Just the other day I came across a letter that was posted on the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) website. It addressed the federal budget cuts concerning the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) by the Government of Canada. I had heard that there were cuts to agriculture, which included the growing of trees for shelter belts. I, however, hadn’t realized that it actually meant that the PFRA was going to be terminated completely. Having grown up a few miles from one it surprised me that such a great organization for the prairies, an institution that has been helping those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba for over 75 years would be finished.
In the letter submitted to the PSAC, by a Pasture Manager’s Wife, she explains that the federal government didn’t give any warning about this move to eliminate the PFRA and that they have been given no exact date of termination. This means they are left to wait out when they will be forced off of the land as they “have received no official date of termination; only a vague reference to this year; or next year.” she states.
Across Manitoba and Saskatchewan there are 87 pastures, with over half of these in Saskatchewan. With many managers only operating one pasture it comes to be that a fairly large number is affected by this. Each pasture not only employs a manager, but it also employs seasonal riders. Even though these are the ones employed by the government, it is the entire family of these employees that will pitch in working for the PFRA. They mend fences, assist in cattle drives, and help to keep everything working as it should.
It is a way of life for the families that live on the PFRA and now they are being told that this is going to change. Many people will therefore be displaced from their homes, as each manager lives on site renting the house from the PFRA.
Each employee working in the pastures have to provide their own horses and tack. This means that not only people will be displaced, but animals as well. Through the assessment of Manitoba and Saskatchewan the writer of the letter notes that 1,200 horses will need to be put up for sale because their owners will not be able to keep them, “hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of riding equipment, 200 families looking for jobs and homes...” She also states that those who are a part of the PFRA will have difficulties finding jobs as there are not enough employers that require those with the skill sets needed for the PFRA.
The letter that she wrote was noteworthy, I thought, because what they do is not just work. To those employed by the PFRA it is a way of life and the government has decided that they no longer want to be involved with it. The fact is the PFRA has been a great help to communities beginning in 1935 and has continued to help those in the prairies ever since.
“The PFRA’s role in the epic conquest of widespread soil erosion on the prairies in the ‘Dirty Thirties’ is one of Canada’s great success stories.” the Saskatchewan Environmental Champions website boasts. “Over its 70 years, the PFRA’s collaborative, responsive and practical approach has had a tremendous impact on agriculture and environmental adaptation on the prairies. Its diverse core of technical expertise places it in the forefront to meet emerging issues in land and water management and conservation.”
I understand that the government needed to re-evaluate expenditures, but if the PFRA has helped the prairies with issues surrounding agriculture and environmental adaptations then it stands to reason it could actually be expanded to help in other areas of environmental need. Cutting the funds to the PFRA sounds to me like a possible error by the government. That and to give no notice, other than in the budget, it is a rather inconsiderate move by the government especially when the jobs they are eliminating are literally a way of life for those apart of the PFRA. I absolutely understand that the Canadian budget needed to be reworked, but it just seems like the agriculture section has been greatly affected in many ways.
For the complete letter by the Pasture Manager’s Wife visit the web address,