A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Response to the Beyond Freefall Report. (part1)

The Government of Canada recently responded the report of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, Beyond Freefall: Halting Rural Poverty, adopted by the Senate on June 18, 2009. Twenty-nine departments, agencies and Crown corporations contributed to the Government Response, giving careful consideration to the report's 68 recommendations.

Regular readers will know that I along with many others including municipalities from across Canada have praised this report both for its coverage of the issues and its recommendations. Full report here. I wish I could report that the government has acted upon these recommendations however from what I can see the response is largely a bit of PR for their much flaunted “Economic Action Plan” which by their own definition is a “temporary stimulus” and thus hardly addresses the real need for ongoing changes in rural support mechanisms.

A quick scan of this report reveals over 50 references to either the “Economic Action Plan” or “Budget 2009” each saying this is what we have done, unfortunately few of these things in said budget are specifically aimed at rural communities but are broader based “initiatives” from which those communities may receive some benefit. Much of the 2009 budget was dedicated to temporary stimulus measures and presumably will be discontinued in short order. The specific recommendations by enlarge do not seem to have been addressed. In short this seems to be a bit of PR writing intended to make it look like a lot has been done without actually doing anything!

One of the thing I find interesting is that there are several references to existing programs such as “In Budget 2003, the Government allocated $85 million over five years ” and “Funding over three years (2005-08) to…” leaving me to ask, “so what, this is going to help us how?” The words “the Government will” do appear a total of 7 times but 5 of those simply say “The Government of Canada will continue to work with” this agency or that one. I would bloody well hope so, that is after all your job, to work will all agency’s for the betterment of our population! Also of interest given this governments propensity to beat its own drum and the references to the “Action Plan”, is that nowhere in this document do the words “The Harper Government” appear. Could it be that they are not too proud of this one?

In June 2008 I said “From my point of view it was a good report (from the Senate) that clearly outlined some of the problems and offered some possible solutions, I am less optimistic about the report actually making any difference to government policy, be it with this particular bunch of arrogant partisans or any other of our elected representatives.”
As you may gather by now that I am not really impressed by this “response” there may be a few specks of gold in there somewhere but I have yet to find them. Many of those recommendations were more to do with non monetary support and changes to process to let us build our own economy and support systems back up, but these issues have received little attention.

Stay tuned, over the next week or two I will go though it clause by clause comparing it to the Senate recommendations, starting with those that I highlighted in my initial reaction to the Beyond Freefall report. If you wish to read this response you will have to contact the Rural Secretariat and ask for a copy. I am told they are “working on” providing an online copy but that the “government web 2.0 rules” are slowing this process down!

Update Dec 20 2009 - Whilst a copy of this report still cannot be found on either the Parlimentry site or the Rural Secretariat site it can be found at Govresponse_ruralpov_eng_final.pdf

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