By Craig Funston
Fourteen years ago, as some of you know, I left British Columbia for Alberta—the dogwood for the wild rose, if you will. It was a no-brainer for me, although I knew there would be many adjustments and some adversity. I just never knew how much adversity I would face.
House fires, employment terminations, health issues, and all the grief that comes with admninistrative callings—just for starters—were the results of my “eastward ho” urge. I have written about some of these things in these past ten years in this spot, so I won’t bore you to death with all the pertinent, personal details.
After all, this is a column about general public issues, not a reality expose about intimate private ones.
By moving to Alberta, I shifted into a setting that is a microcosm for “The Canada I Love.” It will take me a couple of columns to develop my thoughts, so bear with me. This column has never pretended to be a series of profound essays—rather stimulating food for thought, with some wordplay thrown in.
You see, the Canada I love is typified by a small prairie town (in the dead of winter, as a bonus). You can’t get any more Canadian than that—unless there’s a Tim Hortons [sic] nearby.
If I were somewhere in central or northern BC, I would likely say the same thing about a logging town; or back east, a fishing village. But I’m here, not there, so this is how I am framing today’s column. The town I live in is the quintessence of Canada: maybe 900 people, basic services, muli-generational, and most people know each other’s name. And you don’t dare walk past someone without greeting them by name, or at least nodding.
Mutliply that by hundreds of other villages spread across the prairies, and you can see why I have great hope for the future of this great nation. Life in rural Canada is what our country is all about; if it is preserved, we’ve got a great future. If it’s not, oh boy…
Call it a hamlet, a village, or a town, if you so choose; I do know the distinction. They capture the Canadian-esque mood more than any city could. And I speak as one who spent his formative years raised in a city.
Cities? You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Okay, okay, it’s not quite that simplistic, I agree. Each city has its own unique quality, to be sure. But it also has all those generic city hang-ups, those trends that do not bode well for Canada’s future.
If cities are the jawbone of the country, then small prairie towns are its backbone.
You may doubt it, so check out how the cities voted in the last two elections (federal and provincial). If you want to blame anyone for the political mess we’re in, just look to the cities. And then blame those politicians who listen to the city slickers’ demands.
On the other hand, see how rural Canada voted. The rural populace seems to have its collective head on straight. For the most part, their thinking is practical, and balanced–a grassroots, hands-on approach to everyday life that is not found in any city.
It would be beneficial to our nation to have more politicians elected from rural Canada, but that policy flies in the face of “rep by pop.” If we could, I’m sure we would want more common sense leadership.
My simple thesis is this: If you want to see what’s right about Canada, both in its essence and its hope, look in our collective rural settings.
The longer I live in rural Alberta, the greater optimism I have for the future of this country. (And the inverse is true when it comes to cities.) All Canadians need to appreciate what small towns mean to the overall well-being of this nation.
And just outside any small prairie town are those enterprises called the “family farm.” You may have heard of them. I don’t think our “friends” in Edmonton understand the value that the agricultural sector plays in the economy and future well-being of our province, and by extension, our country. The NDP’s Bill 6 fiasco has me wondering if rural Alberta is being punished for not voting red in May.
So if you want to see what’s right about Canada, drop into a country village sometime.
And please, don’t forget to nod.