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Opinion: Rural Manitoba overlooked in election

It seems the parties have decided everything outside the Perimeter Highway isn’t worth talking about

In the 24-7 news cycle we live in, it’s hard for us all to take the time and consider what might be coming down the road. We seemingly lack the ability to see past today or tomorrow because we are so inundated with information that we simply can’t begin to consider what lies ahead.

That’s how I see this election campaign particularly as it pertains to agriculture and the issues that impact rural Manitoba.

I understand every party has competing priorities and that they are all on a mission to try and convince you what this election is truly about. What disappoints me as a rural voter is how much of this focus is spent on issues that relate primarily to voters inside the city of Winnipeg.

I understand just how many votes are at stake and that elections are won and lost inside the Perimeter Highway, but it is frustrating for rural voters to see those issues dominate platforms and announcements on a daily basis. Around 45 per cent of Manitobans live outside of Winnipeg, yet they get only a fraction of the attention.

It certainly doesn’t help that every party sees the results outside of the city as preordained before the writ is dropped. Many candidates are parachuted in from the city or other parts of the province so that parties can ensure they are running the maximum number of urban candidates.

When political parties divert their attention from agriculture, we see the economy start to slow down, which is bad news for all of us. Rural development used to be a department of government, before its prominence waned and it is now not even a government responsibility.

The provincial issues Keystone Agricultural Producers raised in the lead-up to this election, be it education funding, climate change programming, or infrastructure spending matter to all Manitobans. We need an education system that is funded equitably by Manitobans. We all need to work together to ensure that our climate is sustainable for the next 1,000 years. We need roads and bridges that allow for the effective movement of goods and services.

The candidates I have heard from in debates can’t seem to articulate a clear vision for these issues. Agriculture is one of the economic drivers of this province, and our industry accounts for about five per cent of the province’s total GDP. The potential for increased production in rural Manitoba is great and we have some of the best land in the country to grow on.

For our industry and our province to thrive, we need a government that is committed to what happens in our sector and what happens on our fields and farmyards.

I am proud of the work I do. I am proud to be part of an industry that is so directly tied to the success of my community and my province. What I hoped to see in this election was a commitment and a willingness to join in the success of agriculture and support us when things aren’t as good. What I got instead was a lack of engagement and a lack of commitment to what happens outside of Winnipeg.

All I can hope for, once the next provincial government is in place, is that all political parties take the time to listen to the people outside city limits.

It may be a different way of life and it may be one that is dwindling, but it is still vitally important to the long-term success of all of us.

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