Identifying the real crisis?

It’s been said many times that necessity is the mother of invention.
Put another way, little happens unless there’s some adversity. We, as human beings, follow the pattern of God the Creator. We have it born into us to make stuff, to improve things, to upgrade conditions. We do it just for the fun of doing it. But, there’s always a profit. It may be financial profit and it often is, or it may be that immeasurable profit, the one not so easy to gauge, called satisfaction.
So it is in rural Manitoba, we see a need so we fill that need. We grow food, do we ever grow food? Our four little apple trees, of which only one gets cared for, the other three are “out in the bush” somewhere, produced a lot of fruit this year. I am proud to say that my wife Christine rose to the occasion and processed every large apple that was produced. Now the tiny and prolific Rescue crabapples are a different matter. We’d need a number of families to look after that harvest.
Manitobans produce food for ourselves and for many times our population, especially when it comes to pork, beef, wheat and canola. Even still, there are tons of food never harvested and that’s partly  because there’s no economical way of getting it to markets. It’s too bad really.
Another need that’s being slowly filled now is housing. Many rural towns, and Neepawa is certainly in this boat, are short of housing. Desperately short some would say. However, building a house is a bit more complex and a lot more costly than say growing a garden or some might argue even more complicated than  farming. There’s land to acquire, services to install, zoning to get into place, the housing itself to build and then you have to rent it or sell it to get a return on your investment. Nobody in their right mind is going to build housing and expect to take a loss.
Marketing housing is a tricky business. How do you have the right housing mix at the right time and in the right place and at the right price? It’s risky and while fortunes have been made in housing, fortunes have also been lost.
At the current time, there’s about 80 housing units underway or planned for the immediate future in Neepawa. That may not be enough as Neepawa’s population has climbed from about 3200, three to four years ago to a population of about 4000 today. Housing, especially rental housing is very, very tight.
The problem is that rental housing is a long term investment and there may not be a long term demand for rentals. The people who are currently making Neepawa their home want to bring their families and own their own homes as soon as possible. They have rightly bought into the Canadian dream, to own their own home. It’s a time honoured tradition. Ideally, we should have very little rental housing and mostly ownership housing. Efforts by the various levels of governments to create rental housing have many times been a failure in rural Manitoba. We like to own our homes. It can be argued that society is better off when home ownership levels are high. There’s nothing like investing your own money, blood sweat and tears into a house to make you feel “at home” and part of the community.
The long term answer to housing and food production is for us to encourage anyone and everyone who wants to be involved in food production and in housing.
Unfortunately, government policies and social attitudes have done a lot to discourage both. The government’s land transfer tax is one small example of government discourages housing. It’s an added cost, a tax grab. Farming is hard hit every day by government interference. The ban on new hog barn construction has been particularly bad for Manitoba. In order for Hylife in Neepawa and Maple Leaf in Brandon to thrive, they need hogs. Hogs need barns and barns wear out and need to be replaced. There’s a right place and a wrong place to build barns. The government says basically there’s no right place to build a barn. Pretty dumb and very short-sighted but that’s just the way it is right now.
Here’s a thought. Governments are sensitive to the desires and wishes of labour unions. It should be pointed out to union leadership that if agriculture (barn building for an example) and house construction are thwarted it will be bad for workers. Wonder if the union brass have thought that  through yet. If there are no pigs and no housing, there will be no jobs, therefore, the unions could find themselves without members to gather union dues from. Now that would be real crisis wouldn’t it? Maybe it’s time for governments and unions to have a little chat.

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