Odd Thoughts: The road to higher prices

The past is to blame for higher prices of vegetables in the grocery store.

Next time you’re in the grocery store and notice the price of one vegetable or another skyrocketing, don’t shake your fist at the fires, floods, or hailstorms in California or Florida or Mexico or… wherever.

It’s a futile gesture, aimed in the wrong direction.

If you must shake your fist, shake it at the past.

In 1931, when the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce was taking its baby steps and the first editions of the Langley Advance began apprising local citizens of local goings-on, most of the world was in the throes of an economic depression so severe that it remains the benchmark against which all economic downturns are still measured.

Able-bodied workers were out of work, and all levels of government in Canada organized special projects to keep them occupied – and to justify paying them relief (welfare, in today’s vernacular).

The federal government decided to connect roads and rebuild trails and tracks to create a Trans-Canada Highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The new highway crossed the Rocky Mountains from Alberta into British Columbia, wound through the interior mountains and valleys, snaked into the Fraser Canyon, and connected with Vancouver through the Fraser Valley.

“Aye,” as Shakespeare would have said if he weren’t Francis Bacon and had died centuries earlier, “and there’s the rub.”

The original plan was to take the new highway through the valley along the rockier terrain to the north of the Fraser River. The idea was to create less disturbance through the more abundant farmlands on the south side.

But the arable land to the south had attracted more residents than the north.

A contingent of South of the Fraser mayors and business leaders – who knew that “progress” was built alongside roads, and not across the river from them – went to Ottawa to point out that “more residents” are exactly the same as “more voters.”

Numbers of voters outweighed numbers of potatoes or cabbages or chickens or cows in the scales wielded by politicians. The highway and the progress it attracted paved over mile after mile of farmland.

The importance of the Agricultural Land Reserve created in the 1970s to stem the destruction of BC’s farming potential has largely been denigrated and subverted by those who can’t see past developers’ dollars.

And consequently, our veggie prices are now dictated by weather events in other parts of the world.

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