There was a Monty Pythonesque moment in question period the other day (OK, insert your own joke here) when the opposition Tories accused Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers of behaving like Robin Hood when it came to the NDP’s treatment of the family farm, and how the government is trying to whittle down spending to deal with the deficit.
The attack came from Emerson MLA and rancher Cliff Graydon. Here’s an edited version from Hansard:
Mr. Graydon: The Agriculture Minister was told by his colleague to cut 10 per cent and find 10 per cent savings in his budget. Acting like Robin Hood, the minister took off for rural Manitoba to seek for bounty. He raised licensing fees. He hiked Crown land fees and he taxed quota transfers, all measures that hurt the family farm. He never looked within his department for better management of spending. However, unlike Robin Hood, rather than help those in real need, this minister takes from the hardworking farm families and gives proceeds to the less needy, like for stadiums and those such things. Madam Deputy Speaker, will the minister stop this senseless taxation of family farms?
Mr. Struthers: I think it might be a good time to introduce some facts to the member for Emerson. I don't know what Robin Hood would think of this, but we took out of Growing Forward, in '08, $322 million and gave it to farmers. We took in, in 2009, '08 and '07–[interjection] We gave them $165 million through the targeted advance payments to hog producers, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.
Mr. Struthers: To continue putting some facts on the table for the member for Emerson: hog assistance loans in 2008, $50 million we gave to hog farmers; ruminant assistant program, '08-09, $15 million to Manitoba farmers; BSE loans and income assistance, $145 million to Manitoba farmers. So, Madam Deputy Speaker, I think the member from Emerson just has it backwards.
During the exchange an image popped in my head of Struthers galloping through the sward on his horse Concorde. Maybe this is who Graydon meant?