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SLOBODIAN: Distraught Manitoba farmers abandoned by feds can only pray for rain

“The MLA from our area could have been around. Crickets. People selling off the herds aren’t rich or flashy, but hard-working, tax-paying people who deserve an acknowledgement from government, not to be ignored or forgotten. Just something so you know you aren’t facing this alone.”

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An overwhelming sadness engulfed Gord Strick as he watched truck after truck roll into the Winnipeg stockyards.

Grim-faced farmers unloaded their bawling cow and calf pairs, then drove out past a disturbingly long lineup of other farmers waiting to do the same.

Some were there to cull herds they can no longer feed.

Others, forced to throw up their weathered hands and accept defeat, were selling their entire herds. 

Out of options, these beaten-down, hard-working souls must walk away from the only life they’ve known, the life of their fathers and grandfathers before them.

Strick saw fathers and sons, husbands and wives, one farmer with his dog.

“I hoped he wasn’t going to sell his dog to make ends meet,” Strick told Western Standard.

“Looking at that line of drivers, it sorta hits you in throat. I know it’s happening, but it’s there in your face. These people are changing their lifestyles, selling out, or certainly downsizing. There they were, sitting with their animals.”

Manitoba farmers, particularly in the north, have been under siege from drought and grasshoppers.

With pastures dried up and feed prices inflated beyond affordability, letting animals starve isn’t an option.

They’ve no choice but to load up and head to Winnipeg Livestock Sales Ltd. that reported more than 1,500 head brought into emergency auctions the day Strick was there recently. Normally, the stockyards are either closed at this time of year or see a fraction of the cattle coming through.

Strick, 63, a farmer near Inwood, 100 km north of Winnipeg, is in the drought’s epicenter. 

But he saw the immensity of the desperation in the lineup as he waited with his brother-in-law, Clint Eskilson, who was selling about a dozen head of cattle.

“There was truck after truck coming in. Then when you get up and unload and drive out a lineup is still as long… full trailers coming in,” said Strick.

Strict knew every farmer felt alone despite being surrounded by farmers in the same dire circumstances,

They are alone. Help, like the rain, eludes them.

Watching this “suffering and despair” Strick wondered where the government is, why farmers are “ignored and forgotten” by people they elected.

“The MLA from our area could have been around. Crickets. People selling off the herds aren’t rich or flashy, but hard-working, tax-paying people who deserve acknowledgment from the government, not to be ignored or forgotten. Just something so you know you aren’t facing this alone.”

Yet, a disgraceful, oblivious Prime Minister Justin Trudeau manages to find $650 million to call an early election. 

For many farmers, it’s too late. Others are barely hanging on, facing inevitable hard decisions.

Strick is wondering how he’ll feed 120-head of cattle, a cross of Red Angus and Charolais.

“My grandpa was here and then my dad. Now my brother and me are here,” he said.

“Everything is burnt off brown. The pastures are right to the mud. What the heat didn’t get the grasshoppers got, Land is so damaged, even if you got a lot of rain, the grass isn’t going to just shoot up. It’s got to regrow right from the roots. That land that needs to be fixed.”

Six inches of rain would get things growing again. 

“Usually, we have 500 acres we go over to get our hay supply. You figure on two bales to the acre. Well, we broke some of that up last year and the year before because the production was down. It was dry those years. We put it into oats. We cut it for green feed. That kinda got us through. We thought those years were tough. 

“This year, we didn’t touch our hay land. It was so dry. What little bit did grow, the grasshoppers came in and stripped right down to the brown. The pastures are the same way.”

They’ll need 1,000 bales of hay to get through winter. They’re 800 short.

“Everybody talks about getting through winter. You need so much feed to get through winter. But there’s still two or three months to get to winter,” he said.

Everybody’s looking for straw which is hard to find. Farmers are travelling up to 160 km to haul straw home.

Buying hay, which has more than doubled in price, is out of the question.

“On a normal year, you can get straw for five bucks in the swathe. Lately, it’s been creeping up. Last year grain farmers wanted $12 a bail in the swathe. I thought that’s pretty pricey. Now I’ve seen straw bales for $50 in the field. Hay bales are $150 to $200 a bail.”

Normally a round bale costs $80.

“No beef farmer is buying hay for that kind of money. You’ve got to do it with straw or maybe corn stover after they combine the corn. You’re going to have to supplement it with grain or pellets or something.”

Grain farmers face hiked fertilizers prices and poor crops.

“They probably need the money too, I guess. I dunno. Everybody’s squeezed tight.”

Some farmers are borrowing money to feed their cattle. Others, who can’t do that, are the ones lining up at the stockyard.

As bleak as it is, in true resilient farmer fashion, Stick clings to hope.

“There’s always hope, always things you can do, right? It’s day by day, see what happens, I guess. The farmer has to get through this on his own. That’s kinda how beef farmers are. They just buckle down and do what they have to do.”

All the while praying for rain.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

Linda Slobodian is the Manitoba Senior Columnist for the Western Standard. She has been an investigative columnist with the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, and Alberta Report. lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. GonadTheRuffian

    August 16, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    Sorry Manitoba farmers but Turdeau; the Village Idiot; borrowed billions of dollars and gave it away to the MSM/Fake News, foreigners, and free stuff for the foreign invaders.

  2. Left Coast

    August 16, 2021 at 9:47 am

    And where has the Premier of Manitoba been the last 18 months?
    Locking down the folks in the city and acting like the incompetent fool he is.

    Like my MP in BC, these Farmers representatives have been hiding out for the last year and a half . . . feckless & useless always only concerned about the next election.

    And what can you say about the inept Crime Minister . . . Imagine of some of the Billions given to the UN and other criminal regimes around the globe had been directed at the Canadians who supply our Groceries . . . there I go being Rational again ! ! !

  3. Pamela Bridger

    August 16, 2021 at 8:54 am

    Thank you Western Standard for bringing Linda on. I really enjoy her articles!

    These conditions will cause shortages, not just with beef farmers. Going to really impact flours and oils. Stock up!

  4. Steven

    August 16, 2021 at 8:28 am

    The following sentence wouldn’t be true if the Province of Quebec was in dire need. -“Yet, a disgraceful, oblivious Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, manages to find $650 million to call an early election.”- That about sums it up for Western Canada when Trudeau is concerned. Remember Trudeau said in 2015. “Canada is a Post Nation State!” Vote accordingly Manitoba.

    Go Maverick !

  5. John Lankers

    August 16, 2021 at 7:50 am

    I farmed all my life and can imagine what these farmers are going through. The worst is yet to come when they have to declare the sales as income on the next tax return and there is nothing left to pay the taxes after banks, Co OPs, fertilizer and equipment dealerships are paid. There will be nothing left to rebuild the herds, the young farmers have no choice but to walk away and the older generation will have to sell out to some big shot investors in the GTA only to be hit by another massive tax bill.

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Opinion

KAY: Why is Prince Andrew the only one being held accountable?

“All I am saying is that the price he is paying — a royal castaway, shunned for the sake of The Firm’s continued good health, and relegated to a social Devil’s island — is very, very high, much higher than would have been the case for an ordinary man.”

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It was with a pang that I was informed by People.com that “Queen Elizabeth strips Prince Andrew of [his eight] military titles and patronages amid sexual assault lawsuit,” as the headline read. A day after a judge rejected Prince Andrew’s attempt to have a civil lawsuit quashed, alleging sexual misconduct against him in 2001 by one of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, the axe fell.

Thursday, the royal palace announced, “With the Queen’s approval and agreement, The Duke of York’s military affiliations and royal patronages have been returned to the Queen.” Although still nominally a prince, Andrew will no longer have the right to be addressed as His Royal Highness (HRH). No more public duties for the dozens of charities for whom he has been a patron. “The Duke of York is defending this case,” the statement informed us, “as a private citizen.”

Why do I shudder slightly at those words, “private citizen,” and greet the news in general with a “pang,” though? Prince Andrew is nothing to me personally. He got himself into a very tawdry mess through his own appallingly bad judgment. The allegations surfaced in 2019, so this was no surprise. And it is not the first occasion in which bad judgment and a sense of entitlement has led “Randy Andy” into temptation of one kind or another, and thence onward to, at best, unethical behaviour, and at worst — oh dear, oh dear.

Let us not, though, count the ways that make this ultimate disgrace a deserved punishment for Andrew’s sins. Or rather, let other commentators — those who experience an uprush of joy or schadenfreude in their hearts when white males of extreme privilege are brought low, instead of a pang — do that.

When I unpack my pang a bit, what comes to mind is I know this had to be done; I know he deserved it; I know he is a wastrel. But oh, the mortification! And not for love, like Harry’s for Meghan or his great-uncle, Edward VIII’s for Wallis. At least they got to ride off to the colonies believing at the time they made the decision, anyway, their lives as royals were well lost for the glittering prize that had chosen them.

Even though he was of weak character — a suspected Nazi sympathizer, amongst other cases of bad judgment — Edward, Duke of Windsor was still a duke in exile. He was given royal sinecures to keep him busy. He was still a social asset outside Britain. Harry isn’t technically a Royal; he gave up his title voluntarily, but he’s good enough for Hollywood. So he has all the perks of royalty — money-making sinecures, constant attention, lots of social adulation — and none of the tedium. And when he comes home to visit, he still gets to mingle with the family. He has disappointed his family by quitting The Firm, and embarrassed them by foolishly airing private laundry, but he has not brought shame on the House of Windsor. He was not cast out. He left.

But for Andrew it’s the opposite. He cannot leave, but he has been “effectively banished.” There is no corner of the English-speaking world in which he can relax and just be himself. Himself? What would “himself” look like, stripped of what has defined him as a human being for all his 61 years? A turtle without a shell to retreat into. And no natural habitat. His gorgeous military uniforms will hang lifeless in his closets. Forever. I am trying to imagine what a future social life might look like. But I can’t.

Of course, there’s the saving grace of ex-wife Fergie to keep him company. Nobody is less likely to be judgmental, or more likely to empathize with the results of bad judgment in a buddy than Sarah Ferguson. I suspect she will eventually be remembered for her loyalty to Andrew in exile. He will have company watching Netflix. (Do you remember the scene in The Crown where the Duke — played by the wonderful actor Michael Kitchen — and Duchess of Windsor are watching Elizabeth’s televised coronation from their home in France? Oh, the suffering etched on Kitchen’s face.)

Andrew is often referred to as his mother’s favourite child, and that is how he was portrayed in The Crown as a boy on the cusp of manhood. He was buoyant, confident and ready for adventures of all kinds, military (at which he excelled) and prankish — even then, a bit of a wild card, but endearing to his mother on that account. In Philip’s general mold, but without Philip’s maturity, intellect and sense of duty.

But back to my pang. Consider: Stupid as he was, the woman accusing him of being party to her sex trafficking was 17 at the time of the alleged encounter. The age of consent in the U.K. as well as in 32 U.S. states is 16. A lot of other rich and famous men palled around with Epstein and made use of his private plane and visited his island home(s). How come their names didn’t come up in Maxwell’s trial? So maybe my pang has something to do with the murkiness surrounding the alleged encounter, and the fact that Andrew seems to have been cut from the herd to keep all eyes on him and all eyes off the American guys.

The only other man Giuffre publicly charged with sexual assault was celebrated lawyer Alan Dershowitz in 2019, who had defended Epstein in his 2005 sex-trafficking charges. Dershowitz immediately counter-attacked Giuffre in his typical take-no-prisoners style, and that turned into a nightmare of a legal circus that is apparently still unresolved. I imagine Giuffre took a lesson from her challenge to a lion. Next to Dershowitz, Andrew must look a lot like a sacrificial lamb.

Andrew is what he is, and I am not making the case he shouldn’t have paid an appropriate price for his bad behaviour — bad whether he slept with Giuffre or didn’t. All I am saying is that the price he is paying — a royal castaway, shunned for the sake of The Firm’s continued good health, and relegated to a social Devil’s island — is very, very high, much higher than would have been the case for an ordinary man. There is no court of appeal for this lifetime sentence.

Barbara Kay is a senior columnist for the Western Standard.
kbarb@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter: @BarbaraRKay

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Opinion

THOMAS: Gondek’s legacy could very well be an empty parking lot

“There can be no doubt that more than a few Calgarians, who are against using public money to help build the Event Centre, have benefited from the owners’ largess.”

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Most of the people who have held the office of mayor of Calgary probably hoped to leave a legacy that people recognize as a positive contribution to the city.

Some did. Some didn’t. A couple of ‘dids’ come to mind. 

As mayor from 1980 to 1989, Ralph Klein’s legacy is as being part of the team that brought the 1988 Winter Olympics to Calgary, which resulted in the Saddledome being built, which brought the Calgary Flames to the city.

Dave Bronconnier, mayor from 2001 to 2010, also left a legacy near the Saddledome.

East Village: It’s the area directly east of city hall, stretching to Fort Calgary, with the Bow River on the north and 9 Ave. southeast on the south side.

When ‘Bronco’ took over the mayor’s chair, East Village was the most dangerous area of the city. Totally run down, it was a centre of illegal drug activity and the ‘office’ for sex workers. In earlier years, it served as the Calgary dump. It was not an area you wanted to be in, especially after dark.

Bronco, vowing to clean it up, approached the development community to gauge any interest in participating. 

There was no interest. Developers told him the cost to remediate the area was too high, but if the city undertook the task, there would be interest in building condo-apartment buildings. 

So, the mayor introduced the Tax Incremental Funding (TIF) program, with the blessing of the Alberta government. The way a TIF works is, an area for redevelopment is identified and for 20 years, all taxes collected in that area are used to pay infrastructure costs incurred by the city to get the job done. 

No tax money comes out of the city’s general revenues. Only money from taxes collected in the designated area. 

It obviously worked. The TIF helped pay for, among other things, the new central library, and East Village is now an urban oasis of apartments and retailers.

The TIF worked so well, city council decided to expand the area it financed, calling it the Rivers District, which runs from the banks of the Bow River south to 25 Ave. S.W., with Macleod Tr. as its western border. Eventually, the Bow Building was added to the Rivers District because of the high taxes it would pay, which would contribute greatly to the TIF, now renamed the Community Revitalization Levy (CRL).

Here, from the City’s website, its (abbreviated) definition of the CRL. 

“(The) Community Revitalization Levy substantially funds the delivery of the Rivers District Revitalization Plan. The levy provides a means to segregate increased property tax revenues in the Rivers District, which result from redevelopment into a fund that will be used to pay for the new infrastructure required. The end result is improvements in the Rivers District are self-funded without any additional tax burden on the balance of the city, and at the end of the CRL period, the amounts that were charged under the CRL would become general property tax revenues and flow into the general revenues of the city and the province.”

There’s a lot of work going on in the East Victoria Park area within the Rivers District, including the RoundUp Centre upgrade, the demolition of the Corral and a lot more to come. Plans include homes for 8,000 new residents in the community, with approximately four million square feet of absorbable mixed-use development, a Stampede Trail retail street and the LRT Green Line extension. All of this development might even give some justification to converting the empty downtown office buildings into residences. 

Up until about a month ago, the plans included a new Event Centre, to be built on a couple of mostly empty parking lots north of Stampede Park. The cost of the centre would have been shared by the Calgary Flames organization and the City of Calgary. 

That deal is dead.

How vital was/is the Event Centre to the success of the Rivers District? 

If the district was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Event Centre would be Tom Brady.

The Event Centre would be home to more than the Calgary Flames. It would put Calgary in the big leagues in attracting major concerts and other events (hence the name). Under the dead deal with the Flames, the City of Calgary would have received a percentage of ticket sales to every event. There are other opportunities for revenue generation for the city that are now in jeopardy.

However, without the Flames as a partner in some fashion, there isn’t likely to be an event centre.

The Flames ownership group is first and foremost a collection of very successful and astute business people. They are not the billionaire robber barons some Calgarians claim them to be. 

Bringing NHL hockey to Calgary was a great contribution, but their greatest contribution is the millions and millions of dollars they have donated to charities, to build major medical facilities and more. There can be no doubt more than a few Calgarians who are against using public money to help build the Event Centre have benefited from the owners’ largess. 

Without a new, reasonable deal would the ownership group move the Flames out of the city? 

They absolutely would.

That would be Mayor Jyoti Gondek’s legacy.

Myke Thomas is a Western Standard contributor. He started in radio as a child voice actor, also working in television and as the real estate columnist, reporter and editor at the Calgary Sun for 22 years.
mykethomas@live.com

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Opinion

MAKICHUK: The Marines are coming, and it’s going to be bloody

And not only that, but they will soon have a new weapon that can transport them to any beach, anywhere, anytime in the Pacific island chains, faster than you can say Harry S. Truman.

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Message to the People’s Liberation Army of China, the Marines are coming.

And not only that, but they will soon have a new weapon that can transport them to any beach, anywhere, anytime in the Pacific island chains, faster than you can say Harry S. Truman.

It’s called the Ship-to-Shore Connector, or SSC in military jargon.

What is it and what does it do? 

Picture a large amphibious landing vehicle that rides over the surface on a cushion of air.

Ship-to-Shore Connector

It can be carried and deployed aboard an aircraft carrier’s well deck, and, deliver about 145 Marines to an active war zone to relieve soldiers already on a beachhead on some far-flung island in the South China Sea. 

In other words, they are the all-important second wave — fresh troops, ready to carry the fight.

With dominant air cover from nearby carriers and moving quickly to avoid tracking by incoming missiles, they will be hard to stop, especially in darkness.

According to a report by military expert Caleb Larson in The National Interest, tensions in the South China Sea are at all-time highs — and to ensure they are prepared, the Navy bought the Marine Corps some new equipment to get the job done.

And we all know what that job is, don’t we — it will position America’s premier amphibious force to land on China’s doorstep.

According to experts, these improved SSCs are beasts — when fully loaded they can carry seventy-four tons of men and supplies at a rapid thirty-five knot an hour clip. 

Part of the new SSCs strength is their redesigned skirts, which reduces both weight and drag over the surface of the water, National Interest reported.

These new SSCs “offer increased reliability and maintainability, as well as meet requirements of increased payload and availability,” and are expected to remain in service with the Navy and Marine Corps for the next thirty years, said Textron, an American industrial conglomerate based in Providence, Rhode Island.

The Navy was equally positive about the future acquisition, saying “The LCAC replaces the existing fleet of legacy LCAC vehicles, and will primarily transport weapon systems, equipment, cargo, and personnel of the assault elements through varied environmental conditions from amphibious ships to and over the beach.”

The new SSCs are just a part of the Marine Corps’ rapid modernization efforts, as it looks to take on the People’s Republic of China in the South China Sea, National Interest reported. 

The days of a Marine Corps unit taking and holding a beachhead, suffering heavy casualties and fighting to the last man, are over.

In addition to adopting the Heckler & Koch HK416 rifle, in service with the Marines as the M27, the Marines are also in the middle of nearly unprecedented restructuring.

The service recently announced the retirement of all tank battalions, marking a huge and controversial shift.

In addition, the Marines will organize into smaller units capable of operating across vast distances, seizing China’s network of artificial island bases with long-range missiles, unmanned boats and anti-ship missiles. 

According to a report in Popular Mechanics, reductions in artillery, tanks, and other weapons will allow the Marines to invest in other weapons, particularly 14 new Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS). 

These batteries, armed with Norwegian-developed Naval Strike Missiles, will allow the Marines to fend off Chinese warships, making a 115-mile no-go zone around Marine positions.

As the “Leather Necks” advance through a chain of islands, their anti-air and anti-ship missiles will make it increasingly difficult for Chinese ships and aircraft to operate around them.

Isolate, bombard, and overrun — you might say, there’s going to be a lot of blood in the sand.

This would restrict the Chinese Navy’s and Air Force’s room to maneuver, pushing them out into the open water — where the US Navy would take them on head to head, mano a mano.

That’s the plan, anyway. The PLA may have other ideas.

Even further, to compete in an age of cyber warfare and space-based weaponry, the Marines want to shake its “manpower” model that historically prized youth, physical fitness and discipline over education, training and technical skills. 

According to the new plan, the aim is also to grow a service that is “more intelligent, physically fit, cognitively mature, and experienced.”

“The capabilities that we think we’re going to need are a force that’s able to operate much more distributed, much more spread out than perhaps we’re accustomed to in the past, using a different set of technologies than we had five or 10 or 15 years ago,” said Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, in an interview with NPR

“I think the people that we bring in will be able to handle the technologies and also the decision-making. It’s really more about the decision-making than it is about technology.”

“We are a purely combat force,” he says, a distinction that separates the service from others. “We were built under a different set of circumstances — but that is changing.”

In this anticipated fight, decentralized command will play a crucial role — as will shipping, of both supplies and men.

This is where the Textron SSCs will be of utmost importance, experts say.

While it remains to be seen what a high-tech fight in the Pacific would look like — combat sims never quite reflect the real thing — one thing is sure. A dust-up in the South China Sea would likely see these rapid “beasts” take part. 

One more major headache for the PLA Navy to deal with, should it decide to “unify” Taiwan.

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the Calgary correspondent for ChinaFactor.news and has written extensively on Asian military affairs.
makichukd@gmail.com

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