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A Time Out

Steve Campbell

We are disconnected. What we do in the County is not what we do in the County. We, as a people and as a community, are looking up instead of down. Let me explain.
The people of the County have never actually controlled the County. But we did. I know this doesn’t make sense, but bear with me.
The County has always run by one rule: We help each other, and that makes things work. This has been our way since the first settlers arrived here. It was the way of the indigenous people before us. It is, in fact, our way.
New people, old people, people who count seven generations of ancestry – everyone understands this. Witness the work of the dozens of support groups right now, who provide help and support and, yes, dollars to make the County better. I have often said that the County was built by volunteers. That’s us, stepping forward. And we always do.
Sure, Council has its own concerns, and they help us. But they deal with major projects. Roads, buildings, bylaws, funding everything from garbage to recycling to transit to snowplowing and streetsweeping, and a whole pile of crap we care nothing about. Until we do.

Hard to Unravel
We are living in two different worlds. Council struggles to give us what we want. Most times, their hands are tied by two things: Lack of money and provincial oversight. We sometimes see the occasional pellet being dropped by the province and the feds, but really we have always been on our own.
Next problem: The cost of running us exceeds the price we’re willing to pay. Hard bullet to bite, but it’s true. Our income from our population exceeds what is needed to support it.
Council looks at growth. Maybe that might solve the problem. More people, more homes, more tax dollars. On paper, this works. In reality, it’s like you have a retail store, and you order 10,000 Doobie Dolls, which are expected to be the next ‘gotta-have’ Christmas gift. But what if they’re not?
Sure, Council has consultants. Maybe they should also have brought some psychics on board. I can’t say they’re wrong. They pump big money into predictors of the future. Not to fault them because …

You’ve got the answer
Of course you don’t. Neither do I. The only prediction I can make is that archeologists in 500 years will uncover a vast concrete road extending northward from the ruins of Picton, which seem to be an homage to a large, flat, wide, grey God, who was made of many bumps.

Sorry, back to it
I’ll ask you to ponder this. Council and the people it served used to be, for lack of a better word, ‘hug buddies’. We talked to them, they talked to us. Everyone walked away with a handshake.
Now we are two different entities. Council is dealing with progress. So are we. Problem is, everyone is trying to solve the same problem, but none of us know what we are willing to give up to get what we want.
There’s boatloads of plans on the table. Few of us have even read the expansion plan scheduled for Wellington. Maybe it’s time for a rethink of the whole situation.
Maybe it’s time for a ‘Time Out’ – a traditional parental tool when your child is out of control. This may involve “Go to your room, and only play Zombie Apocalypse on your X-Box,” or my favorite, “Sit on the stairs with a bucket on your head until you can see clearly.” I never used this technique, but I seriously wanted to.
I think it’s time to shake our heads, and figure out what is happening to us. Or, more accurately, is being done to us.

Who is in charge?
This is not a rhetorical question. I don’t expect you to have an answer. [If you have an answer, I have a polygraph machine, to find out if you’re lying.]
So here’s the weird thing. [I know, you didn’t expect weird things coming from me!] Everyone. That’s the answer.
In the old Days, say 2020 and before, we pretty much controlled our own lives. Funny thing is, we still do. County people are alive, because we give. County businesses are alive, because we shop there. People in trouble get our help, because that’s what we do.
So the answer is, as I said: Everybody. The Feds are the boss of the province. Province is the boss of the County (nice deal if you can get it). County wants to do what it knows should be done but, if province says ‘No’ – no choice.
It probably won’t surprise you, but I don’t buy into this structure. I’ve worked for stupid bosses, early in my career, and learned that being ‘boss’ does not bring the gift of good management.

Time Out again
It’s time to pause. We have lots of things to fight. We spend little time looking at what we have. And yes, this is the difference between the Old Days and now.
There will always be fights to be won. Anti-vaccers, anti-gays, anti-speed bumps – everything that is a ‘thing’ has an ‘anti-thing’. We are not in a fight. We need to stop, and see what we have, and fight to keep it. No-one else can do that job, from Council on up to the Governor-General.
I used to think the problem was that the County was run from the top down – Papa gov’t; Mama gov’t, Baby gov’t. I have little trust in any of them to make great choices for our future. We love the money that trickles down from above, but it’s a little like my parents saying, “You live in our house, we feed you and give you lodging, so you abide by our rules!” [This is just an example. Other than “Get your hair cut,” my parents pretty much acknowledged that I was uncontrollable, and would either become a writer or a felon.]

So who rules? Us? Not anymore. Sure, we make some pretty strong arguments when we are concerned about the outcome of any government’s decisions. Like me, sometimes win, sometimes lose. It’s frustrating. But we are using our voice.
Trouble is: Province makes a bill. Council follows and speaks. People object. People agree. Then people fight people. Then Council, and the rest of us, don’t know what the hell is going on, so we just fire off in every direction recklessly. In the end, we all end up in a big exhausted pile of anguished people. Nobody gets what they want. Nobody.

There is no compromise in protecting farmland and wetlands and ecologically fragile areas in the County. Protection of what we have, and what we are, is not on the poker table. There’s no halfway point.
I have an idea, but I’ll be damned if anyone will consider it. All of our housing expansion plans are based on ‘suburb’ homes. Bungalows or townhouses with an attached garage. If memory serves me well, long ago the County passed a bylaw that no building could exceed three floors. Maybe the thoughts of Old Council are extinct. Maybe we shouldn’t sprawl wildly into areas we need. Maybe we should be allowed to go UP.
At the time, Council feared we would become Belleville, or worse, Toronto. How do you think highrises happened? Demand for housing. We’re here, right now. Maybe we should go up or get out.

– Steve Campbell is editor and publisher of County Magazine, and the author of several books, including The County Handbook: How to Survive in Prince Edward County.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Barb says:

    I agree with your very good idea about going UP Steve. It would save the wildlife from coming closer to town like they have been with all the clear cutting of the land. Plus, at least with apartments. They will always be rentable instead of being turned into STA’s like the housing market had done. Thanks for voicing you idea. Now we will have to wait and see what happens.

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