When it comes to Saskatoon, former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall has not been seen much in these parts. In fact, except for the Saskatchewan Party leadership convention, he has not made a public appearance in Saskatoon since he retired as premier. When he showed up at a recent Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan event he brought his friends, Morgan and Wyatt Earp, by way of clips from his favourite movie, Tombstone.
In the movie clip that began Wall’s talk, Morgan Earp is lying bleeding in the arms of his brother Wyatt, and as he is dying he pleads with his brother not to let the same thing happen to him. For the purpose of this tale they could be renamed oil-sands and agriculture.
Wall explains the point he is trying to get across: “My message to the crowd is that it is a cautionary tale. If you think about Morgan Earp as maybe the oil-sands – which aren’t dead by any means, still very active but they’ve been hit pretty hard – advising another sector to be a bit concerned about some of the branding that could come in from external NGOs, some government policy. You could end up in a short order as the energy sector is right now, which is in a very difficult spot, and I think modern agriculture should learn from that.” (story continues below)
Wall says he does not think people are going to line up to see him forever, but while they do, he is hoping to help change some minds.
What can be done if this is the potential future? Wall says, “Let’s be proactive on science when it comes to GMOs and different farming practices. Let’s be proactive on how the cattle industry is operated and providing good quality, safe beef and pork and poultry to the country and internationally. Let’s tell that story.”
Wall understands that families are making the best choices they can with the information they have. The responsibility to make sure the information the public has access to is factual rests with the agriculture industry.
“We had better have done our job to make sure they understand the science behind ‘crop science’. We, the royal we, the industry and governments, and that’s what I’m worried about,” he says.
Wall makes a very important point about social licence – you can’t buy it, it must be earned. The groups that are trying to stop the use of fossil fuels or the use of glyphosate, for example, will never be satisfied with a carbon tax or the removal of glyphosate. They want fossil fuels to stay in the ground and all crop protection products to be eliminated.
Wall believes the general population can be moved by persuasive arguments. He goes back to his example of oil production. “If social licence exists, it’s because people think, people have gotten to see all of the facts, the imperfections of both sides of the argument, but all of the facts and go ‘you know what , on the whole, I guess if it’s not our oil it’s going to be Saudi oil, or Nigerian oil, so maybe I’ll change my mind.'”