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Adding Fuel to the Fire

Steve Campbell

Steve Campbell

There’s always been a lot of talk here in the County about the incongruities between ‘locals’ and ‘newcomers’. For all of this time, it has been mostly fueled by both new and old County people, in the same way that you and your cousin always seem to get in an argument at Christmastime, after all the wine and beer is gone.
Now we get a new twist on the old game, and this time it’s fueled from the other end: The Toronto Press.
In its omnipotence, the Globe and the Star have decided they want to fire up the old fight by pointing out there is “conflict” in the County, as it moves “upscale”.
Almost all of the dialogue in the TO press is offensive to everyone who lives here and works here. In typical press fashion, the dogs smell a scent, and keep phoning people until they get the story they wanted to write. I know this. I used to live in that world.

‘Newcomers’ (or, as I like to call them: ‘Really Late Loyalists’) are labelled as misunderstood and mistreated by the uncultured mobs they inherited when they moved to the County. Locals, once again, are labelled with a complete resistance to change, and an abhorance for anything new.
This is all balderdash and, if you’re not offended – regardless of your background and longevity – you should be.
Before I get down to details, and do some psychoanalytical work, I’d like to state my case, as I’ve done many times before, to no avail.

Is the County changing? Is it suffering from its billing as the “New Destination for Trendy Torontians”? Can it deliver on its promise? Is it kind of scary? Yes to all of these.
I always tell people: “5% of the old-time County locals hate the newcomers. 5% of the newcomers don’t ‘fit in’, because their expectations have not been met. The remaining 90% gets along just fine, thank you very much.”
And yet all of the attention gets focused on that contrary 10%.

Everyone in the County needs to understand that our strength is not in the fact that we are all the same … it’s that were all different. It’s our diversity, supplemented by new arrivals, that makes us virtually unique in Ontario.
Smart people are eyeballing the devastation in the Niagara region, which only had a few years to shout “Hurray!” before they were deluged, and reduced to another Playland of Toronto vacationers and retirees, complete with plastic Disney-World facades.
But, for all of the buzz (in metro papers) about the Drake and the Hayloft, they are simply a comfortable fit here. End of story. These and others are just good ideas, at the right time.
In fact, I’m sure it’s embarrassing to them to have the metro papers conjuring up “conflict” and “tension” in the local community, instead of looking at the clean fit of new enterprises. Neither of them are gods, and never claimed to be.
The metros in this case are the instigators of any harsh feeling that may exist, and they trumpet it out to watch the fun.
It’s like when there’s a party going on, and a cop kicks in the door and shouts: “Is there a problem here?!” Very shortly, guaranteed, there will be a problem here.

So here’s a heads up to the TO press: We do not wear tri-corner hats, and we do not still vote for John A. Macdonald.  We do not wear red-ringed rubber boots (unless necessary, unlike the Premier who likes to wear them when she’s addressing us sod-kickers), and we do not say” “Gollllly-Gee”. Many of us are well-educated by good teachers in County schools, which are a lot like city schools, without the drugs and guns.

Now it gets serious. Now it’s my turn to offend everyone from Toronto to Ottawa, and the County in between.
To me, it’s all about the people. People come in many varieties, with different backgrounds and opinions. This is called ‘Society’, according to sociologists, who make way more money than I just did by pointing it out to you.
I’m a Sagittarius, and that means I have never been to a party that is not fun. That’s because I would only go to a party to have fun.
And that is completely a matter of my own personal perspective. i.e. I do not count totally on everyone else in the room to make the party fun.
Do you see the analogy here?
If you don’t feel you fit in here, take a look at where you stand in the County. For one thing, if you still read The Toronto Star, you have not cut the umbilical cord that binds you to the “Centre of the Universe”, and this will set you apart.
If you still tell County people that you are from Toronto, instead of from Milford, where you actually live, then clearly you don’t have enough County dirt under your feet.
It’s like throwing a party with your new wife’s friends, and bringing out the wedding photo album of you and your ex to flash around proudly. It pretty much says you’re not totally committed to the relationship.

Or perhaps you want it both ways: Toronto in an appropriate crowd, and County when it serves you better.
This is like being bisexual (without the sex part) … you just want the best of both worlds. Just choose what gender you prefer at the time. But that’s not how County people work.
County people judge you by your character and your personality. If you score well on both those points, you will ‘fit in’ in about 10 heartbeats here.
Are you here to show the County what you are, or are you here because you honestly ‘dig’ the way we live?
I have dozens of friends ‘from away’ who spent one hour in the County, and they ‘got it’. They chose us as a place to live, and they fit right in. Because they’re smart, funny, unpretentious, skilled and, above all, full of the heart that has always provided the heartbeat of the County.
And, make no mistake, these new endeavours in the County could not have been handled by the locals. The wind turbine fight with the province to preserve our land and our heritage could never have been accomplished without the enormous time, expertise and money of those very people who ‘get’ what the County is.
All of us want to protect what we have – in every aspect of County life – and history shows us that sudden growth and government interference can both destroy the lifestyle we grew up with, and the changing lifestyle we have absorbed.
So forgive us if we’re cautious about what appears at our door.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Paul Cole says:

    Sadly it seems what attracted so many to The County the laid back quaintness is slowly giving way to the crowded rat race that so many came to escape.

  2. Chuck says:

    Some or a lot of the way the County has reshaped is attributable to the new society and there endless thirst for entertainment and relaxation. Our County heritage is one based on hard work and providing for. Little time for hob nobbing, sampling cheese and sipping wine. It is a whole new era. Is it better? Only each person can determine that.

  3. Marnie says:

    Interesting analogy “Olmanonthemountain”. I assume those of us native to the county become the thistle in this botanical tale of the “us” and “thems”. Somehow I do not believe we will “dearly sell our lives.” Instead we will patiently wait until the “thems” no longer find us and our way of life amusing and move on to conquer new worlds. For many we are but a brief adventure, hopefully with the life span of a day lily.

  4. Olmanonthemtn says:

    The struggle to direct the County’s future by natives and newcomers seems a risky enterprise at best. The following excerpt from Tolstoy seems analogous to our predicament and suggests we need to work together to create a shared vision which will protect this beautiful County:

    “I gathered myself a large nosegay and was going home when I noticed in a ditch, in full bloom, a beautiful thistle plant of the crimson variety … Thinking to pick this thistle and put it in the center of my nosegay, I climbed down into the ditch, and … set to work to pluck the flower.

    But this proved a very difficult task. Not only did the stalk prick on every side — even through the handkerchief I wrapped around my hand — but it was so tough that I had to struggle with it for nearly 5 minutes, breaking the fibers one by one; and when I had at last plucked it, the stalk was all frayed and the flower itself no longer seemed so fresh and beautiful. Moreover, owing to a coarseness and stiffness, it did not seem in place among the delicate blossoms of my nosegay.

    I threw it away feeling sorry to have vainly destroyed a flower that looked beautiful in its proper place. “But what energy and tenacity! With what determination it defended itself, and how dearly it sold its life!”

  5. Emily says:

    Should have had a collection jar at the the cheese head event to collect for road repairs on East Main! Lol. Hey they are all using our taxpayers infrastructure right? And why doesn’t the County get into the event business i.e 5500 visitors at $50.00 a head is $275,000! Come on Council let’s get business minded.

  6. Marnie says:

    Like it or not we do have an us and them culture in the county today. It is definitely not “us” at the cheese festival and similar events with high ticket prices. How many of the “us” people lunch at the Drake Hotel or frequent the other trendy little eateries here? Leaf through those slick new magazines and do you see photos of your neighbours enjoying themselves during a night on the town? Not very likely. We provided the scenery and the waterfront but that’s where it ends. We have become the setting for one big party and when it’s over and the in crowd moves on to a new place what will we have left? A lot of empty wine bottles and some discarded hats shaped like cheeses.

  7. Susan says:

    If we can get a few more tourists in here, build the industrial wind farms, continue to let the roads go to hell and push urban water rates higher than property taxes I think the problems will be solved! We are on the right track if they would just let us grow our marijuana it would be heaven. Oh, and 50 OPP officers here hardly cuts it, can we get a few more!

  8. Chuck says:

    How many County folk couples can afford to go to the cheese festival at $50.00 a head and sip wine and hob nob? That wouldn’t cover a months water bill. Gotta look after home first.

  9. Susan says:

    You’re right Sam, the County government pushed it! That’s not the people however now is it.

  10. Ian Macpherson says:


    I agree. Thank you for putting it so well.

  11. Sam says:

    What did we expect to happen? Many on this site oppose any “industrial” developments in PEC. What industry there was in the past is mostly gone. Our county government spent years pushing the “creative rural economy” which means making stuff, usually at or below minimum wage, to sell to tourists. We support the wine growers so that they can cash in on the tourists. Now all we can offer is beaches, booze and bobbles. We have developed and supported an economy that is mostly dependent on the tourists and now we complain when the tourists arrive and crowd “our” beaches, parks and towns. As is anybody who lives in the county has any more right to those locations than the people visiting. Money needs to come from somewhere. If we oppose industry and tourism then what do we have left? You can’t always have your cake and eat it too.

  12. Susan says:

    I agree. I can’t say what is going on in Bloomfield but it doesn’t seem Countylike. Not sure what to make of it other than I sure would not want to live there. Someone else has taken over what was a quaint lovely village.

  13. Marnie says:

    How can we not resent some of the changes? Driving downtown to run errands has become a frustrating experience. There is nowhere to park much of the time and that includes the off-street lots. Bloomfield is a sideshow with cars lining both sides of the street as far as the eye can see. We’ve already lost a great deal and the way things are going we stand to lose even more.

  14. Lori Cairns says:

    Samantha, that was beautifully said.

    I didn’t grow up here because my great-grandparents moved to find work when there wasn’t enough money to bury my great-great grandfather after he died from a farming accident. However, my grandfather always made sure we knew the county was home. I had been coming to the county my entire life and moved here 9 years ago. This isn’t the county I remember.

    I remember a place where everyone knew everyone and always had a smile, wave and a few words. Farmers walked main street in pants held up by a binder twine belt (yes, my grandfather did that!). Clothing for all ages was easily found and we had our choice of stores. My aunt Thelma would make us laugh with her stories of being a bouncer at the Royal (she was all of 90 lbs soaking wet). Roller skating at the arena was a great night of fun.

    Yes, things change, but not always for the better. It is sad to see so many farms disappear and families move away because they can’t afford to stay on the land that has been in their family for hundreds of years.

    The county has lost its character. I don’t know what the future character will be, but I mourn what is lost.

  15. Samantha says:

    I agree with what you are saying Steve, especially about the sudden growth and the government interference putting such pressure on a place that jeopardizes what made it special in the first place. I grew up here, and it has really been difficult to articulate the blend of grief and excitement that come with all the changes. It is a nuanced thing – but any expression of it tends to be indicted as a local versus newcomer/tourist kind of bunfight.

    Am I allowed to be a little bit sad that instead of solitude at Little Bluff I now find a dozen cars? Is it ok to find the “pearls before swine” attitude tiresome? Is it permitted to not love crowds at all and be somewhat frustrated and appalled to encounter them everywhere? Is there not any room for feelings of grief about losing opportunities for space and solitude that were once abundant?

    What’s interesting is that in the last week I have heard a number of people who grew up here – including myself – speculating if they will have to move away from our homes. One reason is it is difficult to afford it now. The other, I think, has to do with a real sense of finality in the change that is increasingly painful, and even more difficult to articulate. I don’t think it is just in the County – I think it is widespread all over the countryside and represents a larger cultural change.

    But can’t it be ok to be unsettled by the changes without having it framed as resentful xenophobia? If we could just take a moment to acknowledge and make room for those inevitable feelings of sadness and loss, even as we embrace the invigorating fresh energy that is pouring over the bridge, I think we could all get along much better.

  16. Paul Cole says:

    These endeavors are not new to The County, some new businesses succeed and some fail. In most cases its a matter of compromise from both business Owner and Locals. I wish these new businesses the best of luck and truly hope they succeed AND manage to respect and understand what The County is all about. Here’s the URL to The Star article copy and paste folks

  17. Right on Steve, as usual.
    Reading the pieces in the Globe and the Star (oh gosh, maybe I shouldn’t be doing that :)) what amazed me was the emphasis on the bucolic beauty of the County without the realization that we are in danger of losing all that – partially at least because the city people refuse to pay attention to the destruction coming if the government has its way with rural Ontario.

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