, not for sound economic reasons, but for reasons that may be ideological.
Many of the federal ridings in Nova Scotia are held by people like Gerald Keddy, Greg Kerr and Peter MacKay. We need to hear from them in our defence.
- Tom Sheppard can be reached at email@example.com