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A Growing Urban/Rural Rift

 

Steve Campbell

The Good Ol’ County has been getting a lot of press lately in Metro Toronto newspapers, and not all of it seems to be good.
It is not coming from Toronto people who have learned to know and love the County. It’s from city reporters who spend a few hours here and then describe to their readers our lovable backwards ways – a land full of seniors and straw-chompin’, sod-kickin’ locals who find city people ‘suspicious’.
This is like spending five minutes with the Dalai Lama and walking away fully enlightened, having learned the condensed version of The Meaning of Life. Toronto reporters might also spend an hour in Greece, and solve their economic problems.
The Globe’s Steve L did no justice to the new owners of the Devonshire Inn. (As Dave Simmonds so wisely said: “I suggest you fire the Globe as your press agent,” or words to that effect.)
The Star’s Heather Mallick recently attacked the equally backwards people of Collingwood, who were fighting to keep industrial wind turbines away from their homes. These ‘selfish’ people may prevent Heather from heating her pool to 95º while cooling her house to 60º, as residents of the GTA tend to do.
This, to me, shows the growing rift between city people and country people. There is a growing ‘us and them’ attitude and, surprisingly enough, it’s not coming from here!
There are lots of T.O. ex-patriots here in the County, and they ‘get’ how the County works. And they love it. There are also lots of city people who love The City, and also love The County. This is also very good.
Sure, Metro reporters don’t have the time to rent a cottage here, and ‘go native’ for a month. But sometimes they just consider Rural Ontario to be a quick trip to the Zoo. Then they return home to report on the unusual behaviours of the chimpanzees, who are clearly less-developed than Real Humans.
Sometimes we get fluffy pieces that make the County look like the Garden of Eden – if Eden had big-name chefs, wineries and high-class entertainment. Sometimes we get citified observations on our lack of class and culture. But you are not going to ‘get’ the County unless you shake off your sense of God-given superiority.
This is the root of the growing rift – which makes Metro areas vote McGuinty and Rural Ontario run away screaming. (As I’ve said, Dalton would make a great mayor of Toronto, but is a lousy premier of Ontario.)
First, if you’re a metro reporter, do not make the mistake that Culture = Sophistication.
Culture is a sense of value, shared by a large community. It’s a commonality, and a way of doing things, just like it is in foreign countries. This applies in Toronto, a well as the County.
Culture is not defined by the kind of art you like, or the music you listen to, or the plays and movies you go to see. Culture is not about preferring steak tartar and escargot to a big slab of barbecued ribs and a baked potato. That’s sophistication, not culture.
Culture is born out of background and experience. Ours and theirs. Is either culture superior? No. It just is what it is.
As for value, the rift is happening because we value different things.
To me, the Metro reporters consider us to be their ‘Back-40’, with locals clad in bearskins, living in mud huts, and doing whatever those kinds of savages do.
Oddly enough, this was the same attitude the Superior French and British had when they arrived in the County for the first time. Didn’t work out well for the locals.
If you’re going to file reports on us … take a closer look.
Here, we don’t take a quick glimpse and walk away. Here in the County, we judge a person by his or her character.
One might think that a County founded by Loyalists, with a history of voting time and again for the Conservative party, would be resistant to growth and change. Not so.
In fact we don’t care if you’re black, or gay, or extremely wealthy. If you have character, and you embrace the quirky ways of the County, you will be accepted. The old saw about counting back seven generations before you can call yourself ‘County’, is fading into the mist.
If you’re a jerk, you will be treated like a jerk. That’s pretty much the same everywhere. But don’t blame us.
You will eventually find a place filled with other jerks, just like you, and you won’t like them either, because they’re jerks.
We will readily accept you, if you want to share in the paradise long-timers have grown up with. And cherish and protect it. And bring new ideas and business ventures to it.
Check the cross-section of County people fighting the destruction of our south shore … soon to be lost to industrial wind turbines, to our eternal regret.
Arrived yesterday, or seven generations back … makes no difference. Saving the County rallies us all together, against a provincial government that cares nothing about our welfare, our health, our lifestyle, or even our character.
The premier is blind and deaf to our concerns, but unfortunately not mute.
Perhaps he, too, should spend more than a ‘whistle stop’ here. And, sure, bring some of those metro reporters along.
If nothing else, they can all share a laugh about our backwards ways on the helicopter ride back to the city.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Paul Cole says:

    Mr.McPherson Im not sure I understand your point “Premier Dalton McGuinty was brought up in the City of Ottawa, where he was not able to experience the vital importance of “neighbours”” What about the City Folk who have choosen Prince Edward County as a place to live they to where brought up in the City ?

    Im guessing more then likely the loss of canning and cheese factories has caused some farmers to find new ways of making money of their land in an attempt to keep the Family farm and maybe IWT’s are providing that opportunity for them possibly.

  2. Pete says:

    Marnie,

    I appreciate your honesty. It is a difficult thing to admit. Just for the record, which “foreiners” do you have a pathological fear or hatred of?

    Yours,
    hoping it’s not me!

  3. Jim McPherson says:

    Premier Dalton McGuinty was brought up in the City of Ottawa, where he was not able to experience the vital importance of “neighbours” in the socioeconomic fabric of Ontario’s rural agricultural communities. Here in the country, some of our neighbours are miles away, but they are closer friends than many next-door neighbours in our cities.
    That may explain why our Premier is allowing developers to legally bribe a few selected rural landowners to lease their land for Industrial Wind Turbines that devalue nearby properties, and that destroy rural communities’ livelihood and quality of life. Municipality by municipality, Premier Dalton McGuinty is splitting rural neighbourhoods.
    It happened in Europe and Australia. Locally, we have seen it happen on Wolfe Island, where former neighbours are no longer friends, and where families have become strangers. It is beginning to happen here in Prince Edward County, where we are fearfully awaiting our first giant Industrial Wind Turbine. Here in The County, factions are forming. Opposing lawn signs face each other across divided streets that were formerly neighbourhood focal points.
    Premier McGuinty has no shortage of reasons why he should urgently re-vamp the Green Energy Act. However, sociologists will one day observe that his most significant socioeconomic legacy will have been his imposition of community-fractious policies on Ontario’s rural folk. Community by community, McGuinty is breaking our bonds of rural neighbourliness, and unravelling our socioeconomic fabric.

  4. Paul Cole says:

    And yes Doris it was a Beautiful Day in The County.

  5. Paul Cole says:

    Being a local and very proud of it like my Father and his Fathers Father and so on and so forth.The County has always been unique and although referred to as backwards which The County wasn’t it just had a slower pace at adapting newer technologies or ways of doing things.When changes did occur it always fit in with The County style a slower pace and laid back approach.Don’t get me wrong I love new folks joining our community and bringing new ideas to the table.However as CAO Merlin Dewing says “the plan is in-line with the practices of other local municipalities.”. Again with The Couny being as unique as it is, it definately needs a made in The County approach.Bumpy back road following a tractor from say Mowbray Road to Cherry Valley with a manure spreader hooked up outhouses and vegetable stands is definately County style and People love it thats why they come to The County and not so much the “big-name chefs, wineries and high-class entertainment.”.Let them go back and report on the “chimpanzees” in The County cause when it all boils down thats why people come and visit and fall in love with Prince Edward County..Let the rift continue.

  6. Doris Lane says:

    The section of Steve’s article that caught my attention was the part about everyone raling together against the provincial government that does not care about us.
    The people who are responsible for the rally are with CCSAGE with help from Appec. Most, if not all of these people are relative new comers to the County and they come with a wealth of experience and outstanding ability.
    I am a UEL but I welcome every one who has brought special talent and energy to this County, I realize that it is not the County I was born in and I do miss those good old days–family farms –rural schools–small churches all over the county–lots of canning factories and cheese factories.
    But time does not stand still here in the County and in the world so we must just go with the flow
    All the best to everyone and wasn’t it a beautiful day here in THE COUNTY

  7. David Norman says:

    “A Growing Urban/Rural Rift”… plenty of fertilizer below!

  8. Marnie says:

    Pete,

    It all depends on the foreigners in question.

  9. Mark says:

    My god. I rest my case.

  10. Pete says:

    Marnie,

    Xenophobic much?

    Yours Truly,
    Just Another Human Being

  11. Marnie says:

    I do not think that you, personally, are destroying the county way of life, Beth and I dislike the term ‘import’. I do believe, however, that the influx of so many new people, most of them from large cities, has had a major impact on the county and the resulting changes are not all for the good. It’s sad to drive down what were formerly quiet country roads and see mansions where there were once only a few modest farm houses. They might be a good fit in the city but here in the county they look out of place.

    The jobs to which I was referring are not highly skilled positions that require special education. In many cases they are casual jobs that once were filled by local people i.e. sales clerks, receptionists, clerical staff.

    A lot of the county’s newcomers are pleasant, interesting people who value the lifestyle but there are also those who sometimes make the locals feel like strangers in their own county.

    Now allow me to shock you Beth. I don’t own a cell phone and therefore have no concerns about reception. I do have high speed internet, but I do not consider it one of life’s essentials. As for the nice eating places, sorry but I can’t afford them except on very special occasions. The thought of paying twelve dollars for a hamburger just does not sit right with me. I can’t afford most of the events at the Regent either and I miss the old familiar faces.

  12. virginia says:

    I have read The Star article (not the Globe’s, however) about the Devonshire (now the Drake) and the original article about the Collingwood anti-wind people, as well as Heather Mallick’s article. In fact, I wrote to Heather congratulating her.
    The Collingwood people who were profiled are very wealthy and used to getting what they want.(ex. one of them is the man who built the Rogers’ Centre) Their interests, as demonstrated in that article, are purely selfish.
    Today I read the editorial in the County Weekly News, and I want to congratulate the editor for speaking frankly and truthfully about the wind power issue in this county.
    This county needs real economic engines, not just fluff.
    We are not a Disney attraction; real people want to make a living and raise their families here.
    If that doesn’t suit some, then maybe those people are better off elsewhere.

  13. Beth says:

    Glad to know that as an “import” I am destroying the County way of life!

    I work, I raise my children, I struggle, but it doesn’t matter where you are; you work, raise your children and struggle. Many “county” jobs are filled because the young people who grow up here do not study in the fields that will allow them to fill the positions. Many of them leave, to allow themselves to experience life on the outside.For the record, I love living here in The County. There are so many decent wonderful people, some from old families and some from new. When we moved here, I found home.

    The amenities; do you like the fact that you can get cell receptions over most of the county (south shore excluded unfortunately), are you happy to have high speed internet, great places to eat or how about new people who want to help shoulder the burden of many of the projects that were once only handled by “locals”. This is a result of having “city folk” move in.

    There are also some very deep rifts between groups / causes. Unfortunately, emotions for some of the causes are dividing the community even further. Perhaps, just perhaps we can start by mending community relations and not worry about what some writer in Toronto had to say.

  14. Marnie says:

    Exactly, Paul. The character of the county has been changed and much of what it offers today is not for most of its fourth and fifth generation families. What happened to all of the old county names in local church groups, museum volunteer groups etc? Our heritage has been hijacked by newcomers. Many of the shows brought to the Regent are only for those who can afford the high-priced tickets. Is there a single local person left in the Regent group who was involved in the original revival of the theatre?

    Who patronizes the expensive new restaurants with their trendy menus? Not your average county family. For those of us born in the county it is fast becoming a place where we cannot afford to live. It is now paradise for well-to-do individuals who were happy to flee city life but wanted to bring the amenities such as fine dining with them.

    It’s sad to see that today many county jobs are filled. not by those who were born and raised in the county and really need the money but instead by newcomers who often are over-qualified for the work they are doing. For them, these jobs offer pin money but for a county person they could mean income sorely needed for necessities.

    It’s great to see new faces in the county and to watch new wineries and eateries opening but sad that it is at the expense of our way of life.

  15. Paul Cole says:

    Seems to me it was the old school laid back attitude that made Prince Edward County what it was ’emphasis on was’.The old fashioned relaxed ways that attracted families to come and relax has changed somewhat and now seems to be catering to the high falutin type “big-name chefs, wineries and high-class entertainment”.There always was a rift and that was part of the attraction to The County but slowly that identity is being lost.

  16. Mark says:

    sorry….

    I was born and raised here and as a whole, we are reluctant to change, which is not good.

    The second someone calls us on it though…. how dare they!

  17. Chris Keen says:

    Of course it was the Drake Hotel’s publicist who started all this by dogging the Toronto rags until they agreed to send someone down here to do a story. Six hours of driving for two paragraphs and a picture of a “hotel” that won’t be open until 2013! Perhaps that’s why there was a little prickliness?

    Although the voters in the GTA have inflicted McShifty on us, I would not return the favour by rooting for him as a future mayor of Toronto. Given his inability to manage any aspect of the province effectively, his undemocratic actions, and his lack of transparency, he’s better off out in a pasture somewhere – although it would be a job to find one that would take him!

  18. David Norman says:

    I think I might be getting a handle on this “getting it” County phenomena. Figuratively speaking, and correct me if I’m wrong, clad in a “pho” bearskin (I say pho since bears have long since been eliminated from County biodiversity) and eating a slab of barbecued ribs with your special brand of County tartar sauce, I’m developing an immunity from the potentially infectious perceptions of urban parasites like those carried by some Toronto newspaper reporters. It’s County culture without sophisticated prejudice or like Charlie Farquharson comparing escargot to winkles. Did I miss the point or read too much into what you said?

  19. I’ve been away from this special isle, the County, for almost 4 years…I returned this spring and have felt that things have changed here for the betterment of our society…you may know time is collapsing, the third-dimensional structure is not in place anymore, more events happen per moment preparing everyone for a psychic breakthrough:we are living in 2 realities everywhere on this planet; those that choose love and those that are in their egos~some Toronto reporters are still in their egos. But let us Qunite Islanders come from love in all that we undertake to do.

  20. Doris Lane says:

    Excellent article Steve– no one says it netter yhan you do

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