Most provinces incurred deficits after their respective rounds of spending required to buffer the Canadian economy against the global recession a few years ago. So as they struggle to balance their budgets and maintain a healthy economy, any sign of buoyancy is welcome news.
The Island's farm receipts for 2011 fit into that category.
According to Statistics Canada's most recent figures, the province's total farm receipts stood at $476 million in 2011, up by $70 million over the previous year, and almost $92 million more than 2007. These were the highest figures in the Maritimes.
Not surprisingly, the farm community is happy with the news. P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture president Bertha Campbell described it as "significant and good news both for farmers and the province."
She's right about that. Agriculture remains the underpinning of this province, as implied in the oft-quoted expression: as agriculture goes, so goes the economy. Campbell put it more specifically: "When farmers make money, they tend to keep it in circulation. They reinvest in equipment needs and infrastructure, which, in turn, leads to more jobs on P.E.I."
So what's the reason for the positive news in 2011? Industry officials say that although operating expenses grew, so did potato prices. As well, it seemed in this and other commodities, supply was more in concert with demand, and there was an increase in value of rotation crops, such as soybeans and grain. Marketing efforts also helped.
Agriculture is a complex industry with global influences often affecting farmers' bottom line. But by keeping product supply in line with the demand and marketing that product effectively, the Island agriculture industry can remain competitive. That seems to be the lesson of 2011. The challenge now is in being able to match that success in subsequent years.
Still debating seatbelts
The owner of a Maritime bus service is taking it upon himself to explore the pros and cons of seatbelts on his vehicles. We look forward to his findings. It could be instructive to us all.
The subject arose recently following an accident involving a Maritime Bus vehicle in Traveller's Rest, where high winds caused a motor coach bus to slide off the road and tip over. No one was seriously hurt, but reports have surfaced since the accident that some of the 33 passengers ended up with more than scrapes and bruises. One woman told The Guardian her sister suffered a concussion after being thrown from her seat.
Mike Cassidy, owner of the service, says he has given thought to putting seatbelts on his buses - in fact, the last four buses purchased by the company are equipped with them. Although the law doesn't require their enforcement on buses, he plans to examine whether they are being used.
The subject is also being discussed across Canada following the high-profile bus accident in Oregon, where nine people were killed and 38 injured when a Vancouver-bound bus left the road and plunged down an embankment. Many of the passengers were thrown from the bus.
Long before seatbelt use was legislated for personal vehicles, debate raged over whether they would save or jeopardize lives, depending on the circumstances of the accident. It looks like we may be in for a similar debate over their use in commercial vehicles. Certainly the recent bus accidents here and elsewhere have prompted people to talk about it.