Recent History – 2000
Feb. 2, 2000
By Cees Mond, Daily News Staff
Following some pictures and a few handshakes, B.C. grain farmer Nick Parsons climbed onto his combine and took off on a six-week odyssey Tuesday. Parsons, 52, started what he, two weeks ago, said he’d do if the government wouldn’t take the Western Canadian crisis in agriculture seriously: drive his 4.2-metre wide combine to Parliament Hill.
On the morning of Feb. 1, he hadn’t even gotten a notice that they’d received his messages in Ottawa. So at 11 a.m., a handful of farmers, some local media, and Parsons, his wife and oldest daughter had gathered at the local Agricore elevator, where the coffee is always on for farmers dropping off their grain. One of the clerks hands Parsons an envelope.
“Some donations that were dropped off,” she says.
Parsons doesn’t take the envelope, but asks her to drop it off at the CIBC, “for the trust fund.”
Parsons says he’s rested and ready for it, even though he spent the past week on the phone, talking to supporters and radio stations from all across Canada.
“Yesterday, I had 40 stations phoning, from Ontario to Vancouver,” he says.
Jane can confirm that. “We had one (phone call) nearly every five minutes — at least it felt like that,” she says.
Jane reluctantly lets her husband go to Ottawa. She knows there’s no stopping him once he’s set his mind to something.
“I didn’t want him to go, but I just had to let him go and let him get on with it,” she says.
They can easily keep in touch. Parsons is packing his cell phone with him.
“The cell phone, we gave him for his birthday,” Jane laughs. “He thought it was a useless present at the time.”
It’s quiet here at the elevator, just outside Dawson Creek, a city of 12,000. No town band and mayor to send Parsons off. He says it’s better that way.
“Once I get to Saskatchewan, there’s going to be a building of support,” he predicts. “The support I’m getting out of Saskatchewan is just out of this world.”
The local support for Parsons is not as pronounced, but it’s there.
“There’s a lot of nostalgia in this,” says Norman Jensen, a farmer in the Doe River area, north of Dawson Creek. “I’m retiring, but I sure have full sympathy with these people. “It’s long overdue.”
Jensen farmed in the Winnipeg area until high interest rates squeezed him out there in the early ‘80s. Since 1984, he’s been farming in the B.C. Peace, but it’s not getting easier.
“The inputs are so high,” he says. “It takes a good price and good crop to make anything. If you’ve got anything less than an average crop, you’re losing money.”
Parsons says Canadian farmers need government subsidies to be able to compete with their U.S. and European counterparts, but only a fraction of the subsidies they’re getting there. If farmers get $50 per acre support, Parsons figures, they’ll do OK.
That’s what he’s going to Ottawa for. To tell Jean Chretien that.
“I say to you, sir, we need respect as farm families of the prairies, producing the most top quality products in the western world,” he wrote to the prime minister this morning in another fax. “We need you, sir, at this time more than ever with overseas subsidies and your cheap food policy here at home ruining our livelihoods.”
Parsons plans to complete the 4,000-kilometre journey in six weeks.