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“Stand and deliver!”

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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?

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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