For them, preserving and telling the story of W.R. Motherwell is a labour of love. They rightly believe it’s fundamental to what rural western Canada is all about. Born in Ontario in 1860 and transplanted to the Northwest Territories in 1882, Motherwell was a visionary who helped lay the foundations of prairie agriculture.
His original farm-site is a priceless piece of history. Among many innovations, he pioneered food safety principles, and was an early advocate of shelterbelts to combat soil erosion. An historic prairie “tree nursery” was set up in 1901 only a few miles from his homestead.
Also that year, Motherwell helped create the Territorial Grain Growers Association, and later, the Saskatchewan Cooperative Elevator Company. He established the College of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan. Beginning in 1905, he served 13 years as Saskatchewan’s first Minister of Agriculture, and through the 1920’s, he filled that role federally.
It’s no wonder people around Abernethy feel strongly about this National Historic Site. It costs less than $400,000/year to operate as a vital community asset, tourist attraction, educational tool, job creator, and living monument to a prairie hero.
But none of that matters to Stephen Harper. Like that tree nursery at nearby Indian Head, the Motherwell Homestead got chopped in this year’s budget. It’s being drastically downsized and left to languish as a pale shadow of what it used to be.
This is a dumb decision. But worse still, it’s biased and discriminatory.
While the Motherwell Homestead is being gutted, the Harper Conservatives are putting $2.5-million into the home-riding of Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement for a National Historic Site near Muskoka, Ontario.
Remember “pork-barrel” Tony? He’s the Harper Minister who mis-spent $50-million without lawful authority on sheer waste (e.g., ornamental gazebos and sidewalks to nowhere) to puff-up his riding before the G-8 fiasco there in 2010.
Now he gets yet another spending boondoggle, while Abernethy gets cut. Why?