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Our natural disasters don't count as much

Shall we compare apples with oranges to arrive at a statement regarding fairness this week?On Thursday last week, the federal and provincial governments issued a statement saying that help was on the way for hard-pressed Prairie producers whose crops

Shall we compare apples with oranges to arrive at a statement regarding fairness this week?On Thursday last week, the federal and provincial governments issued a statement saying that help was on the way for hard-pressed Prairie producers whose crops have been flooded out, or who never got on the land to plant some seeds in the first place. It was going to be $30 an acre with the federal government picking up 60 per cent of the total bill, or $216 million of the $360 million aid package share Saskatchewan would receive of the $450 million total. So let's start the comparison. The federal government has recently added $400 million to their pledge to help earthquake victims in Haiti, making the total government commitment $555 million. It was a spectacular incident with sad, stressful and heart-wrenching results. It received a lot of media coverage and plenty of action plans rolled out as a consequence. Two weeks ago, Toronto received $1.2 billion in previously unbudgeted federal funds to provide security for one weekend as they and the surrounding district hosted the G8 and G20 conferences. Over 19,000 security personnel were hired and paid. A fake lake was built and all kinds of infrastructure items added to impress the 20 delegates and visiting media. The bills kept coming in and the feds kept paying them with no questions asked. Late last year, an announcement was made that $600 million in federal funds was being directed to Alberta for their clean coal research efforts. Four years ago, Saskatchewan was handed $240 million for clean coal research and so far nothing for a pilot project research plant that would confirm clean coal sequestration technology in Saskatchewan. So there we are, $555 million for Haiti, $1.2 billion for Toronto, $600 million for Alberta's clean coal while Saskatchewan's 7,000 flooded farmers receive $216 million to divide among themselves.We admit that while the flooded plains did receive substantial local attention, the situation rolled out in a fashion that did not lend itself to being a spectacular national or international media event. There were no wrecked homes or raging rivers. We don't do raging rivers in Saskatchewan, we have lakes that spill over. So without the spectacle of the occasion to use, we simply had to rely on common good sense. The prime minister spent a couple of hours in Saskatchewan, looking at saturated fields and then went home to Calgary for a summer break. Standing water doesn't have the impact that a tornado does. In fact, even our tornadoes don't register as spectacularly on the "assistance needed" scale because they generally don't impact thousands of people because in Saskatchewan, we rarely have thousands of people gathered at any place at one time to begin with. We are still a basic, agrarian society, the Bread Basket. Our resources are underground or growing on the hundreds of thousands of acres we put into service for the benefit of others. Because we don't have thousands of people gathered here, we are told we can only have limited representation at the government table because their business is one of people numbers, not resource numbers. We have the resources, but voters are more politically important. So if we expect to receive substantial assistance, our disasters have to include more totally devastated people in the future.Power blackout in downtown Regina? Phone Hal over at SaskPower. Blackout in downtown Toronto? Well now, we have a national disaster. Roll out the troops, activate the emergency relief program, bring in the television crews, notify the United Nations and NATO to be on standby, this may be a terrorist attack. It's a slight we've had to learn to live with over the decades, not just with this current government. It still hurts a bit, especially when our resources are used to keep the masses elsewhere fed and moving forward while we continue to be treated as the poor country cousins looking for attention, no matter what Brad Wall says we have evolved into. The perception out there still is that if we want to be taken seriously, our disasters have to be much more spectacular if we're going to expect much in the form of assistance from the big city boys and girls.