Politicians are not usually known for stating the obvious, but Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths did just that and was roundly condemned by a prominent daily newspaper for doing so.
In responding to a question from a Liberal MLA about taxation, Minister Griffiths pointed out that it is rural Albertans who do all the work, while 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 Naheed Nenshi pronounced that city people were the ones who pay the taxes, which must imply that people outside his city don’t. 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.
A Calgary Herald editorial implied that Griffiths statement was “odd” coming from the municipal affairs minister, 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 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 the city-centric Calgary Herald would have little connection or understanding of what folks are thinking in rural Alberta. In fact its editorial said, “He shouldn’t have said it, it was ill advised and unproductive.” That would seem to be a sour-grapes response to what is obvious and reality. I guess that editorial comment also implies that free speech can be annoying.
It’s been said that only three per cent of the population produce 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 to live off of that production. That doesn’t seem to occur to some folks in the urban media who are convinced, as the Herald editorial states, “(that) sector of the province couldn’t survive,” implying that without cities the countryside would not survive.
In a crunch when food and energy were to disappear from the city, I expect folks in the countryside would survive first. After the Second World War during which many starved, the Europeans set up elaborate and costly support mechanisms to make sure that people in the countryside continued to live there and produce farm 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 resent folks in the big cities living off their labours and benefiting disproportionately from the energy wealth located in the countryside. But then people living in other provinces resent Albertans in general for benefiting 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 its all sour grapes in a way, but that’s the reality and there is no sense pretending it doesn’t exist. Minister Griffiths is to be commended for stating the obvious.