Monday, November 7, 2011

The long and winding road

I don't usually write about politics, or even talk about politics. But I feel inclined to say for the first time in my life, I am inspired to believe in the future of Saskatchewan.

Tonight the Saskatchewan Party was elected with a majority government, under the leadership of Brad Wall.

I do not know Mr. Wall, but he seems to be a home grown kind of guy, with good intentions. But more importantly, Mr. Wall has the ability to lead, and make things happen. He has the ability to inspire followers and engage non-believers. To inspire someone like me to believe in the future of Saskatchewan.

Tonight, he recounted the successes of the past 4 years, and the promises kept, all which are valid. We are experiencing the benefits of a prosperous mining sector, and an open door policy for business. We have grown as a province and an economy. As Mr. Wall says, there is yet more work to do.

It is important to remember that the road to change is  a long and winding road, paved with economic evolution, hard decisions and changes that spanned the 80's, 90's, and the new millennium.

Our family's hometown, Westbend, was the town closest to my grandparent's farm community. In its day, it was a thriving little town with a co-op store, a gas station, and a post office.

Since then, Westbend has slowly but surely disappeared like so many other towns as a result of changes in the agricultural economy and policies that were implemented, such as branchline relocation and the crow rate. As the agricultural economy became more efficient and centralized, small farming communities lost services and people.

There was an exodus of Saskatchewan people looking for greener pastures in Alberta. We were part of the mass exodus that left Saskatchewan to find a job and life in Alberta.  We found jobs, but not a life. Houses were out of reach and a life of driving 3 hours a day and living in rented houses was not in my plan.

I wanted to study Journalism, so we moved back to Regina with our babies, bought a house, and got an education. In the back of my mind, however, I did not have faith in the province's sustainability, so we always kept one foot elsewhere, metaphorically speaking. 

As a student journalist, writing for the Kindersley Clarion, I remember writing about the massive changes that rural Saskatchewan had undergone as a result of efforts to streamline the agricultural economy.

Incidentally, that was the year the NDP and Mr. Romanow was re-elected with his "Quiet Revolution" plan, which promised a series of changes in 3 years. To be honest, it was not inspiring. It was frightening, hardline change. I attended a conference bullpit session of Saskatchewan delegates where they were told to change, or change would happen to them.

By the time our group of student journalists were able to interview Mr. Romanow, the "paid" media had already written all about his 3-year Quiet Revolution plan.  Mr. Romanow was a master of key messages so there was no unseating this politican.  My audience was waiting for a story that was meaninful to them so I had to get creative.

At the end of the interview session, I asked him for an autograph in my daughter's book. He wrote, "The future is yours Sara." On the same page, was her favorite poem: "Fuzzy Wuzzy Wuz a Bear . . ."

I couldn't resist the irony and the temptation to include the poem and his best wishes for Sara's future in a story about the difficulties rural Saskatchewan was facing. (A tiny moment of journalistic satisfaction)

Change happened. Later I was to write about a school closure in Dinsmore. The empty halls and classrooms still dense with chalk dust reminded me of the impact of change on children, wondering how could they believe in tomorrow when their today was disappearing.

We stayed through the 90's and into the new millennium.  We earned degrees and made sacrifices to ensure that we had meaningful employment to give our kids a good life. My husband, an industrial engineer, worked up north for more than 4 years, coming home only on weekends while I raised teenagers and worked as a corporate planner and writer for large corporations and the credit unions.  

Over the past 4 years, something has changed. Our economy has grown. There is an attitude of possiblity. There is a hope for the future. 

For the first time, I can honestly say that I have confidence in a government, and possibly, a person. I believe him when he says, "We are never going back" to despair and being a have-not province.  I believe him when he says we are moving forward.

This is where my grandparents settled, and broke the land. I can honestly say I never get tired of a sunset or the smell of the air in spring. I marvel at sundogs, despite the fact that a sighting means eminent frigid temperatures. I can't help but get out of my car just to take in the vista of a clear blue sky and a golden field.  

Something has changed. Maybe it's me. Or maybe I am finally home.    

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